Vaginal Discharge

Most of the time, vaginal discharge is perfectly normal and can vary in odor and color depending on the time in a woman’s menstrual cycle. Generally, there is more discharge when ovulating, breastfeeding, or during sexual activity, and this is no cause for concern.

However, there are times when vaginal discharge can be abnormal. Most changes in odor and color are not cause for alarm; but, if the color, smell, or consistency of the vaginal discharge seems different than usual, an infection or other condition may be present.

Discharge-Causing Health Conditions

  • Any change in the vagina’s balance of normal bacteria can affect the smell, color, or discharge texture and can be a result of a few things:

  • Antibiotic or steroid use

  • Bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection more common in women who are pregnant or women who have multiple partners

  • Taking birth control pills

  • Cervical cancer

  • Chlamydia or gonorrhea (STDs) or other sexually transmitted infections

  • Diabetes

  • Douching, using scented soaps or lotions, bubble baths

  • Pelvic infection after surgery

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

  • Trichomoniasis, a parasitic infection typically contracted and caused by having unprotected sex

  • Vaginal atrophy, the thinning and drying out of the vaginal walls during menopause

  • Vaginitis, irritation in or around the vagina

  • Yeast infections

When To See A Doctor For Vaginal Discharge

If the abnormal discharge is recurring and you experience other symptoms such as nausea or bleeding, we recommend seeing a healthcare provider. While changes in vaginal discharge is completely normal, its occurrence alongside other symptoms — such as fever, bloody stools, chest pain, yellow skin (jaundice), or abdominal swelling and tenderness — could indicate a serious medical condition that may require urgent, immediate medical help.

 

Abnormal types of vaginal discharge can be indicated by color and odor and could mean many different things. You should meet with your doctor to discuss your personal health situation, current health circumstances, and your symptoms if you are experiencing:

  • Vaginal itching or burning

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding

  • Swelling and pain around the vulva

  • Painful sexual intercourse

  • Bleeding between periods

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain

  • Pain and itching while urinating

  • Redness of the vagina or vulva

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