Let’s talk about the “D word”: discharge. As women, vaginal discharge is something that we all deal with from time to time. If everything looks and feels normal, we usually don’t pay it any mind. However, whenever something appears to be slightly off – our alarms go off! Something isn’t right! But before you panic and buy all of the latest and greatest remedies over the counter – read these helpful tidbits that may help give you peace or warrant a trip to your women’s health provider:
1. Is vaginal discharge normal?
If you see remnants of vaginal discharge in your underwear, most of the time, it is normal. The healthy vagina has a way of “cleansing” itself to maintain its naturally acidic environment. It produces secretions to regulate itself in a similar way that the mouth secretes saliva in order to maintain its ideal environment. The vaginal discharge that you see is just your vagina’s way of telling you how happy and healthy she is.
2. Clear to white color, wet and stretchy discharge
This type of vaginal discharge usually signals normal ovulation. Most people notice this type of discharge when they are not taking hormonal contraception and experience a monthly menstrual cycle. It is often seen in the middle of your menstrual cycle and is designed to help sperm reach your lady-in-waiting egg for fertilization. You may notice increased amounts of discharge during this time of the month – but, if you’re looking for pregnancy – it’s a good thing!
3. White color, clumpy and ridiculously itchy discharge
It’s probably a yeast infection. Yeast infections occur when there is an overgrowth of the yeast naturally housed in your vagina. Many times, women notice a “cottage cheese-like” vaginal discharge that is white, thick and clumpy. And don’t forget itchy! You may experience itching either on the outside or inside of the vagina or both. Yeasts are quite common and love warm, dark, moist environments. These infections can arise from a number of things such as recently taking an antibiotic or wearing tight clothing that retains a lot of moisture in the vaginal area. A quick over-the-counter treatment may be medications for vaginal yeast such as Monistat. I typically recommend a three or seven day treatment course; however, patients may ultimately use their own discretion.
4. White/gray color, thin and fishy odor:
Sounds like this may be bacterial vaginosis (BV) – a common vaginal infection resulting from a bacterial overgrowth and imbalance in the vaginal pH. Many people will try anti-yeast medications like Monistat; however, these treatments will prove unsuccessful for BV. As of yet, there is no over-the-counter treatment for BV. You will need a prescription from your women’s health provider.
5. Gray/Green, frothy, itch and odorous:
This type of vaginal discharge may be indicative of trichomoniasis. Trichomoniasis is a sexually-transmitted infection caused by a one-celled protozoan. This protozoan may also live up to 24 hours on moist environments from the infected person such as bathing suits or bathing towels and on vibrators that have not been properly cleaned. The surprising thing is that many men and women do not present with symptoms. If left untreated, it may increase a woman’s risk of contracting HIV. However, the good news is that this STD can easily be treated with a one-time dose of antibiotics from your healthcare provider.
6. Green/Yellow Color and may burn:
Green or yellow discharge may signal a Gonorrhea or Chlamydia infection – two very common sexually transmitted diseases. Other symptoms may include burning during urination or lower pelvic pain; nonetheless, many women do not have symptoms. The best way to find out is to have your healthcare provider test for them. The important thing about STD’s is that once you have been diagnosed and treated – your partner must also be treated. If you have intercourse with this person without them also being treated, then you will be re-infecting yourself or allowing them to infect another individual.
7. Brownish color discharge:
It’s probably some type of bloody discharge from your menstrual cycle. You may experience in the days your normal menstrual cycle is either coming or leaving, or when you begin a new form of hormonal birth control and your body is experiencing some form of breakthrough bleeding. Many times, this discharge may appear brown in color because it takes a while coming down the vaginal canal and exiting your body. However, in rare circumstances, bloody discharge could warrant a more serious problem indicating a needed trip to your women’s health provider.