Abnormal Vaginal Discharge – Types and Causes

Vaginal discharge is an absolutely normal body function. Fluids released from the uterus, cervix and vagina carry away dead cells and bacteria as vaginal discharge to help prevent infection. Vaginal discharge can differ from person to person depending on their menstruation cycle, hormones, pregnancy or infections. If your vaginal discharge is clear or whitish and slippery in consistency, much like egg-white, then it is a sign of healthy lubrication and most common.

Usually, vaginal discharge begins when an individual gets their first period, and it gradually stops after menopause. Vaginal discharge is perfectly normal and happens in a regular occurrence. The amount may vary depending on the time of your ovulation period or when you’re sexually aroused. The odor also differs when you’re pregnant from when there is an infection. 

If the discharged mucus is thick and slippery similar to an egg white, then it is a sign that your ovulation is occuring or the time of ovulation is near. During the ovulation period, the cervix releases a mucus that we notice in our underwear or when going to bathroom. Healthy vaginal discharge means your body is ready to accept, filter, prepare, and convey sperms on their journey to the egg.

Vagina maintains a specific balance of pH, moisture, and healthy bacteria. As it is very sensitive, a small trigger is enough to throw it off-balance.

What is ‘abnormal’ vaginal discharge?

Depending on the color, consistency or smell, you can differentiate if there’s any kind of vaginal infection. Mostly it is because of yeast or bacterial infection, your vagina discharges abnormally.

Abnormal vaginal discharge can be yellow, green, red, brown, pink, or grey in color.

It is common to see various types of vaginal fluid throughout your menstrual cycle. But if you see any significant abnormality regarding color, smell or consistency, visit your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Types of abnormal vaginal discharge —

  1. White:
    If your vagina releases white discharge with a consistency of cottage cheese, it may indicate yeast infection. It can cause irritation and itching and has a strong odor. 
  2. Red, pink or brown: 
    If the discharge color is in shades of red, pink or brown, it may mean the time before your period begins, as the uterus sheds its lining. Or it could also mean, cervical bleeding, vaginal irritation or implantation bleeding. However, if anyone has reached their menopause and has not had a period for over 1 year, and experiences this kind of vaginal bleeding, they should visit a doctor promptly. It can sometimes be a sign of endometrial or cervical cancer.
  3. Yellow or green:
    If your vagina releases a thick, clumpy discharge which is a darker shade of yellow, yellowish-green, or green, it usually means a sexually transmitted infection. It most likely has an unpleasant foul odor. Visit a doctor immediately if this is the case.
  4. Grey:
    Grey-colored discharges are not healthy. It means bacterial vaginosis. You can feel itchiness or irritation around your vulva. You can notice redness around your vulva. These all are symptoms of bacterial vaginosis. If you catch any of it, go to the doctor immediately.

What causes abnormal discharge?

Whenever the balance of vaginal pH, moisture and bacteria hampers, it can affect the odor, color, or discharge texture. 

The most common factors that can cause abnormal discharge are as follows:

  1. Birth control pills
  2. Emotional stress
  3. Antibiotic or steroid use
  4. Bacterial vaginosis – the discharge has a strong, foul and fishy odor. Women who receive oral sex or have sex with multiple partners have a high risk of getting this infection.
  5. Cervical cancer – it can spread by sexual contact and discharges a foul smelled, brown, red or watery discharge.
  6. Having multiple sexual partners
  7. Chlamydia or gonorrhea (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) 
  8. Trichomoniasis, a parasitic infection typically caused by having unprotected sex
  9. Diabetes
  10. Yeast infections
  11. Using scented soaps or lotions or bubble baths which might hamper vaginal pH level
  12. Pelvic infection after surgery
  13. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – another sexually transmitted disease when bacteria spread up the vagina or other reproductive organs.
  14. Vaginitis which is caused by the irritation in or around the vagina
  15. Vaginal atrophy

When to seek medical help?

If you notice an unusual discharge alongside certain other symptoms, immediately visit a gynecologist. 

  1. Feeling weak, fatigued, or under the weather 
  2. Yellow, green or grey vaginal discharge
  3. Fever
  4. Abdominal pain that lasts over two hours
  5. Pain during or immediately after sexual intercourse
  6. Redness or irritation around the vagina or labia
  7. Vaginal pain or rash
  8. Any sores or blisters in the vaginal area​

If you are having recurring abnormal vaginal discharge, it is recommended, you must make an appointment to see a gynecologist as soon as possible.


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