The different types of vaginal discharge
Here are some facts you need to know about normal vaginal discharge and ways to identify abnormal vaginal discharge. Read on to know more.
Attention ladies (and curious gentlemen). Today, we are going to discuss a very secret yet important issue: what vaginal discharge looks like. Our vaginal discharge chart will illustrate this.
We will also answer common questions about vaginal discharge like: Is my discharge normal? Should it be white or yellow? Should it be slimy or gel-like? Is it normal for it to turn brownish? All these questions haunt us, yet we keep mum on the topic.
But here’s the truth: vaginal discharge is normal. Every woman has it. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is not gross. And, it is a part of your body.
Your vaginal discharge is made up of vaginal secretions and cervical mucus. This is a normal bodily function and keeps the vagina healthy. It is unique to each woman.
However, there are certain types of vaginal discharge that can be abnormal and even indicate an infection. Let’s try to understand this in-depth.
Typically, normal vaginal discharge will be clear or whitish and will not have any foul smell. The texture may vary. It could be watery and thin or stringy. It depends on what time of the month you checked.
The volume of vaginal discharge may also vary. For instance, you might see a little on few days, more on some and then none at all on others.
Basically, the ‘normal’ could vary so its important that you know what is normal for you. Now how do you understand that? You can do this by looking at the colour, consistency and odour of the discharge.
Normal vaginal discharge can range from white to yellow and thick to slimy. It all depends on your health condition and the time of the month you checked.
The cervix essentially creates four types of mucus in the vagina based on the time of ovulation.
As the name suggests, this type of discharge is dry, pasty and makes penetration difficult. You may feel your vulva becoming quite dry and this mostly happens during the infertile time of the month, seven days before and after your menstrual cycle.
These days are also called ‘dry days.’ In fact, you are least likely to get pregnant during these days even if you have unprotected sex. The purpose of this dry, pasty discharge is to block sperm from entering your uterus.
As your estrogen levels begin to rise in the body, the cervix will produce a more liquid type of discharge. At this time your vulva may feel sticky and wet.
You may notice sticky and wet discharge on your labia during days between ovulation and the dry days. So for instance, if you have a 28-day cycle, you will see this type of normal vaginal discharge between your 7th and 11th day.
Typically, this type of discharge is thin and is able to filter out poor-quality or abnormal sperm before they enter the uterus.
As you near your ovulation days, you will notice a stretchy and slippery type of discharge. This is often called egg-white vaginal discharge.
You may feel a distinct wet sensation right at your vulva with strings of egg-white like discharge. Some may even be clumpy.
This is a good sign of ovulation. If your menstrual cycle is of 28 days, you may see this type of discharge between the 12th and the 16th day. So if you are planning to conceive, and you notice this type of discharge, it is a good time to start trying.
This type of discharge creates an easy pathway for good quality sperm to enter the uterus.
Just days before ovulation begins, your discharge will become quite slippery. The cervix mucus loses its stretch and becomes lubricating.
Interesting fact: the last day that you notice this type of normal vaginal discharge is actually the most fertile day of the month.
That’s because it is the last day before the egg is released. This type of discharge is also potassium rich.
This is usually a normal vaginal discharge. You may notice a little bit of white discharge at the beginning or the end of your monthly menstrual cycle. However, if you see a thick slimy discharge that has a cottage cheese texture and is accompanied by itching, chances are you have contracted a yeast infection.
You can also detect infection if the white discharge is accompanied by foul smell, pelvic pain and severe itching or uneasiness.
Apart from the set types of vaginal discharge, you may notice a clear watery discharge as well. This can come at any time of the month.
It is not abnormal at all. In fact, its completely normal and you will especially notice it after you’ve had a tough exercise session.
Right after your period ends, you may notice a brown discharge. Worry not, it is also normal vaginal discharge. It’s just your body’s way of clearing out your uterus after your period.
In addition, if you’ve had unprotected sex and you notice a brown or bloody vaginal discharge it could indicate a pregnancy. Alternatively, heavy spotting can also indicate a miscarriage. Either way, you must rush to a doctor to get a proper checkup.
In postmenopausal women this may be a sign of cervical cancer. A routine pap smear or a pelvic examination can clear that doubt.
A yellow discharge can potentially mean an infection. Usually this type of discharge is thick and if it smells foul, it is a clear indication of an infection of the vagina.
It can also potentially indicate trichomoniasis, which is a sexually transmitted infection. You should note that while most women suffering from chlamydia or gonorrhea do not show any symptoms, a yellow discharge is an indication. So keep an eye on this type of vaginal discharge as it is not normal.
Such type of a vaginal discharge is abnormal and usually a sign of a serious internal infection. If it is accompanied by foul smell, it is also indicative of trichomoniasis.
In case you notice this type of vaginal discharge, you should visit your doctor.
Now that we have taken a brief look at types of normal vaginal discharge and a few that are abnormal, let’s understand what makes vaginal discharge abnormal.
When normal vaginal discharge has an imbalance of bacteria and gives out a foul smell or colour, it becomes abnormal. Here are few of the things (as listed in WebMD) that make vaginal discharge abnormal.
- Antibiotic or steroid use
- Bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection that is common in pregnant women
- If women have multiple sexual partners
- Birth control pills
- Cervical cancer
- Chlamydia or gonorrhea (STDs), sexually transmitted infections
- Vaginal douches
- Using scented soaps or lotions, or even taking a regular bubble bath
- Pelvic infection
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Trichomoniasis, a parasitic infection caused by unprotected sex
- Vaginal atrophy, the drying and thinning of the vaginal walls during the menopause phase
- Vaginitis, this is an irritation in and/or around the vagina
- Yeast infections
In order to determine whether your vaginal discharge is normal or abnormal, doctors check certain crucial factors. These include previous medical history, pregnancy, menopause and even fever in some cases.
Here’s what you will be asked if you go for your vaginal discharge check-up:
- Are you pre-menopausal or menopausal?
- Have you conceived and are pregnant?
- Do you experience any abdominal pain or fever with your discharge?
- Does your vaginal discharge have a foul smell?
- Have you noticed a rash or a bump near your vagina?
- Did you have unprotected sex?
Apart from these, another crucial factor is colour and consistency. Although it should be noted that sometimes even white discharge can become abnormal if there is an underlying medical condition.
In such a case the doctor will administer a pap smear test or take a sample of your vaginal discharge.
Once your doctor has identified the cause of the abnormality in your vaginal discharge, your treatment will start accordingly. For instance, if you have a yeast infection, you will be prescribed anti-fungal medications that may be taken orally or inserted into the vagina.
You may be given pills or creams for bacterial vaginosis. And for trichomoniasis, you may be prescribed metronidazole or tinidazole.
While you will probably refer to your doctor in case of abnormal vaginal discharge, make sure to keep a few things in mind even if you have normal vaginal discharge.
- Keep your vagina clean by washing it with some warm water and a mild soap.
- Use 100 percent cotton panties and do not wear extremely tight underpants.
- Do not use scented soaps, douches or feminine soaps.
- After using the bathroom, make sure to wipe from front to back. This will prevent infection from entering the vagina.
If you follow just these basic rules, you will be able to maintain a healthy vagina.