What Is Vaginal Discharge?
It is normal for women to have some vaginal discharge. The amount, color and thickness of this discharge is different for each woman. Normal vaginal discharge is thin like mucus. It is clear, white or slightly yellow in color. It usually has no odor, doesn’t itch or irritate the skin. The amount of discharge may relate to the menstrual cycle. This amount of discharge can increase two weeks before menstruation.
What Are Signs and Symptoms of Vaginal Discharge?
Vaginal discharge alone does not mean there is an infection. If there are any of these other signs or if a women has had unprotected sex they should see a provider:
- Vaginal itching, burning or irritation
- Unpleasant odor that lasts more than a day
- Painful sex
- Pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen
- Thick white vaginal discharge
- Blisters, bumps, sores in the genital area
- Painful urination
- Change from the type of vaginal discharge that is normally present
How Is Vaginal Discharge Treated?
Vaginal discharge alone does not mean it needs to be treated. Even if you are careful, vaginal infections can occur. You can reduce your chance of vaginal infections or abnormal vaginal discharge by:
- Taking a shower or bath regularly and use a plain, mild soap
- Avoid tight-fitting leggings or tights
- Avoid sitting in damp or sweaty clothing
- Do not use bubble baths
- Do not use scented feminine hygiene products such as vaginal sprays, scented powders, deodorant tampons, scented pads and panty liners
- Do not douche as these products do not prevent or treat infections and instead they make irritation or infection more likely
- Use plain white toilet paper and, after using the bathroom, always wipe front to back
- Wash and dry your hands before touching the vaginal area
- Change tampons and sanitary napkins often, at least every two to three hours
What Causes Vaginal Discharge?
Some birth control methods may change or increase the amount of discharge. After sex, a musky odor may be noticed. The odor could be caused by the natural cleansing of sperm from the vagina. If the odor lasts for more than one day, it may indicate an infection is present.
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Vulvovaginitis is inflammation and irritation of the genital area. This may occur in females of any age, but it most often occurs in girls who have not started puberty.
Bacterial vaginosis or BV is an infection of the vagina. BV is not a sexually transmitted disease. It is an overgrowth of specific anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that do not need oxygen to grow) in the vagina. Women with BV report a fishy-smelling discharge (fluid) that is white to gray in color.
Bacterial vaginosis is an infection of the vagina. Females of any age can have it and you do not have to be sexually active to get bacterial vaginosis. This infection is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI).