Types of Vaginal Discharge: What’s Normal?

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Update Date 30/06/2020 . 4 mins read
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Vaginal discharge can say a lot about overall health, from menstrual cycles to major health risks. Vaginal discharge comes in varying colors, most of which are normal. But what is abnormal vaginal discharge? It pays to know what each color may signify, and if you need to see a doctor right away.

What is vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is a fluid or semisolid substance produced by glands inside the vagina and cervix. Vaginal discharge helps remove dead cells and bacteria, keeping the vagina clean and preventing infection.

Normal discharge is clear, milky-white, and usually odorless. However, consistency and color also varies depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle.

But what is abnormal vaginal discharge? Discharge may change color due to the imbalance of bacteria in the vagina.

Depending on the time of month, discharge will change consistency and texture. 

What is abnormal vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharge colors and what they may mean

By examining discharge, you can get a better understanding of your current vaginal health. Vaginal discharge – though it comes in different shades – is usually harmless and something that you should not be worried about.

But always consult your doctor to confirm any suspicions about your vaginal health.

What is abnormal vaginal discharge? Here are some of the most common colors and shades and what they may mean.

Pink

Pink discharge is often seen at the beginning of your cycle. During early pregnancy, pink discharge also signifies implantation bleeding, which is mostly normal.

A slight tear in the vagina or cervix after intercourse also produces pink discharge.

Red

From bright red to a dark-rust color, red discharge is common during menstruation. Spotting, or light bleeding, also occurs due to hormonal changes and some birth control methods.

While some have irregular periods, inter-menstrual bleeding can signify a health issue.

If you have gone through menopause and are suddenly experience bleeding, see a doctor because it may be a sign of endometrial cancer.

White

White discharge is usually a sign of healthy lubrication. However, if it is thick, white, and accompanied by a strong odor, it may be due to a yeast infection.

Yeast infections cause itching and irritation of the vulva (the external part of the vagina). Fortunately, yeast infections are easily treated with over-the-counter medication. 

Yellow to green

If the discharge has a slight yellow hue, it usually is a response to your diet or certain dietary supplements. But if it takes on a darker shade of yellow or is green in color, it is likely due to bacterial infection or sexually transmitted disease.

Chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomoniasis are examples of what you may have. If it has a foul odor and thick texture, see a doctor immediately.

Gray

This is most likely a symptom of bacterial vaginosis (BV), a common infection among women. It occurs when there is an imbalance of the growth of normal flora, the natural microorganisms in the vagina.

BV also causes irritation, foul odor, and redness around the vaginal opening. It is usually uncomfortable, but can be treated with a simple antibiotic or antibacterial gel.

Clear

This is the most ordinary discharge with a slippery and egg-white consistency. Women are more likely to experience this due to the following:

  • Ovulation. If your average menstrual cycle is 28 days, you are probably ovulating on the 14th. Hence, the cervical mucus.
  • Pregnancy. Hormonal imbalances occur during pregnancy. This is usually an indicator of discharge amount.
  • Sexual arousal. Increase in libido is expected during the ovulation period. Fluid passes through the blood vessels when the vagina dilates.

Recognizing abnormal vaginal discharge

What is abnormal vaginal discharge? Apart from the unusual odor and appearance of vaginal discharge, see a doctor if you experience any vaginal symptoms like:

  • Itching
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Burning sensation when you urinate
  • A foul odor
  • Frothy texture
  • Vaginal bleeding unrelated to your period
  • Discharge that has a cottage cheese consistency
  • Swelling around the vulva

Pelvic exams are usually done, while some doctors take a discharge sample for testing.

How can abnormal discharge be prevented or avoided?

Vaginal discharge is normal and healthy, most of the time. It is our body’s way of cleaning. However, irregular changes can be prevented by doing the following:

  • After using the toilet, wipe from the front, going backwards. This prevents bacteria entering from the rectal area into your vagina.
  • Avoid wearing tight, close-fitting clothes for long periods of time. 
  • Opt for cotton underwear that allows your genitals to “breathe.”
  • Be aware of the laundry detergent or fabric softener you use. Change these if irritation regularly occurs.
  • Pat your genitals dry with a clean towel or tissue after showering or taking a bath.
  • The latex in condoms and some sperm-killing gels used for birth control may cause irritation. Talk to your doctor about possible alternatives.
  • Do not douche. It can increase your risk of getting pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • Limit the use of hygiene sprays, scented toilet papers, and deodorant pads.

Dealing with vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharge need not be a cause for alarm. Healthy discharge is mostly a reflection of the body’s natural cleaning and lubrication process. 

Discharge changes depending on what our body needs. It increases during intercourse to avoid discomfort, and thickens during ovulation which is helpful when you are trying to conceive.

What is abnormal vaginal discharge? The color and consistency of your discharge can also reflect reproductive health issues. Imbalances and infections can cause your discharge to change significantly.

Medication may be necessary. Seek medical help if irregular changes occur accompanied by an itch or pelvic pain.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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