The majority of women will have vaginal discharge – but how do you tell if this is abnormal?
Normal vaginal discharge is usually clear/white and odourless and should not be accompanied by any other symptoms such as itching or soreness around your vagina.
The amount and type of vaginal discharge experienced by each woman may differ between women and also varies throughout your menstrual cycle.
It is useful to keep track of your vaginal discharge. Understanding your regular pattern of discharge helps you to identify when there are abnormal changes, which could be a sign of an infection.
Tracking your vaginal discharge also allows you to recognise when you could be ovulating, which is important if you are trying to conceive. Vaginal discharge associated with ovulation is clear, profuse and egg-white like inconsistency. This may or may not be accompanied with slight streaks or spots of blood.
So, when is vaginal discharge abnormal?
Vaginal discharge is abnormal when there is a sudden change in colour, consistency, and/or smell of the discharge. If you experience other symptoms such as itching or soreness outside the vagina, or pain in your lower abdomen, then this is suggestive of abnormality.
There are many possible causes of abnormal vaginal discharge, and the most common cause is an infection. An infection can be either sexually transmitted or due to an imbalance in your natural vagina flora (normal bacteria/organisms).
Common infections would include:
Infections such as candidiasis (vagina thrush) and bacterial vaginosis are not considered sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) whereas infections like trichomoniasis, Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These infections are treated with either antifungal or antibiotics medication.
What are other symptoms if left untreated?
If you have noticed a change in your discharge, it is advisable to visit a doctor as soon as possible. This is especially if you are experiencing other symptoms, which may include:
- lower abdominal pain (pelvis)
- pain during sex
- pain during urination
- bleeding in between periods or after sex.
This is because untreated STDs such as Chlamydia and gonorrhoea may spread into your female pelvic organs, leading to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This is a serious infection affecting the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries, which ultimately results in infertility.
Remember, the majority of these infections are easily treatable and the earlier you treat them, the lower the risk of developing complications.
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Other Women’s Sexual Health Articles:
- Vaginal Yeast Infection (Thrush)
- A Women Guide to Contraception
- STD Trichomoniasis and Green Fishy Smell Discharge
- STD Chlamydia Screening & Treatment
- STD Women’s Gonorrhoea Symptoms & Treatment
- STD Women’s Herpes Infection
- Urine Pain & Non-gonococcal urethritis (NGU)
- Bleeding After Sex
- Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
- Women’s STD Screening, Testing and Treatment Service