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Normal vaginal discharge vs. Abnormal discharge: Here’s the difference

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Source: pulse news

Everyone’s body makes a different amount of discharge. Exercise, birth control pills, and stress can all cause changes in discharge too.

The vagina is a complicated and dynamic ecosystem. It contains a lot of bacteria and moisture, and it’s sensitive to internal and external changes. Fluids made by glands in the cervix and vaginal opening and fluid made by vaginal walls carry away dead cells and bacteria to help keep the vagina clean. This fluid is called vaginal discharge.

Everyone’s body makes a different amount of discharge. Exercise, birth control pills, and stress can all cause changes in discharge too.

You may occasionally notice a change in the colour, amount, or odour of your vaginal discharge. Does this mean you have an infection? Not necessarily. There are lots of types of vaginal discharge. Some are normal, and others may indicate a problem.

How to check your vaginal discharge

Paying attention to your vaginal discharge is an important part of your health. Being familiar with your normal discharge — and its normal fluctuations — can help you detect abnormal vaginal discharge earlier and start treatment sooner.

Here are three ways to check your vaginal discharge:

Before you pee, wipe the opening of your vagina with white toilet paper. Check the colour, odour, and consistency.

Take a look at the colour and texture of the vaginal discharge on your underwear.

Sit on the toilet, squat, or stand with one foot up on the toilet seat or bathtub. Insert one or two clean fingers into your vagina. Check the colour and texture of the discharge on your fingers.

To best check, the texture and consistency of the discharge, rub it and pull it between your thumb and index finger. Press your fingers together and slowly move them apart.

It might be helpful to write down everything about your daily discharge on a chart (or you can track it in an app like Flo). What’s the colour and consistency? How does it smell? Keep in mind that some medication may change your cervical fluids.

Being familiar with your discharge can help you spot problems early. Regular pelvic exams are also important.

What does normal vaginal discharge look like?

There are three things to look out for: colour and consistency, volume, and smell.

  • Colour and consistency

Clear and watery discharge is normal vaginal discharge. You might notice a bit more clear, watery discharge after exercising.

If your discharge is clear and stretchy like egg whites, it may be a sign that you’re about to ovulate. This type of fluid is also normal discharge.

You may notice brown or bloody discharge at certain times in your cycle. This is normal during or toward the end of your period.

  • Volume

Your discharge will typically increase in volume before ovulation. The volume will usually decrease around the first or second day after ovulation. It’s also normal to produce more vaginal fluid when you’re aroused.

  • Smell

Normal vaginal discharge is odourless or mild smelling. Mixing with urine or blood from your period can change the smell of your discharge, but this is completely normal.

What is abnormal vaginal discharge?

The changes in colour, volume, and smell mentioned above are all normal. However, if you notice that the colour, consistency, smell, or volume seem different than usual, it may indicate an infection or other condition. If you have concerns about changes to your vaginal discharge, make sure to talk to your health care provider, especially if you’re also experiencing itching or burning.

Abnormal vaginal discharge colours

An unexpected and abnormal discharge colour can indicate possible infection or other medical condition.

  • Bloody or brown

When you experience brown or bloody discharge outside of the normal changes associated with your period, it can be a sign of something more serious. Reproductive issues such as polyps, uterine fibroids, adenomyosis, and cervical or endometrial cancer can cause brown or bloody discharge. Other symptoms may include abnormal vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain.

  • Yellow

This may be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea. Some common symptoms of STIs include pelvic or abdominal pain, pain or a burning sensation during urination, increased vaginal discharge, and bleeding between periods.

  • Yellow or greenish with a bad smell

Often, this is a sign of an STI called trichomoniasis. Common symptoms include itching, burning, irritation, and genital redness or soreness. You might also experience discomfort or pain during urination.

  • Thick, white, cheesy, lumpy

This is a sign of a yeast infection. Common symptoms of yeast infection also include swelling and pain around the vulva, itching, pain during sex, and pain or discomfort while urinating.

  • White, grey, yellow, or greenish with a fishy smell

This may indicate bacterial vaginosis. Some other common symptoms include itching, pain, burning of the vagina or vulva, and a burning sensation when urinating or during sex.

Abnormal vaginal discharge smells

If your discharge has an unusual smell, there may be an underlying issue. Thin and white discharge with a strong fishy odour may indicate bacterial vaginosis.

If you have a yellow or greenish discharge with an unpleasant odour, this might indicate trichomoniasis.

The menstrual cycle can sometimes cause the vagina to have a slightly metallic scent for a few days. Sex can also temporarily change the smell of your discharge.

Abnormal vaginal discharge consistency

An unusually thin or thick and more textured fluid may indicate abnormal vaginal discharge.

A thick, white discharge that’s similar to cottage cheese, along with itching and burning, might indicate that you have a yeast infection.

Possible causes of abnormal vaginal discharge

Abnormal vaginal discharge can happen when there’s a decrease in the amount of “good” microbes and an increase in “bad” microbes.

The following things can cause abnormal vaginal discharge:

  1. Bacterial vaginosis
  2. Yeast infections
  3. Birth control pills
  4. Cervical cancer
  5. Chlamydia or gonorrhea
  6. Trichomoniasis
  7. Vaginitis
  8. Diabetes
  9. Douching and cleansing practices
  10. Sexual activity
  11. Use of antibiotics or steroids
  12. Hormonal changes
  13. Pelvic inflammatory disease
  14. Menopause
  15. Pregnancy

16.Use of spermicides

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