The female body can be pretty confusing. Different times of the month means different things. There’s all sorts of things you need to take care of. Wearing the right clothes, using the right hygiene products, cleaning the right way, and on and on and on. It’s easy to get worried if something goes wrong or seems suspicious.
When it comes to vaginal discharge, there’s too many types and variations to not get confused and worried. A certain amount of vaginal discharge is normal and even necessary. You see, this discharge is important for keeping your system clean and to ensure optimum reproduction.
This article will take you through what exactly are the types of vaginal discharges that your body may sometimes produce, what causes them and some tips to help you deal with it and remain healthy.
What is Vaginal Discharge
Vaginal discharge in general is completely normal. Glands present inside the vagina make fluids to facilitate the elimination of any dead cells and bacteria that may be present. The purpose of this fluid, therefore, is to keep your vagina clean. Depending on what stage of the menstrual cycle you are in, the fluid will vary in its colour and consistency. Ovulation and breastfeeding causes the vaginal discharge to increase, as does sexual arousal.
Normal vaginal discharge is white to cream-ish in colour and does not have an odour. However, if the discharge changes smell or the consistency changes from the usual, it could be a sign of something being wrong. Change in consistency to that of a cottage cheese like consistency or itching and burning will be the biggest indicator of something wrong going on.
Different Types of Vaginal Discharge
White Discharge :
White discharge is the most common type of vaginal discharge. It is also the most normal type. You might notice a simple white discharge at any point in your cycle, which is regular vaginal discharge. Most women experience this discharge at either the beginning or the end of the menstrual cycle. This white discharge both before and after menstrual cycle is also normal, even expected.
Watery and Clear Discharge :
Another completely normal discharge is clear and watery. This discharge occurs at any point in your cycle. Many women experience this discharge most often after exercise; it is often heavier than normal after a workout. This is also perfectly normal.
Stretchy Discharge :
A stretchy discharge, especially if clear in colour, is absolutely normal. Most women experience it a few days after their period. This is because this discharge is mostly an indication of your body ovulating. Do not worry if you see this.
Bloody or Brown Discharge:
Every woman who has experienced periods has experienced a bloody or brown discharge. At the beginning of your period, you may notice the discharge to be bright red, because it is almost completely blood and blood vessels. However, after a few days this discharge could change to brown-ish colour. This is also perfectly normal. For some women, it is also normal to experience bleeding a few days after their period ends. This is also no cause for concern, since this is most likely spotting. Spotting is usually your body eliminating any blood or blood vessels that might not have made their way out during your period.
In case you experience such discharge during pregnancy, it is best to pay a visit to the OB-GYN since it could be a sign of miscarriage. In extreme cases, the brown-ish discharge can be a sign of cervical cancer. But this is a worst case scenario. The best way to be sure is to go for regular pap smears and pelvic exams.
In most cases, a brown or bloody discharge is completely normal, so no need to panic!
Yellow or Green Discharge:
This is the one type of discharge that you need to be worried in. If your discharge is yellow or green in colour, then it may be a sign of an infection. If the consistency changes to chunky or cottage cheese like, then that’s definitely something suspicious and calls for a visit to your doctor.
Lumpy and White Discharge:
Normally, white discharge is completely normal, however, if it is lumpy then you might want to check more thoroughly. If the suspicious discharge is accompanied with itchiness or irritation, then it is most likely a sign of a yeast infection. This is nothing major to worry about since yeast infections are very easy to fix. You can use some home remedies to fix it which should do the job, but if the infection persists, you should go for proper medication.
Heavier than Usual:
A normal amount of discharge as you would say in your day to day life is healthy. However, if the discharge suddenly increases, it could be something different. Observe for a day or two and if it continues, you might want to have it looked at by a doctor. Most of the times, a heavier than normal discharge is courtesy of a faulty contraceptive. IUDs and birth control pill are the most common cause behind a heavier than normal discharge. If the discharge is not accompanied by bad smell, then it is perfectly normal and will go away in a few days.
If you’ve recently tried out some new hygiene products, say a new body wash or soap, then a heavier than normal discharge could be an indicator of an allergic reaction to said product since the vagina can be pretty sensitive to chemicals.
What Causes Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
Normal vaginal discharge can be caused by any number of things, even if you ignore the fact that it is a part of a normal healthy female reproductive system. Contraceptives, stress, sexual arousal and ovulation are the biggest part of normal vaginal discharge.
However, abnormal discharge is easy to identify, especially now that you have the information needed. Most of the times, abnormal discharge is caused by an infection. To help you understand and deal with these infections, read on to find out some common infections that cause an abnormal vaginal discharge:
Bacterial Vaginosis: This is the most common vaginal infection. It can be difficult to detect since the only big giveaway is that the discharge may increase in amount. So, if you notice any increase in the amount of vaginal discharge, the next step is to check its smell. If it is accompanied by foul or fishy odour, then you may have contracted one. Regular oral sex or multiple sexual partners increase the risk of getting this infection, so make sure you exercise proper hygiene.
Trichomoniasis: If your discharge is yellow or green in colour, then it could be a sign of this infection. It is mostly caused by a single-celled organism such as a protozoan. Foul smell, inflammation, pain and itching are other symptoms of this infection. However, be sure to get a check-up and appropriate medication if there are no accompanying symptom, and just the change in colour since many women often don’t experience these other symptoms. If you’re wondering what causes it, then the culprit lies in sexual contact and shared bathing suits and towels.
Yeast Infections: It is truly surprising how many women experience a yeast infection. Stress, birth control pills, prolonged use of antibiotics, pregnancy and diabetes are some conditions that can increase a person’s chances of getting a yeast infection. Yeast is present in the vagina on a normal basis as a part of the healthy organisms, however, if they multiply due to some reason, it causes the fungal infection called yeast infection. If you have been experiencing itchiness or a burning sensation and your discharge is thick white with the consistency of cottage cheese, then it is a typical symptom of a yeast infection.
Gonorrhea and Chlamydia: Infections can also be transmitted through sexual activity, just like sexually transmitted diseases. Gonorrhea and chlamydia are two such sexually transmitted infections. A discharge that is yellow, cloudy or green in colour could be a symptom of either of these infections.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: This is another infection that can sexual contact can spread. Sexual activity can cause the bacteria to spread from the vagina to other reproductive organs, causing this infection. If your discharge is heavier than normal and smells foul, then that could be a sign of this infection.
Human Papillomavirus: Commonly called just HPV, this infection is another one that sexual cntact spreads. The reason this is dangerous is because it can cause cervical cancer. If you have a discharge that is watery, bloody or brown-ish in colour and is accompanied by a foul smell, it could be a sign of this infection. Regular Pap smears and tests for HPV can prevent it proceeding to the stage of cervical cancer.
Additional Warning Sign If Accompanied By An Unusual Discharge
If your unusual discharge coincides with any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Increased urination
- Pain in the abdomen
Tips To Deal With Vaginal Discharge
- Wear underwear with cotton fabric as frequently as possible, if not all the time. Cotton, being a natural fabric, is a much more breathable fabric so it gives your vagina the healthy atmosphere it needs.
- Practice the best hygiene you are capable of. The vagina is very sensitive and can easily catch infection. If due caution is not exercised, a simple infection can grow into more serious problems. Be sure to keep the area as clean as possible and don’t hesitate in changing your underwear frequently and cleaning up thoroughly after you visit the loo.
- While we insist that you clean up as frequently as possible, only do with regular soap and water. Don’t use douches because they contain way too many chemicals to be good for your vaginal health. The strong unnecessary chemicals even strip your vagina of the healthy bacteria, disrupting the natural pH balance.
- Use pantyliners when you’re getting excess discharge. This will help to take care of the discharge in a hygienic matter and have less of a mess to deal with.
- When you wipe after going to the loo, wipe from the front to the back. That way you won’t get any germs near your vagina. This is the best technique to clean and helps to prevent most infection.
- Wash your hands before and after making a trip to the loo. Your hands can get very dirty in the course of the day and you don’t want any of those germs and bacteria getting anywhere near your vagina.
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