Vaginal Discharge FAQs – Ask the OB/GYN

Vaginal discharge is a topic we get asked a lot of questions about, so we sat down with OBGYN, Monte R. Swarup, MD, FACOG to ask commonly asked questions on this important topic related to vaginal health.

1. Can you please explain what vaginal discharge is?

Vaginal discharge is a normal occurrence and begins during puberty.  Discharge is made up of water and microorganisms.

2. How can someone tell the difference between urine and discharge?

Urine is thinner than vaginal discharge in most situations and has a distinctive smell of urea. Vaginal discharge can be many different colors/smells.

3. What causes vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge can be caused by yeast infections, Bacterial vaginosis, and certain STIs. Other than ovulation where you will notice more, excessive discharge would be more than a teaspoon within a 24-hour period which equates to 1-4 milliliters.

4. What can cause someone to leak urine?

Urinary incontinence can occur secondary to infection, urinary urgency or urge incontinence or bladder spasms. A common type in women is stress incontinence caused by weakness of tissues supporting the urethra caused by time, gravity, kids coming through and an individual’s genetics. Of course difficulty with urinary control is bad, but unlikely dangerous.

5. Is this something you can diagnose on your own?

If you have concerns, see your OB/GYN or healthcare provider. A urinalysis and/or a urine culture is a place to start.  However, a thorough history and physical exam is the correct place to start.

6. What would you recommend an individual could do at home to help?

Pelvic floor muscle (Kegel) exercises can be very helpful to treat urinary incontinence at home. Your health care provider can also provide medications for treatment. The last option to treat UI is surgery.

7. What’s the outlook for someone with urinary incontinence?

Urinary incontinence will not go away in its own, but it is possible to greatly improve your symptoms with behavior modifications and/ or medications or surgery.

8. What about excessive vaginal discharge?

Excessive vaginal discharge will go away once the underlying issue is treated.

9. What can you do to prevent future leakage?

For urinary incontinence, continuation of pelvic floor muscle (kegel) exercises is necessary. For excessive vaginal discharge once treated, there are probiotics that have shown to help keep the vaginal bacteria “balanced.”