Vaginal discharge is a common complaint among women, and it is one of the most common reasons why women make an appointment with their gynecologist. From an overabundance of vaginal discharge to a foul smell, vaginitis symptoms cause many women to worry. Yet, when is vaginal discharge considered abnormal or as a cause to worry?
The first thing that women need to understand about the vagina is that it is a self-cleaning entity. The vagina creates secretions to help keep it clean, and while this may be bothersome at different times, it is often not a cause of concern. A woman’s vaginal discharge actually has natural qualities throughout a woman’s cycle, and understanding these characteristics can help a woman narrow down her concerns regarding any vaginal discharge. A healthy vagina produces a normal discharge that is clear to white, with a slightly yellowish shade when it dries on underwear. There is a change in the discharge when women are breastfeeding, ovulating, sexually aroused, and even stressed. It may be thicker or thinner and more abundant in quantity during these times. As a woman passes through her cycle, the discharge typically becomes thicker and more of a “milky white” color closer to the time of menstruating due to progesterone release. Normal discharge has different smells, from odorless to metallic to a pungent sexual smell.
However, abnormal vaginal discharge has a few characteristics that, if noticed, should be brought the attention of your gynecologist.
- Strong, fishy odor. A strong, fishy odor can indicate a bacterial infection within the vagina. This infection is easily treated with antibiotics, but it is important to begin treatment sooner rather than later so that the infection does not spread.
- A horrible itch. Yeast infections are the most common causes of a miserable vaginal itch. The vaginal discharge of a yeast infection typically has a cottage cheese like appearance and a very distinctive smell. Antifungal medications and topical itching creams, specific for the vagina, will easily clear a yeast infection.
- Pain. Vaginal discharge that is associated with painful sex, abdominal pain, or any new discomfort needs to be brought to your gynecologist’s attention. An STD, uterine fibroids, or other more serious concerns could be causing your pain, and it is imperative that you receive necessary medical attention.
At Marietta OB-GYN Affiliates, P.A., we offer comprehensive care to women. If you have any concerns regarding your vaginal discharge, please call to schedule an appointment. We are committed to providing excellent medical care with sensitivity and compassion.