All You Need To Know About Vaginal Discharge

Are you aware of the difference between normal vaginal discharge and abnormal vaginal discharge? With all things being equal, vaginal discharge is a natural part of being a woman, but sometimes changes in it can indicate a problem. Understanding these changes will help you know when there is a problem.

The Natural Vagina

Basically, the function of your vagina is to provide access to your uterus and the rest of your internal reproductive system. The natural, acidic, pH of your vagina acts to prevent infections by the natural, good, bacteria present in it.

Naturally, your vagina cleans itself by producing clear, mucus-like secretions. However, the natural balance of the vagina can be disturbed by anything that interferes with its normal environment.

Normal Discharge

Note that, all women experience some amount of vaginal discharge. This is because Glands in your vagina and cervix produce small amounts of fluid that flows out of your body every day, taking with it old cells.

This normal discharge cleans the vagina, keeps it lubricated and free from infection and other disease causing agents (germs). It doesn’t have a foul smell and normally has no odor at all. Normal discharge always appears clear or milky when it dries on your panties. Sometimes though, you may observe a discharge that is thin and stringy or stretchy looking.

Look at the list of things that can disturb the natural pH balance of your vagina and lead to vaginal infections:

Menstrual Period Affects Vaginal Discharge

Your menstrual cycle has a serious effect on the kind of vaginal discharge that you encounter throughout the month. Midway between your periods, you will observe a normal increase in clear vaginal discharge. This occurence (of increased wetness and clear vaginal discharge) shows you are ovulating. Ovulation is the time of the month when you are fertile and can get pregnant.

Please note that you’re more likely to have vaginal infections just before or during your period. The reason for this is that the pH balance of your vagina fluctuates during your monthly cycle. This in turn causes the acidic level of your vagina to be at its lowest point a few days before your period and also during your period.

Contraceptives can also affect vaginal discharge

Hormones contained in contraceptives affect women differently, some have reported increased discharge while others have noted a reduction. Your doctor can help you identify if this is the cause and advice on how to manage it.

Signs of Abnormal Discharge

A very important fact is that you need to recognize the signs of abnormal vaginal discharge because it could be an indication that you have an infection or other health condition. If your vaginal discharge suddenly and randomly increases, this is sign that there may be a problem. Another thing that may signal a problem is if your discharge is yellowish or greenish in color. If you have a thick clumped or chunky discharge or a very watery discharge, you can also suspect that things are not well in your vagina.

The following signs in your discharge may indicate an infection:

★Changes in color, consistency (sometimes similar to cottage cheese), or amount
★Itching, discomfort, or a rash
★Vaginal burning during urination
★The presence of blood when it’s not time for your period
★A foul odor accompanied by yellowish, greenish, or grayish white vaginal discharge

If you notice any of the above signs with your vaginal discharge, it is advised that you consult your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment.

Also NOTE What Different Kinds of Discharge Indicate

√ If your discharge is whitish to pale yellow and thick and clumped and you have vaginal itching or burning you most likely have a vaginal yeast infection.

√ If you have a discharge that is heavier than usual, and at the same time watery and grayish in color with a foul fishy odor, you may suspect bacterial vaginosis.

√ If your vaginal discharge suddenly increases in amount, is green or yellowish and has bad odor, or is causing vaginal symptoms you are advised to see a doctor to diagnose the cause and to provide treatment.

Most Common Causes Of Vaginal Infections

Here are the most notable causes of abnormal vaginal discharges:

1. Bacterial vaginosis (BV): This is the most common vaginal infection, caused by bacteria. It is treated with antibiotics and won’t respond to over-the-counter treatments for yeast infection.

2. Vaginal yeast infections: Vaginal yeast infections are also very common and over-the-counter treatments are available. However, it’s important to never self-diagnose a vaginal yeast infection unless you have previously been diagnosed by your health care provider.

3. Trichomoniasis

4. Chlamydia

5. Gonorrhea

6. Forgetting to remove a tampon (A tampon is a feminine hygiene product designed to absorb the menstrual flow by insertion into the vagina during menstruation. Once inserted correctly a tampon is held in place by the vagina and expands as it soaks up menstrual blood)

4. Other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or infections (STIs)


Common tests requested to confirm, rule out or identify type of infection are;

1. Urinalysis- it’s a basic test on your urine that checks for infection by analysing the color, pH, and presence of normal/abnormal cells in urine.

2. High vaginal swab (HVS)- a swab of vaginal discharge is put in culture media (food for microorganisms with nutrients essential for their growth) and incubated to allow time for growth. Growth identifies type of organism= type of infection and helps your doctor to prescribe the right type of medication.

NB: there are specific tests for different types of STIs. Your doctor will request for a specific test based on your symptoms and history.


The treatment provided for vaginal discharge depends largely what caused it in the first place.

Prevention and management tips

1. Always wear cotton underwear
2. Practise good personal hygiene (keep your vagina clean and dry)
3. Avoid use of scented pads, tampons or soaps (they contain chemicals that alter vaginal pH)
4. Drink natural yoghurt
5. Drink lots of water
6. Avoid douching and inserting foreign objects into your vagina
7. Avoid clothing that is too tight (your vagina needs to breathe)