As a woman, it’s perfectly normal to wonder about that fluid coming out of your vagina. Is it normal or not? Here’s what to know about vaginal discharge, and when to see a doctor for a possible infection.
What is the purpose of vaginal discharge?
It may seem a bit gross but vaginal discharge is actually a mixture of cells and fluid from the vagina and cervix. It’s expelled as a way of cleansing the vaginal canal – thus maintaining a healthy environment.
What does normal discharge look like?
According to DR MICHELLE CHIA of Dr Tan and Partners (DTAP Clinic), normal discharge is generally clear to off-white, presents in small to moderate amounts (although, this is really open to interpretation), and is usually thin to watery in terms of texture. Of course, what’s normal for one woman may not be the norm for another.
Additionally, one woman’s “normal” can change depending on a number of factors, including the time of month or other hormonal changes.
During pregnancy, for instance, a woman’s vaginal discharge may increase in amount, and appear slightly thicker in consistency and white-ish in colour. The same goes for women who are close to ovulation.
That being said, it’s important to know what’s considered normal for you. Knowing this can help you known when something seems abnormal.
How do I know if my discharge is abnormal?
There are naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina, which help maintain a balanced environment. When this balance is disrupted by a change in pH levels due to daily habits or the presence of an external infection, it can predispose a woman to vaginal infection. Vaginal infection then leads to the presence of “abnormal” discharge.
Irregularities in colour, consistency and quantity aren’t the only signs that something’s off down there. Itching and (dare we say) smell can be indicators, too.
“A healthy vagina shouldn’t have an overly noticeable or unpleasant odour. If it does, there’s likely an underlying problem,” says Dr Chia.
One of the most common infections is bacterial vaginosis (BV), an overgrowth of native bacteria in the vagina that upsets the environment’s natural balance. BV typically turns discharge yellowish in colour with a fishy-smelling odour. Other symptoms may include itching, pain or discomfort.
Also common are yeast infections caused by an overgrowth of candida, which is naturally occurring yeast in your vagina. This type of infection can create thick, white discharge with a cottage cheese-like appearance (sorry if we ruined that food for you…).
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), too, can present in this manner. The most common infections, chlamydia, gonorrhoea and trichomonas, often come with greenish-yellowish discharge. (DTAP Clinic offers rapid chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichnomas, herpes and HPV testing with next-day STD results.)
When to see a doctor
It’s safe to say that any discharge with irregular colour or consistency, and any discharge associated with irritation symptoms or a foul smell, should definitely be checked out by your doctor.
Dr Chia says a vaginal swab is usually recommended for a diagnosis. Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics, creams or other treatment options depending on the problem.
Pregnant women experiencing such symptoms should definitely see a doctor to get checked as soon as possible. In fact, pregnant women have an increased chance of getting vaginal infections due to the various changes in hormones.
“These vaginal infections or abnormal vaginal discharge should be evaluated and treated early, as persistent infections can lead to pregnancy complications,” says Dr Chia. “It’s important for pregnant women to be mindful of the nature and colour of their vaginal discharge, as this can be easily confused with leaking amniotic fluid.”
DTAP Clinic’s Women’s Clinic provides women’s health services in a discreet environment. To find out more about abnormal discharge and other vaginal issues, including vaginal infections, or to schedule an appointment with a doctor, call DTAP Clinic’s women’s clinic at 6976 5023 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Michelle Chia practises at DTAP Women’s Clinic at DUO Galleria near Bugis MRT.
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