Your vaginal tract is a self-cleaning organ. Normally, vaginal discharge is released to remove dead cells, bacteria and anything else that could be in the vagina. It also helps to ensure the right balance of healthy bacteria and a good pH level. Your vaginal discharge will most likely change throughout the month, so some changes are normal. If you notice a foul odor, odd color or a change in consistency, it could indicate a possible problem. Likewise, you should go to your doctor if you experience mucus discharge that is accompanied by a burning or itching discharge.
What Is Normal Mucus Discharge Like?
Normally, your vaginal discharge will have a clear or white color. It may look slightly cloudy and turn a yellow-like color as it dries. Sometimes, you may even notice slight white flakes in your discharge. If you are under stress, pregnant or use certain types of medicines, it can change the way that your discharge looks. Likewise, birth control medication, sexual arousal and changes in your normal menstrual cycle can cause your mucus discharge to change.
Hormones in your body change throughout the menstrual cycle. These changes stimulate your mucus discharge to change. Your discharge will be the least acidic during your menstrual cycle. This means that virus or bacteria can easily thrive. Around the middle of your menstrual cycle, you may notice an increase in discharge that looks clear in color. This occurs because of ovulation and is considered a perfectly normal sign.
When Is Mucus Discharge Considered Abnormal?
Many women do not pay attention to their discharge until they try to get pregnant. It is important to track changes in your mucus discharge throughout the month because this will help you learn what is normal for your body at different times your menstrual cycle. In general, you can consider discharge abnormal if it contains clumps or is bloody when you are not on your period. A green or yellow discharge with a fishy odor is a sign of an infection of some sort. The following signs may also indicate that you are experiencing abnormal discharge:
- A noticeable smell
- A different color than normal
- Burning sensations or pain when you urinate
What Causes Abnormal Mucus Discharge?
The most common cause of abnormal vaginal discharge is an infection. This may be due to a sexually transmitted disease, bacteria or a virus. There are many different causes of an infection, and these causes are best treated by going to your doctor to be diagnoses. You may also have abnormal mucus discharge if you are pregnant or if your body is shedding the uterine lining after pregnancy.
If the pH level in your vagina changes for some reason, it can cause problems with your vaginal discharge. Some of the causes behind a change in your vaginal discharge include:
- Thinner vaginal walls because of menopause
- Bubble baths, douches, lotions or scented soaps
- Cervical cancer
- Pelvic infection following a surgery in or around the pelvic region
- Steroid or antibiotic use. Birth control may also cause abnormal discharge.
How Can You Treat Abnormal Vaginal Discharge?
If you have a bacterial or viral infection, it is important to get professional treatment from your doctor. If your abnormal discharge is caused by problems with your vaginal pH level, there may be preventative measures that you can do at home to help.
- Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom to prevent fecal matter or bacteria from infecting your vaginal area.
- Stick to wearing cotton underwear.
- Never use douches because your vagina is designed to be self-cleaning. Do not use scented lotions, soaps or bubble baths.
- Only clean your vaginal area with mild soap and warm water. Do not use any soap inside your vagina or labia because this will destroy your body’s natural pH level.
- Do not wear tight clothes that prevent air flow and rub against the genital area.
The Meanings of Different Kinds of Discharge
White or Grey Discharge With a Fishy Smell
This type of discharge indicates bacterial vaginosis. This bacterial infection can cause a fish-like smell and excess discharge after intercourse. You normally will not experience any itching, and this condition is just caused by a bacterial imbalance. A simple visit to your doctor and antibiotics are all it takes to treat this condition.
White or Watery Discharge
If you have this type of discharge and itchiness, it could be a sign of a fungal infection. You may also experience soreness, itching and a yeasty scent. This is not a sexually transmitted disease, and the fungal infection can be treated by over-the-counter drugs easily.
Green or Yellow Discharge
Trichomoniasis can cause yellow or green discharge. This mild infection can be transmitted sexually and can cause pain during sexual intercourse. A doctor may prescribe metronidazole or tinadazole. Your doctor will most likely need to treat your sexual partner as well so that you do not contract the infection again.
Discharge and Blisters
This is a sign that you could have genital herpes. If you have red blisters and sores, go to your doctor where you will be prescribed an antiviral to keep the viral infection from becoming worse. The virus will always remain in your body, but proper treatment can reduce the chances of symptoms occurring.
Pain or Bleeding With Discharge
If you experience bleeding after sex or between periods as well as pain while urinating, you could have chlamydia or gonorrhea. Both conditions are transmitted sexually and can be treated with antibiotics. You should make sure to go to your doctor since the condition can cause fertility problems and other complications if you do not get treated for it.