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Vaginal Discharge

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Vaginal Discharge

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Vaginal discharge is a normal physiological phenomenon. But, abnormal vaginal discharge can be a sign of infection. Find out more about abnormal vaginal discharge and what it indicates.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sanjay Kumar Bhattacharyya

Published At March 22, 2019
Reviewed AtAugust 8, 2023

Vaginal Discharge

Vaginal discharge is a physiological phenomenon and some form of discharge is considered as absolutely normal. But there are some conditions or disorders of women those are recognized as well as manifested by the change in amount, color, consistency, duration or even smell of the vaginal discharge. Thus, it is of utmost importance to know the difference between a normal and an abnormal vaginal discharge.

What are the different types of vaginal discharges?

1. Normal vaginal discharge (Leucorrhoea):

Almost all women experience some form of vaginal discharges at any point in time. This is usually clear or milky or more like a sticky liquid. These are the secretions from the glands situated in the vagina and cervix. This constant secretion helps in vaginal lubrication, clears out old cells, keeps the vagina clean and safe from outside infections. Usually, it amounts 1 to 4 ml in 24 hours in a normal reproductive-aged woman.


The discharge can be seen within the first few days after birth due to estrogen exposure from mother, within the womb. It looks more like a clear or white mixture with a mucus type of texture.


The secretion is comparatively thinner and has a different bacteria flora.


As the production of estrogen begins at this age, there is an increase in the vaginal discharge along with an increase in glycogen content leading to increased lactobacilli content in the vagina. This, in turn, leads a to more acidic environment inside the vagina which helps to protect the vagina from outer infections.

Menstrual cycle:

In the normal menstrual cycle, there is some form of vaginal discharges which are considered normal. During the mid-cycle, there is an increase in vaginal secretion which is an indicator of ovulation.


During pregnancy, due to an increased level of hormones inside the mother's body, the vaginal secretion is increased but without any itching or foul smell. The secretion is commonly white or mildly grey in color associated with a musty smell.


Vaginal secretions decrease after menopause due to the effect of a decrease in sex hormone production inside the body.

2. Abnormal vaginal discharge:

Various conditions and different types of infections and diseases can be reasons for changed vaginal discharges. The discharge might change in color, amount, consistency, duration and could be associated with offensive smell or itching.

When can you see abnormal vaginal discharges?

The following conditions cause abnormal vaginal discharge.

  • Bacterial Vaginosis: It is a bacterial infection most commonly seen in women in childbearing age. The general causes include the use of antibiotics for other reasons or exposure to unprotected sex, etc.
  • Yeast Infection: Also termed as candidiasis.
  • Antibiotic or use of steroids.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea,
  • Diabetes mellitus.
  • Use of douches, soaps, and lotions those are scented or taking frequent bubble baths.
  • Trichomoniasis: infection due to unprotected sex.
  • Sometimes, rarely, viral infections like herpes simplex might also cause this.

What are the signs and symptoms of vaginal discharge?

Usually, there is a change in the amount of secretions along with other changes and associated symptoms are as follows:

  • Thick discharge.
  • Bad Odor.
  • Itching.
  • Swelling with or without redness around the vulva.
  • White discharge.
  • Painful intercourse.

Based on the specific type of discharge:

1. Bloody, brown colored discharge:

This can be due to periods, or cervical or endometrial cancer. This can be associated with pelvic pain.

2. Yellow or cloudy:

Infection like Gonorrhea. The other associated symptoms include pelvic pain, involuntary or uncontrolled urination, bleeding in between periods cycle.

3. Yellow, greenish and frothy with a bad smell:

This is seen in cases of trichomoniasis and can be associated with itching and pain while urinating.

4. Pink colored:

This is seen due to uterine lining shedding after delivery of the baby.

5. White and cheesy thick secretion:

This is very common and is caused due to yeast or fungal infections. The associated symptoms include pain and swelling around the vulva, pain during sexual intercourse, and itching.

6. White or grey or yellow secretion with fishy odor:

This is another common condition caused due to bacterial vaginosis and rarely associated with itching, but redness and swelling around the vulva can be seen.

Based on the days of the menstrual cycle and color of the discharge: In normal conditions, it is as follows:

  • Days 6 to 14: Less vaginal discharge with cloudy or milky and sticky mucus.
  • Days 14 to 25: Thin and slippery mucus. Once the ovulation occurs, the mucus again turns to milky, yellow or cloudy and may be sticky.
  • Days 25 to 28: Lightening of cervical mucus and less in quantity before the starting of next period.

Types of vaginal discharge

How vaginal discharge is diagnosed?

On visiting the doctor, he will start with getting a complete history of yours (medical and personal) along with details regarding your vaginal discharge along with the associated other symptoms and medical examination. If required, a vaginal swab might be taken to help in confirming the diagnosis along with microbiological examination, pH estimation. PAP smear can also be used to diagnose the condition.

Signs and symptoms of vaginal discharge

Source Image Credit: ouh.nhs

What are the treatment and prevention methods?

Once the diagnosis is confirmed for a pathological condition, the treatment aims at eradicating the underlying disease which can be done using antimicrobials (ant-fungal, anti-virals or anti-bacterial) along with symptomatic relief.

The prevention can be done using the following methods:

1. Washing the vagina properly with the help of mild soap and water and keeping the area clean.

2. Wear properly fitting (not too tight or loose garments) preferably cotton.

3. Do not use scented or high chemicals near the vagina.

4. After using the washroom, wipe from front to back in order to prevent migration of organisms from anus to vagina.

5. Have protected sex if not planning for a baby.


Even though vaginal secretions are common, they might also be due to some underlying pathological condition and hence it is better to consult your physician when in doubt in order to cure and get guided about the condition earlier and this can be achieved from the comfort of your home with the help of online medical platforms. This helps to consult your doctor online in just a click.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Much Vaginal Discharge Is Normal?

Under normal conditions, women usually produce vaginal discharge in an amount ranging from one to four ml in 24 hours. However, this quantity tends to change daily, and it is commonly affected by normal and artificial factors like ovulation and birth control.


How to Get Rid of Vaginal Discharge?

Vaginal discharge can be prevented by keeping the vaginal area always clean by washing it frequently with a bar of gentle, mild soap and warm water. Scented soaps and feminine products or douche should be avoided as they may irritate the vaginal area that can lead to infections. Personal hygiene measures like once the woman has used the bathroom, she should always ensure to wipe from front to back for the prevention of bacteria from getting inside the vaginal canal and leading to an infection.


Why Do I Have Vaginal Discharge?

Increased vaginal discharge can be normal in most women, mainly caused by the regular menstrual cycle changes. Pathological causes could be a vaginal infection or cancer, which is not quite ordinary. If a woman experiences a vaginal discharge that is more than her usual amount, it is advised to seek a consultation with a gynecologist. Vaginal discharge is widespread with associated symptoms like itching or burning near and around the vagina, indicating vaginitis.


Why Is My Vaginal Discharge Brown?

Brown vaginal discharge noted right after a menses might just indicate the remaining blood of that cycle. Spotting of blood or brownish-white discharge can occur when the woman is in her mid-cycle. Sometimes brown vaginal discharge can be abnormal, especially in early pregnancy, known as a spot that might be caused due to an abortion.


How to Stop Vaginal Discharge?

Treatment options are available to treat abnormal and excessive vaginal discharge conditions. It is mainly treated symptomatically based on the cause of the discharge. However, it is reasonable to have 4 to 6 ml of vaginal discharge produced to protect the female genitalia from acquiring infections and provide lubrication for sexual intercourse. This average amount does not have to be stopped.


What Color Should Vaginal Discharge Be?

The amount of vaginal discharge produced can vary in different women, also can the odor and color. However, the normal color of vaginal discharge can range from bright white color to a milky whitish color, which depends on the particular period in the woman's menstrual cycle.


How to Get Rid of Smelly Vaginal Discharge?

Smelly vaginal discharge can be essentially prevented by practicing good personal hygiene measures. Bathing the area between your legs with warm water can avoid unnecessary infections. Inner garments should be changed frequently and maintained cleanly. When the smelly vaginal discharge does not resolve by all these measures, then proper medical treatment is needed from a gynecologist.


What Is Abnormal Vaginal Discharge?

Any change in from the normal amount, color, and odor of the vaginal discharge, especially in times of pregnancy, are considered an abnormal vaginal discharge. Those women should seek medical care properly.


What Does Vaginal Discharge Look Like When Pregnant?

Normal vaginal discharge during the period of pregnancy appears as thin, milky white, and mild-smelling fluid. In certain women, it could also be odorless. Change in the amount of vaginal discharge is quite normal during pregnancy. However, it is always good to get texted by the doctor and ensure normality.


What Is the Most Common Cause of Vaginal Discharge That Often Causes a "Fishy" Odor?

The most important factor in preventing excessive vaginal discharge is personal hygiene measures. Once the women use the restroom, she should always wipe properly. Cotton underpants during the daytime can avoid unnecessary heat to that area. If it does not resolve naturally, a proper treatment from a gynecologist must be done.


When Should I Be Concerned About Discharge?

An unresolved vaginal discharge, even after proper treatment, needs medical attention. Emergency medical care should be given when a pregnant woman experiences abnormal vaginal discharge with abnormal color and odor.


Is It Normal to Have Discharge every day?

Yes, it is normal to have vaginal discharge every day in an amount ranging from 4 to 6 ml. The vaginal fluid serves as a protective mechanism and also a lubricant during sexual intercourse that provides moisture.


Does Uti Cause Discharge in Females?

Yes, the female's chief symptom of a urinary tract infection is noted to be vaginal discharge. The nature and appearance of the vaginal discharge appear based on the cause of urinary tract infection. Urinary tract infection also presents with flank pain, fever, and pain during urination.


Can Stress Cause Vaginal Discharge?

Yes, stress is capable of causing vaginal discharge in women. Due to the alterations that are done in the hormonal levels of a female during a sudden increase in emotional stress, or women who are having a stressful daily routine, they can be noted to have vaginal discharge.


What Are the Home Remedies for Discharge?

There are a variety of effective home remedies that are present to treat vaginal discharge. That includes the usage of boric acid, the essential oil of oregano, probiotic suppositories, and supplements that are effective against certain yeast species, coconut oil application, tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, and garlic intake.


What Should I Eat to Stop White Discharge?

Based on the studies of Ayurvedic medicine, the most essential food causes of white vaginal discharge are foods that are rich in fats, sugars, highly calorific, and cold beverages. The risk further increases with the intake of an unhealthy diet, especially during menstruation.


How Can I Stop White Discharge Naturally?

In most women, vaginal discharge resolves naturally by home remedies. It includes the use of boric acid, the essential oil of oregano, probiotic suppositories, and effective supplements against certain yeast species, coconut oil application, tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, and garlic intake.


Is Too Much Discharge Bad?

Yes, too much vaginal discharge is terrible for a woman's health. Too much vaginal discharge indicates poor sanitary habits and infections that could be as severe as sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, immediate medical care from a gynecologist is required to prevent complications.


Is Vaginal Discharge Normal?

Yes, it is normal to have vaginal discharge daily in normal amounts because the vaginal fluid serves as an essential protective layer from germs by its acidic nature and also a lubricant during sexual intercourse that provides moisture and prevents dyspareunia.


Vaginal Discharge After Intercourse?

Some amount of vaginal discharge after sexual activities is usually expected. It is mainly due to the hormonal changes in a woman's sexual arousal and is not usually accompanied by pain or any associated symptoms. However, new white discharge after unprotected sexual intercourse can sign an infection transmitted during the last sexual intercourse. Common causes of those vaginal discharges include bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and sexually transmitted infection.


Is Milky Discharge After Sex a Sign of Cervical Cancer?

Abnormal vaginal bleeding in between the menstrual cycle and after intercourse, or even after the woman has attained menopause, are chief symptoms of cervical cancer. However, the presence of vaginal discharge that does not resolve, and appears to be pale, watery, pink, brown, bloody, or foul-smelling are also signs of cervical cancer.


How Many Days Before Period Does White Discharge Occur?

Before a period, vaginal discharge appears for three to five days, which looks white, cloudy, or sticky. All these changes occur during the follicular phase, where an egg is developing in the female ovary. During this period, the right amount of bright and stretchy or clear and watery discharge is seen, and it is normal at the time of ovulation.


What Does Early Pregnancy Discharge Look Like?

In most pregnant females, sticky, white, or pale-yellow mucus can be seen during their first trimester, and some women have it throughout their pregnancy. Increased levels of reproductive hormones and an increase in vaginal blood supply causes the discharge.


What Does White Discharge After Period Mean?

It is normal to note thick, white discharge at the beginning and the end of the menstrual cycle. It is just a reaction of hormonal fluctuations at the beginning and end of the period. If this discharge is associated with pain and fever symptoms, it is not normal, and medical treatment is essential.
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Dr. Sanjay Kumar Bhattacharyya
Dr. Sanjay Kumar Bhattacharyya

Obstetrics and Gynecology


vaginal dischargeyeast infectionbacterial vaginosiswhite dischargehealthy hygiene
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