Vaginal discharge is a term given to biological fluids that are expelled from the vagina. These biological fluids are normally secreted by cervical glands found in a woman’s reproductive organs. The discharge is usually clear and milky and does not smell bad. However, the color and thickness of the discharge changes with your monthly cycle. It is thicker when you ovulate, breastfeed or when you are sexually excited.
Though secretion of vaginal discharge is a normal biological process, some forms of discharge can be as a result of infection. Most infections are usually caused by STDs.
Examples of infections related to Vaginal Discharge
- Gonorrhea – If you have this infection your discharge will usually be creamy white or yellow. But it will be odorless.
- Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) – The discharge is characterized by a strong “fishy” smell. It is also watery and thin. Its color will be gray or white. It is important to note that BV is not sexually transmitted but it is more common in women who are sexually active.
- Chlamydia – The discharge will be purulent (containing pus) and malodorous.
- Trichomoniasis – The discharge will be yellow or greenish bubbly and it will have an unpleasant smell. However, you can be infected with this disease and have no signs for a long time.
- Viral Vaginitis – It can be caused by herpes simplex virus that is spread by sexual intercourse. The discharge will usually be thick and copious.
Out of all these infections BV is the most common cause for abnormal forms of discharge. This infection is caused by the overgrowth of anaerobic or “bad” bacteria in the vagina. So in an attempt to get rid of the bad bacteria, your cervical glands will excrete more fluids. This will cause an increase in your discharge. The fishy smell is caused by the bad bacteria contained in this fluid.
It is important to note that increased discharge does not always signal an infection. During the early period of pregnancy, vaginal discharge increases.
How do I Control My Discharge?
You can follow these steps to ensure that you always have normal discharge.
1- A normal vaginal discharge consists of about a teaspoon (4 milliliters) a day that is white or transparent, thick to thin, and odorless. So if your discharge starts to change its color and develop a distinct smell then you are strongly advised to go and see a doctor to be able to find the root cause. Note that it is not uncommon for discharge to be dark, brown or discolored a day or two following the menstrual cycle.
2- You can use panty liners. This will only help you in keeping fresh but will not stop the discharge.
3- Don’t wear under wears which will cause irritation and accumulation of sweat around the vaginal area e.g. nylon. Instead you can wear cotton underwear. It will help absorb moisture thus allowing the flow of fresh air around the vagina.
4- Eat a well balanced diet. Avoid excessive intake of sugars, canned foods, white flour or fats; these foods have been known to cause imbalances in the vagina thus leaving you more susceptible to infections. Eat food which is rich in vitamins and minerals. They will help boost your immune system and thus be able to fight off most infections.
5- Avoid using vaginal deodorants, medicated soaps or other similar solutions on the vagina. These products will only cause disruptions in the vagina by preventing the good bacteria (lactobacilli) from disinfecting the vagina. Many women may choose to ignore this warning because they believe that douching will help them be fresher or avoid pregnancy. But contrary to this belief, douching will only leave you more susceptible to infections like bacterial vaginosis. You can use a solution of apple cider and water to clean the vagina. Apply this solution to your vagina and wash it away with clean water.
6- Avoid engaging in unprotected sex. Most infections that affect the vagina are STD’s. Therefore to minimize your chances of getting these diseases you should practice safe sex. If it is possible you should abstain or have sex with only one partner. It is important to note that certain medications e.g. Clindamycin cream for treating BV, can reduce the effectiveness of latex condoms and diaphragms. So you are advised not to have sex when taking this drug. This effect will continue for up to five days of using the cream.
7- Yogurt is also a very good remedy in dealing with unhealthy vaginal discharge and it is also effective in treating any kind of vaginal infection. Soak a tampon in yogurt and insert it directly into the vagina. You can also include yoghurt in your diet.
Natural remedies for vaginal discharge?
Natural treatments like yoghurt or garlic are the most preferred ways of treating vaginal infections because they don’t have any side-effects like antibiotics. But remember to always consult a doctor first before embarking on treatment.