Most of the time, vaginal discharge is perfectly normal. The amount can vary, as can odor and hue (its color can range from clear to a milky white-ish), depending on the time in your menstrual cycle. For example, there will be more discharge if you are ovulating, breastfeeding, or are sexually aroused. The smell may be different if you are pregnant or you haven't been diligent about your personal hygiene.
None of those changes is cause for alarm. Any sudden change to your discharge may indicate a vaginal infection. You should be aware of how your discharge naturally varies throughout your cycle and what isn't normal, but obvious warning signs of infection are:
- a change in colour or consistency
- a sudden bad smell
- an unusually large amount of discharge
- another symptom alongside the discharge, such as itching outside your vagina or pain in your pelvis or tummy
- unexpected bleeding from the vagina
What causes abnormal discharge?
Any change in the vagina's balance of normal bacteria can affect the smell, color, or discharge texture. These are a few of the things that can upset that balance:
- Bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection more common in pregnant women or women who have multiple sexual partners
- Chlamydia or gonorrhea (STDs), sexually transmitted infections
- Pelvic infection after surgery
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Trichomoniasis, a parasitic infection typically contracted and caused by having unprotected sex
- Vaginitis, irritation in or around the vagina
- Yeast infections
- Antibiotic or steroid use
- Birth control pills
- Douches, scented soaps or lotions, bubble bath
- Vaginal atrophy, the thinning and drying out of the vaginal walls during menopause
- Cervical cancer
How you are treated will depend on what’s causing the problem.
Here are some tips for preventing vaginal infections that can lead to abnormal discharge:
- Keep the vagina clean by washing regularly with a gentle, mild soap and warm water. One can use vaginal wash available in market.
- Never use scented soaps and feminine products or douche. Also avoid feminine sprays and bubble baths.
- Wear cotton underpants, and avoid overly tight clothing.
- After going to the bathroom, always wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from getting into the vagina and causing an infection.
- Avoid vaginal douching unless recommended by doctor.