Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

Many women have concerns about their vaginal discharge. Most of the time they think that it is abnormal, but, on the contrary, it is perfectly normal. Physiologically it is quite normal for a woman to have a vaginal discharge because it serves an important housekeeping function in the female reproductive system. In other words, vaginal discharge or the fluid that comes out from the vagina keeps it clean and helps in preventing infection. The glands inside the cervix and vagina make the fluid that carries bacteria and dead cells out of the vagina.

Depending on the situation and time of the menstrual cycle – the amount, color, and odor of the discharge can vary ranging from clear liquid to a milky white fluid. The quantity of discharge may vary depending on the time in your menstrual cycle – for instance, there will be more discharge when a woman ovulates. In addition, in breastfeeding or sexually aroused women, the discharge will be more. During pregnancy, and also, when a woman doesn’t pay attention to personal hygiene, the smell and color may differ.

When is the cause for concern?

In the above causes, nothing seems to be abnormal. However, you should see whether there is a change in the color, smell, and consistency of the discharge. If you notice any differences in the color, smell, and consistency and also have a burning or itching sensation along with the discharge – then you should take it seriously. There could be a possibility of infection or other conditions.

What causes abnormal discharge?

As long as there is a balance of normal microbial flora in the vagina, you do not notice any changes, but when this balance gets disturbed, you will notice changes in the consistency, odor, and color of the fluid.

The following things can disturb the normal balance of the microbial flora:

  • Antibiotic or steroid use
  • Bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection more common in pregnant women or women who have multiple sexual partners
  • Menopause – causes drying, thinning of vaginal walls, and vaginal atrophy
  • Parasitic infections (Trichomoniasis) due to sexual activity (unprotected sex)
  • Yeast infections
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Pelvic infection after surgery due to improper hygiene
  • Diabetes
  • Cervical cancer
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (Gonorrhea or Chlamydia)
  • Use of scented lotions or soaps, douches, and bubble bath
  • Irritation or vaginitis, in or around the vagina

How does your gynecologist diagnose abnormal discharge?

Your gynecologist will take the complete health history and ask you about your symptoms. She may ask you the following questions”

Since how long have been experiencing the symptoms?

When did you start noticing the discharge as abnormal?

What is the color of the discharge? Is it yellow or cloudy, thick, white or cheesy; white or grey with a fishy odor; frothy, yellow or greenish with a bad smell?

Is there any smell?

Do you engage with multiple sexual partners?

Do you have redness or swelling in and around the vagina and vulva?

Is there any pain, itching, or burning in or around the vagina?

Do you douche?

All the above questions will help your gynecologist in the diagnosis of the cause.

To diagnose the cause of the discharge after getting some clues from you, your gynecologist takes the sample of the discharge and send it to the laboratory for complete analysis and evaluation. She will also do a pap test to collect the cells from the cervix for further examination. This is usually done to detect cervical cancer, if she suspects cervical cancer.

How is abnormal discharge treated?

The treatment mostly depends on the cause of the problem. If the discharge is natural, then you will not require treatment. However, fungal infections such as yeast infections are treated with antifungal medications. They are available in cream or gel forms. Similarly, bacterial vaginosis is treated using antibiotic pills or creams. One most common sexually transmitted infection – that is Trichomoniases is treated by using tinidazole or metronidazole drugs.

Prevention of Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

Vaginal Infections Due to poor hygiene may lead to abnormal discharge. The following tips will help you to prevent abnormal vaginal discharge.

You should stop douching or if you need it then get it done following the instructions of your gynecologist.

Personal hygiene: Wash your genitals using gentle soaps that are available commercially. Prefer washing from outside, don’t put soaps directly in the vagina.

Avoid tight, perfumed, and silky, satin attires and clothing. Wear 100% cotton underpants and also avoid overly tight clothing. Never use perfumed and scented soaps, feminine products, douches, scented hair removers or creams, sprays, and bubble baths.

After emptying bowels always use water to wipe the area from the front to the back but not vice versa. This will help in preventing the entry of infectious microbes such as bacteria -especially E. coli bacteria from the anus into the vagina.