Vaginal discharge is the biological fluid which comes out from a woman’s vagina. All normal women have some kind of discharge at some point during their monthly periods.
Why vaginal discharge occurs?
The internal organs of cervix, uterus and vaginal lining secrete a small amount of fluid which gradually slips out through the vaginal outlet. This contains dead cells, a small amount of bacteria, yeast and other micro- organisms which are part of all healthy vaginal secretions.
This discharge acts as a natural self-cleaning process to get rid of the dead cells and bacteria. We also make use of the discharge analysis to diagnose certain diseases of the genital organs.
What is normal discharge?
The healthy discharge is small in amount, i.e. 4- 5 millilitres per day (equivalent to the amount contained in a small teaspoon). It is usually white or transparent, thick to thin, and does not have any peculiar smell.
The discharge can be more noticeable at different times of the month depending on ovulation, menstrual flow, sexual activity and birth control. For example around mid-cycle women may notice this discharge coming out of their vaginas as a long thick thread and just before the periods are about to come, the discharge is thick, white and scanty in amount. It is not uncommon for the normal discharge to be dark, brown or discoloured a day or two following the menstrual period.
How do I know if my discharge is normal or not?
The quantity of vaginal discharge varies from one woman to another and every normal woman has some kind of vaginal discharge. Most of the times this discharge would not bother a woman, but if you have any of the symptoms described below, you must visit your gynecologist for a check -up.
1) Pain in the vagina or while urinating,
2) Itching around the genital area
3) Generalised discomfort with the amount of discharge or while having sex.
4) Rash or sores alone or with a vaginal discharge.
Vaginal discharge is usually whitish and slightly thick at the beginning and end of menstrual cycle. The same discharge might become transparent and increased in amount towards mid-cycle and ovulation.
A thick whitish and curd like discharge which is itchy may indicate a fungal infection.
Copious, greenish discharge which also has an aired or bubbly appearance could be because of Trichomonas infection.
A creamy white or slightly yellowish non smelly discharge may indicate Gonorrhoea.
Yellow pus like, very smelly discharge is usually indicative of chlamydial infection.
A copious, greyish or yellow green discharge with a fishy smell could be because of bacterial vaginosis. It is best to visit a doctor for check-up if you or your partner feels uncomfortable with anything.
What precautions I should take to avoid getting vaginal infections?
• After using the toilet, always wipe from front to back. This may help prevent getting bacteria from your rectal area into your vagina.
• Wear cotton underpants during the day. Cotton allows your genital area to “breathe.” Don’t wear underpants at night.
• Avoid wearing tight pants, pantyhose, swimming suits, biking shorts or leotards for long periods especially in hot and humid weather.
• Change your laundry detergent or fabric softener if you think it may be irritating your genital area.
• The latex in condoms and diaphragms and the sperm-killing gels that are used for birth control can be irritating for some women. If you think one of these things is a problem for you, talk to your doctor about other types of birth control.
• Avoid long baths in hot tubs.
• Bathe or shower daily and pat your genital area dry.
• Don’t douche or try to clean the inside depth of vaginal area.
• Avoid feminine hygiene sprays, colored or perfumed toilet paper, deodorant pads or tampons, and bubble bath.