Vaginal discharge is normal. It usually consists of a transparent substance from the vaginal cells made up of fluid and bacteria. Infections can also lead to an abnormal discharge from the vaginal. Abnormal coloration of the vaginal discharge may be green or yellow. It is also unusual if the discharge has a foul smell and if it has a chunky consistency.
Types of Vaginal Discharge
While there are normal vaginal discharges, there are also abnormal vaginal discharges which may be a symptom of an underlying health condition. The various types of vaginal discharge are categorized based on color and consistency.
- White – It is normal to see a white discharge, especially when a female begins and completes her menstrual cycle. A white vaginal discharge is not normal when the discharge has a chunky cheese-like consistency and causes itching. This may be an indicator of a yeast infection and, as such, requires proper treatment
- Bloody or Brown – Sometimes, the vagina releases a bloody or brown discharge which is considered normal. Bloody or brown discharge is usually seen before, during, or at the end of the menstrual cycle. Spotting may occur between periods that sometimes can be an indicator of pregnancy if it occurs during menstruation. It refers to light vaginal bleeding that occurs between periods or during pregnancy. Spotting can also be a sign of miscarriage if it occurs in the early phase of pregnancy. If it is seen during this stage, the individual should see an obstetrician and gynecologist.
A sign of cervical or endometrial cancer is bloody or brown discharge but in rare cases. Bloody or brown discharge can also indicate other health problems such as fibroid or any other unusual or abnormal growth. To prevent the development of these health conditions, it is advised to visit a gynecologist annually to carry out a pap smear and pelvic exams and conduct a physical examination to check for abnormalities in the cervix.
- Green or Yellow – Generally, it is unusual to see a green or yellow vaginal discharge. It is even more disturbing if the discharge is thick or has a chunky consistency, or has a foul smell. If it has the aforementioned characteristics, it could be a sign of an infection called trichomoniasis which is mostly spread via sexual intercourse.
- Clear and Watery – A clear and watery vaginal discharge is one of the most common vaginal discharges which occurs at any time. After exercising, an individual may notice a heavy clear, and watery discharge from the vagina.
- Clear and Stretchy – A clear and stretchy vaginal discharge is a clear sign of ovulation. Ovulation is a period in a woman’s menstrual cycle in which a mature egg from the ovary is released. Ovulation is important for pregnancy. The vaginal discharge during this period can be clear, mucous-like or stretchy, or slippery. It is normal and is not an indication of an infection.
What are the Causes of a Vaginal Discharge?
One of the indicators of a healthy female body is a discharge from the vagina once in a while. It is an effective way utilized by the body to help clean and protect the vagina from harmful foreign bodies. This way, any abnormal coloration or vaginal discharge, like a yellow or green vaginal discharge, will alert the individual that something is wrong.
Aside from being a healthy indicator, a normal vaginal discharge can be a sign of a female’s ovulation period and when a female is being aroused sexually. Other normal causes of vaginal discharge include:
- birth control pills,
- emotional stress.
An abnormal vaginal discharge is usually a sign of an infection. Some of such infections are discussed below.
Gonorrhea – Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection that is caused by the bacterium called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It affects both males and females who are sexually active in the warm and moist parts of their bodies, such as the eyes, vagina, anus, female reproductive tract, throat, etc.
Gonorrhea is mostly asymptomatic, but it sometimes is symptomatic, displaying varying symptoms in males and females. The symptoms also depend on the location of the infection. If located in the vaginal, it can cause a painful or burning sensation during urination and increased vaginal discharge, which may be green, white, or yellow discharge.
Chlamydia – Chlamydia is another sexually transmitted infection. It can be transmitted through vaginal discharge or semen during sexual intercourse. It does not cause any symptoms, but in the cases that it does, symptoms such as an abnormal vaginal discharge and a burning sensation when urinating, amongst others.
Bacterial Vaginosis – Bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection caused by an imbalance in the beneficial and harmful bacteria in the vagina. It affects women of any age and is sometimes asymptomatic. It is detected by a strong, foul-smelling white, gray, or green vaginal discharge when it shows symptoms. Women prone to contracting this infection are those who have many sexual partners or those who engage in oral sex.
Yeast Infection – Present in the vagina are beneficial bacteria and yeast, which is normal, but it becomes problematic when they overgrow out of control. A yeast infection is, also known as vaginal candidiasis caused by a fungus. Its symptoms include a white, odorless vaginal discharge that is thick, clumpy, or chunky and looks like cottage cheese. It also causes pains, itching, burning sensations, and swelling of the female genitals. Factors such as stress, diabetes, antibiotics, use of birth control pills can increase a woman’s chances of having a yeast infection.
Trichomoniasis – Trichomoniasis is an infection that is usually transmitted via sexual interaction. It is caused by a single-celled parasite known as Trichomonas vaginalis. It results in a foul-smelling green or yellow vaginal discharge. Trichomoniasis can also cause pain when urinating, inflammation, and itching the genitals. It affects both females and males.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection that affects the female reproductive organs. It is caused by different types of bacteria, including the bacteria that cause chlamydia and gonorrhea. The bacteria first infects the bacteria. Then it moves on to the pelvic organs. It is both asymptomatic and symptomatic. Its symptoms include pains during sexual intercourse and urination. It also causes an abnormal foul-smelling vaginal discharge.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – Human Papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted viral infection that is transmitted through sexual contact. There are over 200 varieties of the virus, a few of which can cause serious health conditions such as cervical, vaginal, anal, vulva cancer, etc. Although it is mostly asymptomatic without the need for treatment, symptoms that may arise include the secretion of a bloody, brown, or watery discharge with a foul smell.
When to See a Doctor
Medical advice should be sought if an individual notices an unusual or abnormal vaginal discharge accompanied by certain symptoms. Symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, fatigue, painful or increased urination, and unexplained weight loss. In such a case, the doctor to see is an obstetrician and gynecologist.
The doctor will ask questions concerning the individual’s menstrual cycle, symptoms experienced (if any), and sexual activity. The doctor will also conduct a physical examination, such as a pelvic exam. Some tests will be recommended for a condition in which a diagnosis cannot be made. Once there is a diagnosis, the individual will make treatment options known.
Care for the Vaginal Discharge
Since some vaginal discharges are normal, it is only safe to practice good hygiene to prevent infections. Other ways of preventing vaginal discharge include:
- avoid douches,
- avoid tight underwear,
- practice safe sex,
- eat probiotics such as yogurt to reduce the risk of getting yeast infections when taking antibiotics.
Vaginal discharge is absolutely normal and common. It is a function of a healthy female reproductive system. Vaginal discharge may also be a warning to care for one’s body. This is because it can signify that the individual has an infection. When a woman notices a change in her body, especially when the color and consistency of her vaginal discharge are different from the ordinary, it is advised that she consults a medical doctor.