Vaginal discharge is a white or off-white liquid secreted from the tiny glands of your cervix and vagina. A vaginal discharge is mainly made up of bacteria and cells. It leaks from your vaginal glands daily to remove debris and old cells, lubricate your vagina and keep the reproductive tract healthy and clean.
The amount, color, texture, and consistency of vaginal discharge may differ from person to person. A clear or off-white color of vaginal discharge refers to a healthy and natural process. If the color, amount, and consistency of your vaginal discharge change frequently, it may indicate a vaginal infection or disease.
Normal Vaginal Discharge
The normal vaginal discharge varies from person to person throughout the menstrual cycle. A thin, clear, white, or off-white discharge is considered normal, but a cloudy, thick, watery vaginal discharge is also perfectly normal.
Some women may experience black, red, or brown vaginal discharge at the end of their menstrual period, which is also normal. This condition happens because vaginal discharge contains a small amount of blood from the uterus after the menstrual period.
A healthy and normal vaginal discharge can have the following other characteristics;
· Amount of Vaginal Discharge
The amount of vaginal discharge may vary from person to person throughout the menstrual cycle. Some factors like ovulation, birth control pills, and pregnancy can alter the amount of vaginal discharge. These factors change the natural hormonal process, increasing the amount of vaginal discharge. If you notice a sudden abnormality in the amount of vaginal discharge, it may signify a vaginal disease or infection.
· The smell of the Vaginal Discharge
A healthy vaginal discharge does not have an unpleasant or strong vaginal odor. If your vaginal discharge has a fishy or unpleasant odor, it is always a sign of vaginal disease or infection.
· Color of Vaginal Discharge
A clear, cloudy, white, or off-white color of vaginal discharge is considered normal. Some women may have a green, black, red, or grey color of their vaginal discharge even after the menstrual period, which indicates a vaginal disease or infection.
· Consistency & Texture
Your vaginal discharge may have a thick, watery, pasty, gooey, or sticky texture and consistency, which is normal. Some hormonal imbalances or changes can alter the texture and consistency of your vaginal discharge. But suppose you have an abnormal texture of your vaginal discharge, like foamy and chunky, accompanied by an unpleasant odor, change in color, or itching in the vagina. In that case, it may signify an infection or disease.
Consult with your doctor if you feel the following vaginal symptoms;
- An unpleasant and fishy odor in your vaginal discharge
- The increased amount of vaginal discharge
- A burning sensation during urination
- Change in the consistency and texture of your vaginal discharge
- Itching, allergy, or irritation in or around the vaginal area
- Change in the color of the discharge
Different Colors of Vaginal Discharge
If the color of your vaginal discharge is other than off-white or white, it may indicate the following vaginal problems;
· Red or Brown
Red, brown, or dark rust color of discharge is commonly the result of pregnancy or irregular menstruation. If you have red or brown colored discharge even after your menstrual period, it may indicate a sign of endometrial cancer and other infections.
· Light Yellow and White
A white clear white color of discharge is considered normal. Still, if it has consistency and texture like cottage cheese accompanied by an unpleasant smell, it may signify a yeast infection, causing irritation or itching in the vagina.
A yellowish-green or grey color of vaginal discharge usually indicates a sexually transmitted or bacterial infection. A recent survey reveals that approximately 3.7 million people in the U.S. have STI (sexually transmitted infection), 30% of which develop the signs of abnormal vaginal discharge.
Contact a professional healthcare provider if you notice a clumpy, thick vaginal discharge with a strong, fishy odor.
The vaginal discharge containing a small amount of blood can turn into light pink color. This color of vaginal discharge may indicate implantation bleeding in pregnancy. You may also have a pink vaginal discharge after sexual intercourse if the sex has irritated or small tears in your cervix vaginal glands.
The change in the color, consistency, texture, and amount of your vaginal discharge may or may not be a sign of vaginal infection or disease. But suppose you notice bleeding after menopause, itching in the vagina, spotting after sex regularly, changing the discharge color, or a burning sensation in your vagina. In that case, you must see your healthcare provider to avoid any complications.
Causes of Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
A lot of females facing the issue of abnormal (heavy) vaginal discharge accompanied by a strong and unpleasant odor. The following potential factors may result in abnormal vaginal discharge;
The cervical is a gel-like fluid containing amino acids, carbohydrates, and proteins. The amount and texture of cervical fluid tend to change throughout the menstrual period in females. It can have a thick, cloudy, or white texture after menstruation.
During ovulation, the estrogen level increases in the body, resulting in a slippery and clear texture of cervical fluid. The amount of cervical liquid may increase closer to ovulation and decrease after ovulation.
Sexual arousals may cause several physical responses in your body, such as increased blood flow in your genitals. The increased pressure in the genitals enlarges the blood vessels, pushing more liquid to the surface of the vaginal walls.
· Hormonal Imbalance
Hormonal imbalance can cause several problems to women’s reproductive system, including PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that PCOS affects more than 5 million women only in the U.S.
A higher level of PCOS can prevent ovulation, cause irregular periods, and change the amount and texture of vaginal discharge. Hormonal birth control pills may also cause a temporary change in your vaginal discharge which becomes normal once your body adjusts to hormonal birth control.
· Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal infection resulting from the excessive growth of bacteria in your vagina. This infection may develop after sexual intercourse but is not sexually transmitted. Females with bacterial vaginosis may have grey-colored or milky vaginal discharge accompanied by a fishy and strong odor.
Bacterial vaginosis can also irritate around the vaginal area, cause itching or painful burning in your vagina, and discomfort and burning sensation when urinating. This can be treated with Boric Acid suppositories for BV.
· Yeast Infection
Several surveys show that nearly 70% of women have abnormal vaginal discharge due to yeast infection. The overgrowth of candida fungus in your vagina can cause yeast infections. Women with a yeast infection can have an odorless vaginal discharge similar to cottage cheese. It is recommended to use vaginal probiotics to maintain a health vaginal microbiome.
It is a sexually transmitted infection that women can develop after having sexual intercourse with a person who has a parasite. Women with trichomoniasis may experience excessive vaginal discharge accompanied by a fishy or foul smell.
Some Noninfectious Causes of Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
Several noninfectious factors can cause abnormal vaginal discharge, some of which are;
- Type 1 diabetes
- Use of detergents, sprays, and soaps to wash your vagina
- Use of antibiotic medicines
- Use of hormonal birth control
- Lower Immunity
Prevention for Vaginal Infections
Vaginal discharge is a natural process that helps the vagina removes toxins and debris. But if you’re facing the signs and symptoms of abnormal vaginal discharge, you must practice the following things to avoid complications;
- Avoid douching as it can damage the growth of bacteria that help in preventing vaginal infections.
- Always wear cotton and clean underwear to absorb moisture and prevent yeast infection.
- Practice getting tested for STIs regularly
- Practice safe sex
- Avoid using detergents, soaps, and other products to wash your vagina
- Use unscented pads and tampons
Treatment Options for Vaginal Infections
Treating vaginal infections and abnormal vaginal discharge mainly depends on the underlying conditions. Your healthcare provider may use an antifungal or antibiotic to avoid yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
Maintaining a healthy weight and taking healthy nutrients can help you avoid the risks of PCOS and other vaginal infections. It would be great to avoid the source of irritation and itching to treat the signs of abnormal vaginal discharge and vaginal infections.
The Bottom Line
Vaginal discharge is a natural process that helps the vagina eliminate toxins and debris. A clear, off-white, or white color with no odor is perfectly normal. You must see your healthcare provider to avoid complications if you notice red, grey, green, or yellowish-colored vaginal discharge accompanied by unpleasant and foul odors.