What is vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is a clear or white fluid that comes out of the vagina.  The uterus, cervix, and vagina can produce the fluid. 

 

Is vaginal discharge normal?

Yes. Most women have vaginal discharge but not all discharge is normal.  Some women have a little discharge every now and then. Others have discharge every day. Your "normal" discharge might change during menstrual cycle and many times throughout your life. The amount of discharge is different for each woman.

 

When is vaginal discharge a sign of an infection?

Your vaginal discharge might be the sign of an infection if it:

  • Causes itching 
  • Causes swelling 
  • Has a bad odor 
  • Is green, blue, yellow, or grey in color 
  • Looks foamy or show bubbles 
  • Looks like cottage cheese 

 

What common infections does cause vaginal discharge to change?

Type of infection

Is it caused by having sex with an infected person?

What does discharge look like?

How  is the it treated?

Yeast

No

Thick, white, like cottage cheese

Vaginal creams or pessaries

Trichomoniasis

Yes

Green, yellow, or grey in color; frothy

Tablets ordered by your doctor

Bacterial vaginosis (Gardnerella or BV)

No

White discharge that smells fishy

Tablets or vaginal cream ordered by your doctor

Gonorrhea

Yes

Cloudy or yellow, but often no symptoms

Tablets or injections ordered by your doctor

Chlamydia

Yes

Often no symptoms

Tablets ordered by your doctor 

 

Can a woman have more than one infection at the same time?

Yes. A woman may have two or three types of infection at the same time. 

 

Why do women get vaginal infections?

We do not know all the reasons why women get vaginal infections. We do know however; that some types are spread by having sex with an infected person. You might have a higher risk of getting infections if you: 

  • Have sex without protection or have many sex partners (trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, chlamydia) 
  • Have diabetes or take birth control pills or taking antibiotic medicine (yeast) 

 

When should I see my health care provider?

You should see your doctor if:

  • Your vaginal discharge changes color, becomes heavier, thicker or smells different. 
  • You have itching, burning, swelling, or soreness around the vagina or vulva.

 

Other Causes of Vaginal Discharge

  • Cervical Cancer 
  • Genital Warts (HPV)
  • Menopause 
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease  
  • Pregnancy (Stages of Pregnancy)
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Women (STDs) 
  • Vaginal Bleeding 
  • Vaginitis
  • Vaginal cance
  • Allergic reactions 
  • Cervical polyp 
  • Cervicitis
  • Atrophic vaginitis
  • Foreign body (e.g. forgotten tampon) 
  • Hormonal changes 
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