Vaginal discharge is identified by secretions from the small glands of the mouth of the uterus i.e. cervix and vagina. This discharge is expelled from the vagina every day, clearing the old cells and debris, hence keeping the vagina healthy and clean. It’s like an antiseptic flush that prevents the reproductive system from all kinds of infections.
Every woman’s vagina houses millions of healthy bacteria and depending upon the kind of healthy bacteria, the kind of odour from a vagina can vary. Every woman has their own vaginal odour. This constant smell can vary if there are any infections that have gone undetected.
The amount of white, normal vaginal discharge also varies according to the phase of the menstrual cycle. It is maximum at the time of ovulation and right before your menstrual cycle. Its consistency also varies and is thickest at the time of ovulation and becomes watery just before your periods. It’s all about the play of the hormones in your body on these glands which decides the amount and consistency of the discharge.
What is a normal discharge?
There are certain physiological events in every woman’s life which further increase the amount of white vaginal discharge such as pregnancy, sexual intercourse, and excitement. The effect is due to increased blood supply to these glands during such events. All these situations are normal physiological scenarios during which women experience excessive normal white vaginal discharge. So till the time your body produces hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone in the right balance, you will notice healthy white vaginal discharge. It is absolutely normal.
Even if you are taking birth control pills that also contain oestrogen and progesterone, then you might also experience excessive vaginal discharge.
What is abnormal discharge?
Abnormal vaginal discharge is something that is associated with an unusual smell or itching along with altered consistency and color of the discharge. One might even experience lower abdominal pain, back pain, and a recurrent urine infection.
Vaginal discharge is abnormal when you notice the following symptoms:
- If the color and consistency of your vaginal discharge are both watery along with intense itching and a fishy odour, then it could be a bacterial infection known as bacterial vaginosis.
- If the consistency of the vaginal discharge is curd-like along with intense itching, it could be due to a fungal infection. This infection could be caused due to prolonged use of antibiotics, diabetes, stress, or the use of oral contraceptive pills for a long time. A sudden increase in spice intake through your food can also be the cause.
- There are also other various abnormal colors of the white vaginal discharge which can signify some pathology. For example, a greenish color discharge might signify trichomoniasis or parasitic infection.
- If you notice vaginal discharge associated with pain in the lower abdomen and back pain, then it could be a sign of pelvic inflammatory disease. This is an inflammation and infection of the mouth of the uterus which extends to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
- If you have multiple sexual partners and you experience any such symptoms, it is vital to consider the possibility of a sexually transmitted disease (STD). They are a very common cause of abnormal vaginal discharge. The most common of them are chlamydia and gonorrhea.
What steps need to be carried out after noticing abnormal vaginal discharge?
Experiencing such symptoms along with abnormal vaginal discharge should not be left untreated. Book an appointment with your gynecologist to get evaluated and start the treatment immediately. The best part is, if the treatment is started on time, these infections can be taken care of without any aftermath. If neglected and not treated on time, it can lead to infection of the complete reproductive system and can spread to the rest of the body. Get biannual examinations and periodical PAP smears, this will help a gynecologist to examine you personally and prevent any abnormality.
In short, it is very important to know what is normal vaginal discharge and what is abnormal. It’s normal to have a healthy white discharge as it is like an antiseptic that clears off all the toxins from the reproductive system. Recognize your own healthy odour and identify what’s not normal for you.
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To know more about other gynaecological topics and how to take care of your health, read Dr. Amodita Ahuja’s articles here.