A normal vaginal discharge is:
- clear or white
- not smelly
- thick and sticky for most of the menstrual cycle
- clearer, wetter and more slippery around the time of ovulation –
Most women produce more discharge during pregnancy and less after the menopause.
Fluid made by glands inside the vagina and cervix carries away dead cells and bacteria. This keeps the vagina clean and helps prevent infection.
However, there are certain types of discharge that can indicate an infection. Abnormal discharge may come in different shades of colour, odour and feel.
Types of abnormal discharge and their possible causes
|Colour of Discharge||Possible Causes||Other Symptoms|
|Bloody or brown||Irregular menstrual cycles, or less often, cervical or endometrial cancer||Abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain|
|Cloudy or yellow||Gonorrhoea||Bleeding between periods, urinary incontinence, pelvic pain|
|Frothy, yellow or greenish with a bad smell||Trichomoniasis||Pain and itching while urinating|
|Pink||Shedding of the uterine lining after childbirth (lochia)|
|Thick, white, cheesy||Yeast infection||Swelling and pain around the vulva, itching, painful sexual intercourse|
|White, gray, or yellow with fishy odour||Bacterial vaginosis||Itching or burning, redness and swelling of the vagina or vulva|
Treating abnormal vaginal discharge
The doctor may take a sample of the discharge or do a Pap test to collect cells from your cervix for further examination.
How you are treated will depend on what’s causing the problem. For example, yeast infections are usually treated with antifungal medications inserted into the vagina in cream or gel form. Bacterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotic pills or creams. Trichomoniasis is usually treated with the drug metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole (Tindamax).
Here are some tips for preventing vaginal infections that can lead to abnormal discharge:
- Keep the vagina clean by washing regularly with a gentle, mild soap and warm water.
- Never use scented soaps and feminine products or douche. Also avoid feminine sprays and bubble baths.
- After going to the bathroom, always wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from getting into the vagina and causing an infection.
- Wear 100% cotton underpants, and avoid overly tight clothing.