Vaginal discharge

What is Vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is completely normal and healthy – most women and girls get it. It’s a fluid or mucus that keeps the vagina clean and moist and protects it from infection. Many women come to us after noticing changes in the amount, the colour or the smell of this discharge. Here we will look in more detail at what is OK and when it may be a problem and treatment required.
diagram of vaginal thrush

Vaginal discharge usually isn’t anything to worry about if it:

  • doesn’t have a strong or unpleasant smell
  • is clear or white
  • is thick and sticky
  • is slippery and wet

You can get vaginal discharge at any age.

The amount of vaginal discharge varies. You usually get heavier discharge during pregnancy, if you’re sexually active or if you’re using birth control. It’s often slippery and wet for a few days between your periods (when you ovulate)

Abnormal vaginal discharge

Sometimes this discharge changes and can be a different colour, it may smell different or cause itching and discomfort or soreness. It may cause sex to be painful, bleeding after sex or in between periods or a burning sensation when you urinate.

Possible causes
Discharge Possible cause
Smells fishy bacterial vaginosis
Thick and white, like cottage cheese thrush
Green, yellow or frothy trichomoniasis
With pelvic pain or bleeding chlamydia or gonorrhoea
With blisters or sores genital herpes

What are the tests to diagnose the causes of conditions?

When you come to visit us at the clinic, we will complete a detailed history, we will need to ask questions about your periods, your symptoms and your sexual activity, this is essential to identify the necessary investigations and treatment options.

If you keep getting problems with repeated abnormal vaginal discharge, an examination will take place to exclude a more serious pathology (tumours and other issues). You may have to provide a sample of urine; we may need to take a swab of a sample of the discharge.

Anatomy of the vagina

The vagina is the tube that extends from the vulva to the cervix and is both elastic and muscular. The outer vaginal opening is normally partly covered by a membrane called the hymen while the upper end the cervix (neck of the womb) bulges into the vagina. The vagina allows for menstrual blood to flow out, sexual intercourse and childbirth.

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