What is normal vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is a healthy and daily mechanism that exists in every woman's body. Its purpose is to remove the dead cells and the excess bacteria from your vagina. Its principal function is to keep your vagina clean and healthy. Sometimes, you might notice variations regarding some characteristics of your vaginal discharge, such as the colo, consistency, or odor. These changes occur naturally according to your menstrual cycle, or when you get sexually stimulated. Occasionally, changes in the vaginal discharge that persist may be one of the early or the only symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease (STD). To find out whether you got an infection, use an STD rapid kit test

What is abnormal vaginal discharge?

An abnormal vaginal discharge is either too much or too little in amount, different-than-usual in color, and with a possibly strange odor. STDs are the most common cause of abnormal discharge, especially in young women and teenage girls. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two most common STDs that may lead to vaginal discharge. These two infections may also result in itchiness or burning sensation upon urination. Intermittent bleeding may also be present. Keep in mind that unprotected sex usually precedes an STD-related vaginal discharge. A non-STD-related cause of the abnormal discharge is due to the use of antibiotics, which disturb the natural flora of your vagina. Other causes include the following:

  • Vaginal infection due to different bacteria
  • Cervical cancer
  • Diabetes and menopause
  • Vaginal candidiasis or yeast infection

Five types of vaginal discharge by color

Most women are wondering what a normal vaginal discharge looks like and how to tell if they have an infection or not. The following are some of the most common presentations of vaginal discharge and what they mean.

White vaginal discharge

White and thick vaginal discharge represents a healthy state. Sometimes, it gets more before or after your period. When you experience additional and unusual symptoms, such as itchiness, burning sensation, or irritation, you might have a yeast infection. Yeast infections are not sexually transmitted but due to imbalances of the bacteria and fungi in your vagina. They may appear after treatment with antibiotics that you receive for a different reason, such as a bacterial sore throat or tonsillitis. 

Yellow vaginal discharge

Yellow discharge is not healthy. It is most commonly the result of a bacterial infection or an STD. However, if the discoloration is mild, it might not be a sign of a disease. Infections associated with yellow vaginal discharge are trichomoniasis and chlamydia. The latter is usually asymptomatic. If you noticed a yellow vaginal discharge, get tested with a chlamydia STD rapid kit test

Green vaginal discharge

It is not common to have a green vaginal discharge. It is usually a sign of a bacterial infection or an STD, most commonly trichomoniasis. Trichomoniasis is an STD that produces additional symptoms and signs, such as itchiness, irritation, or a burning sensation. Consult your doctor and start on treatment immediately. Keep in mind that unprotected sex usually precedes a diagnosis of trichomoniasis. If you noticed a green vaginal discharge, get tested with an STD rapid kit test. 

Brown vaginal discharge

A brown vaginal discharge represents an irregular period cycle. The brown discoloration is because of blood, which may be a sign of cervical or uterine cancer. If a woman is in menopause and experiences brown vaginal bleeding, she might also present with a malignancy of the reproductive system. Vaginal bleeding is a sign women of any age should not ignore. If you do, consult your doctor immediately. 

Variations in the amount of genital discharge

Some women experience excessive vaginal discharge. In some cases, and under certain circumstances, it is healthy to have an excess in vaginal fluids. One example is during sexual stimulation or arousal, which increases the blood flow in the vagina and increases the amount of vaginal fluid secreted. Ovulation or hormonal imbalances are other causes of excess in vaginal discharge. Other conditions that lead to vaginal hypersecretion of fluids are bacterial infections or STDs, as discussed earlier. 

Little or no vaginal discharge

In some specific cases, there might be little or no vaginal discharge. For example, there is almost no discharge after the period. Low levels of estrogen due to perimenopause and menopause leads to decreased vaginal fluids. A decrease in estrogen levels might appear in the following circumstances:

  • After administration of medical agents used for the treatment of various conditions, such as breast cancer, endometriosis, fibroids or infertility.
  • After surgery performed to remove the ovaries.
  • After radiation therapy in the area of the reproductive system.
  • After chemotherapy.
  • In the case of mental health illnesses, such as severe stress or depression.
  • After periods of intense exercise.

Prevention of abnormal vaginal discharge

You do not have to prevent a normal vaginal discharge. However, in case it is unusual in consistency, color, smell, or amount, you should take some measures and consider getting tested for an STD. If you experience less vaginal discharge than usual, make sure you consult your doctor to establish whether your condition is physiological or pathological. Menopause, for example, is a physiological phase that women's bodies pass through. However, having low estrogen levels for another reason is something you should treat. To prevent abnormal vaginal discharge, you might want to take a look at the following tips:

  • Do not douche often. Douching may kill the bacteria that are part of your natural vaginal flora and help prevent vaginal infections.
  • Choose to wear cotton underwear because they may prevent a yeast infection. Cotton underwear absorbs moisture easier than other materials. 
  • Do not practice unprotected sex. Use a condom instead. Also, try to have a limited number of sexual partners and get regularly tested for STDs. The most common STDs that lead to abnormal vaginal discharge are chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis, which can all be initially asymptomatic.
  • Avoid scented soaps or products you use during menstruation, as they may disrupt the balance between the good bacteria and the fungi that are part of your natural vaginal flora.
How does an STD start?