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Is My Vaginal Discharge Normal?

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By Medical Author: Divya Jacob

By Medical Reviewer: Pallavi Uttekar


The vagina is a self-cleaning organ. It produces its own microbial environment with the help of certain good bacteria. These bacteria, along with dead cells and cellular secretions, form vaginal discharge. If your discharge is one-half to one teaspoon (2 to 5 mL) every day with the following characteristics, it is considered normal.

  • Clear, white or off-white

  • Somewhat thin, sticky and elastic

  • Thick and gooey

  • Mostly odorless

  • Stains (sometimes even bleaches) the underwear

Vaginal discharge varies from woman to woman in color, smell, consistency and amount. Moreover, it may vary during the menstrual cycle. Some conditions where vaginal discharge may be prominent include:

  • Pregnancy

  • Ovulation

  • Breastfeeding

  • Sexual arousal

  • The week before the menstrual period

  • Use of birth control pills/patch/vaginal rings

  • Prolapsed uterus


What is the purpose of vaginal discharge?

Normal vaginal discharge has several purposes, including:

  • Clean and moisten the vagina

  • Help prevent and fight infections

  • Carry away dead cells and bacteria


What are the signs of abnormal vaginal discharge?

If you notice vaginal discharge with the following signs and symptoms, you should immediately consult a physician because it may indicate a problem.

  • Itching of the vulva, vaginal opening or labia

  • Redness, burning, soreness or swelling of the vulvar skin

  • Change in color of vaginal discharge such as grayish or greenish-yellow discharge

  • Change in texture such as foamy or looking like cottage cheese

  • Unpleasant odor

  • Bleeding or spotting that is not during the menstrual period

  • Pain with intercourse or urination

  • Abdominal or pelvic pain


What do types of vaginal discharge mean?

The chart below explains what a particular type of discharge might mean.


Type of discharge

What it may mean

Other symptoms

Normal discharge

Clear and watery

Perfectly normal

No accompanying symptoms

Slight, white discharge

Beginning or end of menstruation

No accompanying symptoms

Clear and stretchy

Ovulation

Mucous-like discharge

Pinkish lochia

Shedding of the uterine lining after childbirth

No accompanying symptoms

Abnormal discharge

Bloody, brown or watery discharge

Irregular menstrual cycles or, less often, cervical or endometrial cancer

Abnormal vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain

Cloudy or yellow

Gonorrhea

Bleeding between periods, fever, urinary incontinence and pelvic pain

Frothy, yellow or greenish with an unpleasant odor

Trichomoniasis

Pain and itching while urinating

Thick, white and cheesy

Yeast infection

Swelling and pain around the vulva, itching and painful sexual intercourse

White, gray or yellow with fishy odor

Bacterial vaginosis

Itching or burning, redness and swelling of the vagina or vulva

Heavy, foul-smelling discharge

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pain during intercourse, abnormal uterine bleeding, cramping or painful menstruation

Yellow

Vaginal atrophy

Dryness of the vagina, burning and itching of the vagina, pain during sex, vulvar itching, spotting or bleeding

Thick, moist sticky, yellow to green produced abundantly

Noninfectious vaginitis

Itching or burning, redness and swelling of the vagina or vulva


When to seek medical help

If you notice any irregularity in your vaginal discharge, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible. Additionally, look out for the following symptoms:

  • Increased urination

  • Fever

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Fatigue

  • Abdominal pain

  • Pain during and after intercourse

  • Spotting between the periods

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