Females occasionally notice their underwear stained with different shades of whites. It is associated with the vaginal discharge which is normal. A normal vaginal discharge looks white and transparent, is odorless or has a weak salty odor, and is not accompanied by itching and burning. The healthy condition of the mucous membrane of the vagina is maintained with the help of viscous discharge layer.
Composition of the Vaginal Discharge
The vaginal discharge consists of:
- Secretions produced by the cervical and Bartholin glands, and the endometrium.
- Secretions produced by the sweat and the sebaceous glands of the vulvar vestibule.
- Dead cells present in vaginal epithelium and cervix
- Fluid from the walls of blood vessels which supply the reproductive organ with blood.
- Numerous bacteria present in the vagina including the beneficial ones (ones required to maintain the acidic pH).
Vaginal discharge is not unpleasant at all. It is just as normal as saliva in the mouth.
What Causes Vaginal Discharge?
A normal discharge is the body’s way of protecting the vagina. Normally the discharge increases during sexual arousal, ovulation, exercise, using birth control pills, and during emotional stress.
Abnormal discharge can occur due to the following reasons:(1)
Bacterial Vaginosis: This is a bacterial infection in the vagina which leads to a discharge which has strong, foul and a fishy odor.
Trichomoniasis: It is a protozoan infection which can lead to a yellow and green discharge which is accompanied by pain, inflammation, and itching.
Yeast Infection: Yeast is a fungal infection producing a white, cottage cheese-like discharge with burning and itching sensations.
Gonorrhea and Chlamydia: These are the sexually transmitted infections in which the discharge is yellow, green and cloudy.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: It is a sexually transmitted disease producing a heavy and foul-smelling discharge.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) or Cervical Cancer: HPV spreads sexually and can lead to cancer. The discharge is bloody, brown, and watery and has an unpleasant odor.
Types of Vaginal Discharge
Vaginal discharge differs in their color and consistency. Some discharges are normal while occur might occur due to an underlying condition that requires treatment.
White discharge at the beginning and the end of the menstrual cycle is normal. If the discharge is accompanied with itching and it thick inconsistency or appearance, it is not normal and might need a treatment.
A thick white discharge is a sign of yeast infection.
Clear and Watery
A clear watery discharge might occur after a physical exertion mostly after a heavy exercise. This type of discharge is completely normal.
Clear and Stretchy Discharge
The discharge is clear and stretchy when a female is ovulating. During ovulation, the discharge is more mucous-like than watery.
This is a normal type of discharge and does not need treatment.
Brown or Bloody Discharge
Brown and bloody discharge before and at the end of the period is completely normal. A small amount of brown or red discharge between the periods is known as spotting.
Spotting during the early part of pregnancy might be due to miscarriage and should be immediately brought in the notice of the gynecologist.
Spotting during the normal time of period after having unprotected sex could be a sign of pregnancy.
Brown or bloody discharge can be a sign of endometrial or cervical cancer, fibroids or abnormal growth. It is therefore important to get yearly pap smears so that the gynecologist can look into cervical abnormality if any.
A yellow and green discharge which is thick and chunky and accompanied by an unpleasant smell is not normal.
It can be a sign of vaginal infection, trichomoniasis.
If there is an unusual discharge with the symptoms such a fever, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, pain in the abdomen, and increase urination, consult a doctor.
Also, if you have doubts about the normal discharge seek medical advice.