As you grow up, you may notice a discharge from your vagina during the time between your menstrual periods. It is normal for all women to have some vaginal discharge. The amount, color and thickness of this discharge are different for each woman.
Normal vaginal discharge is thin like mucus. It is clear, white or slightly yellow in color. It usually has no unpleasant odor and is not itchy or irritating to the skin. The amount of discharge may relate to your menstrual cycle. It usually increases 2 weeks before menstruation. Some birth control methods may also change or increase the amount of discharge. Also, after intercourse, a musky odor may be noticed. This odor could be caused by the natural cleansing of sperm from the vagina. But if the odor lasts more than a day, it may mean an infection is present.
A vaginal discharge alone does not mean there is an infection. But if you are also having any of these other signs or you have unprotected sex (sex without a condom), you should see your doctor or nurse practitioner:
Different types of vaginal infections need different kinds of treatment. Some vaginal infections require a specific antibacterial medicine, available only by prescription. Others are not as serious as sexually transmitted infections but need to be treated anyway. This is why it is important to see your doctor or nurse practitioner to know what type of treatment is needed. All women who are sexually active need to see their doctor or nurse practitioner regularly.
Even if you are careful, vaginal infections can occur. You can reduce your chance of infection by following the guidelines listed below.
Tampons and Sanitary Napkins
Change tampons and sanitary napkins often, at least every 2 to 3 hours. Remove the tampon before going to bed and wear a pad instead.
Do not douche. It does not keep your body clean and it may cause or worsen vaginal infections.
Wear cotton underpants or cotton-lined underwear. Cotton absorbs moisture better and is less irritating than synthetics.
Call your doctor or Adolescent Health at (614) 722-2450 if any of the following occurs:
Vaginal Discharge (PDF)
HH-I-119 9/88, Revised 3/10 Copyright 1988-2010, Nationwide Children’s Hospital