Thyroid, Breast, Endocrine & Cancer Surgeon
Obstetrician, Gynecologist & Laparoscopic Surgeon
Vaginal discharge is any fluid or material that leaves a woman's body through the vagina. Some vaginal discharge is normal for all women, especially those in their reproductive years (ages 15 to 44). When the amount, quality or consistency of vaginal discharge changes, it may be a sign of disease or other irritation.
Normal vaginal discharge is clear or white with no bad odor. It has regular fluctuations that result from hormonal changes occurring throughout the menstrual cycle. The normally clear and thin fluid becomes a bit thicker and heavier at the time of ovulation. Sexual excitement increases vaginal discharge. It also changes during pregnancy, at menopause and when a woman uses birth control pills.
Change in the color, odor or consistency of vaginal discharge may indicate an infection. Yeast infections, where the volume of regular vaginal yeast increases, cause a thick, white discharge that looks like cottage cheese. Other vaginal infections (sometimes grouped as vaginitis) like trichomoniasis and bacterial vaginosis can cause other changes to vaginal discharge, such as changes in amount, color and odor. Sexually transmitted diseases may also be associated with unusual vaginal discharge, but frequently have no symptoms.
In addition, altered vaginal discharge may be the result of personal behaviors or habits that can affect the vaginal environment. These include douching and wearing tight clothing that restricts air flow to the vagina.
Symptoms like pain in the vagina or while urinating, itching around the genital area, generalized discomfort with the amount of discharge or while having sex and rash or sores alone or with a vaginal discharge should be reported. If there is infection, it can be treated and the vaginal discharge should return to normal levels.
Girls may begin to notice some vaginal discharge up to a year before their first menstrual period. Those not yet nearing puberty who experience vaginal discharge should see a physician immediately, because discharge is rare in healthy prepubescent girls.
⇒ After using the toilet, always wipe from front to back. This may help prevent getting bacteria from your rectal area into your vagina.
⇒ Wear cotton underpants during the day. Cotton allows your genital area to "breathe." Don't wear underpants at night.
⇒ Avoid wearing tight pants, swimming suits, biking shorts for long periods especially in hot and humid weather.
⇒ Change your laundry detergent if you think it may be irritating your genital area.
⇒ The latex in condoms that are used for birth control can be irritating for some women. • Avoid long baths in hot tubs.
⇒ Bathe or shower daily and pat your genital area dry.
⇒ Don't douche or try to clean the inside depth of vaginal area.
⇒ Avoid feminine hygiene sprays, colored or perfumed toilet paper, deodorant pads or tampons, and bubble bath.