It is normal for every woman to have a certain amount of vaginal discharge. It keeps the area lubricated, stops her skin from becoming sore and allows for intercourse without pain. Amounts of discharge may also increase in response to sexual arousal or during pregnancy.
It is also normal to produce more vaginal discharge when you are ovulating or if you are suffering from stress, so there may be nothing wrong with you.
If your discharge becomes thick or changes color or it begins to smell noxious, this is a sign that there is something wrong.
Potential problems include:
Thrush – a yeast infection
Bacterial Vaginosis – a bacteria that normally grows in the vagina. Sometimes it becomes overgrown, causing symptoms like increased discharge that is gray in color and has an offensive odor.
Sexually transmitted infections – chlamydia, gonorrhea or trichomoniasis (a parasite acquired through sexual contact)
Vulval dermatitis - eczema in the vulval area
Reproductive tract cancer - a rare cause
A retained tampon
What Can I do about Vaginal Discharge?
If you have any troubling symptoms and think your discharge is abnormal, see your doctor. He or she will be able to perform a pelvic examination and swabs to determine if you have an infection.
Antibiotics are used to treat sexually transmitted infections and bacterial vaginosis (BV). If you have bacterial vaginosis and are pregnant, the infection must be treated. In other mild cases of BV the doctor will decide as sometimes it goes away on its own.
There are anti-candida creams, tablets or pessaries that can be used to treat thrush. You can also eat natural yoghurt with live biocultures in it or put it on your vagina to help control thrush.
But you should see your doctor first to determine that it is thrush before you self-treat, in case you are suffering from a different infection.
Use hypoallergenic condoms to prevent both STIs and condom latex allergies.
Don’t use perfume, talc, scented soaps or shower gels on the vagina (these can cause vulval dermatitis), washing in plain warm water is sufficient.