Throughout the menstrual cycle, women notice changes in their vaginal discharge. This change is normal and healthy. In general, a healthy vaginal discharge:
- Is clear or white in colour
- Possesses a slight odour
- Changes in consistency depending upon the stage of the menstrual cycle
- Leaves a yellow tint on the underwear
Vaginal discharge is composed of fluids from the cervix, uterus and the vagina. It appears as thick during ovulation i.e. when the egg is released from the ovaries. This is considered the most fertile time for reproduction. Just two or three days after periods, women experience thick and white discharge. In the following days, the consistency of the discharge is more like mucous. The production of vaginal discharge may increase during pregnancy as there is nothing to worry about it. It is usually white, milky, thin and mild smelling. As women get older, there is a shift in the estrogen levels and the body may produce little or no discharge at all. Older women often complain of vaginal dryness due to this reason.
But there are certain signs that indicate that something is not right with your body when the vaginal discharge :
- Appears frothy or foamy
- Changes its consistency
- Appears dark yellow, grey or green, brown or blood-stained
- Is accompanied by vaginal itchiness
- Has a strong odour
A woman should also see a doctor if she experiences:
- pain during sexual intercourse
- pain while urinating
If the abnormality is accompanied by itching and burning, it usually indicates a yeast infection. Yellow or green discharge is commonly associated with bacterial infection or sexually transmitted infection. Brown discharge may indicate irregular period cycles or even point towards uterine cancer if such discharge continues for long period.
If your notice any such changes in colour, smell or consistency of the discharge, it is time to see a doctor. After reviewing your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe certain tests to you like the pap smear test. Samples reviewed under microscope and pH test along with physical examination. The abnormal discharge may be due to yeast infection or other conditions like trichomoniasis or bacterial vaginosis. Abnormal discharge may also be due to Sexually transmitted diseases such as Gonorrhea. Most abnormalities in vaginal discharge are easily treated by antibiotic pills or creams.
A girl may start experiencing vaginal discharge six months prior to her first period. This happens at the age of 11 upwards. Girls under 10 years of age, who have not started to menstruate may experience vaginal discharge. They need to see a doctor as well. Also, if menopausal women notice a new discharge, they should consult a doctor. Sometimes, douching can also lead to infection down under. It is also advisable to visit a doctor and take expert advice instead of trying home remedies.
Vaginal discharge is a key indicator of a women’s health. Any changes in its appearance, colour or consistency must be taken seriously and doctors’ advice should be sought as early as possible.