Why do I have vaginal discharge?


Before I talk about today’s topic, I wanted to mention that I do plan to write a blog on Endometriosis. The unit that I work in sees a lot of women with Endometriosis. We work the patient up including a deep endometriosis ultrasound and surgery as required- but I want to do it over a few blogs and plan it out properly before I write about it. If you have any questions that you want me to address though, let me know.

Onto today’s topic: Many women find vaginal discharge annoying, unusual or just plain gross. Is it normal? Is it abnormal? Do I have a disease?

There are many reasons why women have vaginal discharge and not all of them mean you have an infection. Sometimes, though, it is a sign of an infection and it usually can be treated.

The infections most people should be worried about are Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). These include chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Now most women won’t get symptoms with these infections, but you may. I will discuss them in another post. The discharge may be white or green in colour and may have an odour. With a mild infection, no symptoms or discharge may be the only sign. It is important to see your Doctor as a course of antibiotics can clear it up.

Trichomonas is not that common in Australia but is another STI with distinct features. It is frothy and has a fishy smell to it. It too can be treated with antibiotics.

Some women that come and see me have reported a discharge since they have had their Mirena inserted. I often hear it described as yellow in colour but no specific odour or smell. This is not an infection but a normal bodily response. The thing is, the uterus has a “foreign body” that it is constantly reacting to. This discharge may persist while you have the Mirena in, but it may also settle with time.

Some women will have a liquidy, clear discharge that has an ammonia smell. Usually it’s due to a change in the acidity of the vagina. It may be for a number of reasons including a recent course of antibiotics, using perfumed or fragrant soap to wash or using non cotton underwear or even G strings or waxing or laser to remove pubic hair. This is likely due to Bacterial Vaginosis. This can also be treated with a simple course of 4 tinidazole tablets as one single dose or with vaginal cream.

Most women know if they have thrush. This is due to Candida or a yeast infection. It’s common after a course of antibiotics but some women have cyclical issues on the pill. It is also more common if you have uncontrolled diabetes and is also making a bigger come back due to less pubic hair. It is white and is often referred to as looking like “cottage cheese”. But it can also be very runny but still white in colour. It can also have itch with it. It can be treated with a single Diflucan tablet or a course of anti-fungal cream or pessaries from the chemist like Canestan once, 3 or 6 day cream. If you are getting cyclical thrush, it’s a good idea to get a referral to a gynaecologist for a more thorough check. Yeast infections can be challenging to eradicate and may require a long term course of thrush treatment with tablets.

But the most common type of vaginal discharge is actually physiological. The vagina contains cells that produce mucous as a way self cleaning. Some women may experience daily vaginal discharge in the form of mucous that is normal and to maintain the normal balance of pH in the vagina. Other women may only have mucous vaginal discharge in the middle of their cycle during ovulation. That’s to help sperm get through to fertilise an egg. Other women don’t have any at all.

If there are any other questions you have or any discharge that I have missed that you would like me to talk about. Hope it helps!