Vaginal discharge: what are the secretions of the vagina?
Vaginal discharge, or leucorrhoea, is a natural phenomenon throughout the menstrual cycle. It is a natural secretion that maintains the balance of the flora in the vagina. However, the appearance of vaginal discharge can differ, so how do we know when our discharge is abnormal, too thick, smelly...?
What is vaginal discharge?
Thanks to the hormonal action of estrogen from the first menstrual periods and puberty, women secrete a whitish or transparent cervical mucus. This vaginal discharge flows from the cervix and protects against infection thanks to the good bacteria in it. The white discharge ensures that the vaginal flora is well balanced. The appearance of this leucorrhoea can vary according to several criteria:
- The phase of the menstrual cycle
- Hormonal variations
- Contraceptives, especially hormonal ones
- During pregnancy
- Infection, fungus or disease
Normally, leucorrhoea has the consistency andappearance ofeggwhite, without a disturbing odour. If more embarrassing symptoms appear, do not hesitate to consult your gynecologist or health professional: an abnormal vaginal discharge should alert you.
What are the different types of vaginal discharge?
Vaginal discharge should be clear or whitish and not malodorous. However, they naturally change in consistency according to the variations of the menstrual cycle and follow the following pattern:
- Thick, sticky discharge after menstruation
- Clearer, stringy discharge in the middle of the cycle, at ovulation
- Whitish discharge at the end of the cycle, just before menstruation
But leukorrhea is sometimes abnormal and the discharge smells, let's review the different aspects it can take.
When vaginal secretions are white, more opaque and thicker, reminiscent of curdled milk or dry yoghurt, this can be a sign of genital candidiasis. In fact, this vaginal mycosis can also be accompanied by a sensation of itching or pain during sexual relations (dyspareunia). The fungus that causes it, Candida Albicans, is then in excess and the natural vaginal flora is out of balance. Several causes can be at the origin of this vaginal mycosis, such as pregnancy, antibiotics, sexual relations, skin irritation, hormonal changes, diabetes...
Yellow or greenish discharge
Vaginal discharge can sometimes take on a different color. When it is creamy or yellow in color, it may simply indicate oxidation on contact with air. There is usually no need to worry if there are no other symptoms.
However, if your leukorrhea turns green, it may be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection, such as trichomonas vaginitis. The leucorrhoea is then abnormally abundant, greenish in color, frothy and accompanied by an unpleasant smell. The parasite that causes this infection is transmitted after unprotected sex and requires treatment with antibiotics.
Sometimes, after menstruation, a brown or maroon vaginal discharge may appear in the bottom of your panties. There is nothing to worry about, it is simply menstrual blood that has mixed with your vaginal secretions due tooxidation, making the color darker. On the other hand, if you notice brown discharge outside of this period, with bleeding outside of your period, it may be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection (chlamydia, gonorrhea...) or the development of cervical cancer.
Pink discharge is common around the time of your period, when the first menstrual bleeding mixes with your vaginal secretions. It can also occur if you have bleeding outside of your period, which can be caused by hormonal contraceptives.
After heavy intercourse, light bleeding may occur as a result of irritation of the vaginal wall. If this irritation bleeding is recurrent, do not hesitate to consult your doctor.
What should I do if my vaginal discharge is smelly?
It is common for vaginal discharge to be the source of an odor that can make you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. It is important to know that each woman has her own smell, and without it being embarrassing, it is normal and natural! Our bodies are not sanitized. However, if you notice a variation and thesmell of your discharge becomes too strong or unpleasant, and approaches that of fish, you could be suffering from bacterial vaginosis. This very common condition occurs when the vaginal bacterial balance is out of balance and causes abnormal smelling discharge.
To regain a balanced vaginal flora, you canmake changes in the followingareas:
- Take care of your vulva and maintain good intimate hygiene, without douching, by using mild soaps
- Wear cotton underwear, change regularly, and use menstrual panties during your period rather than irritating disposable pads
- Make sure that you tolerate your washing powder well, it should be as natural as possible for clothes worn close to the body
- Eat a balanced diet, without too much sugar and fat
- Favour gentle, irritation-free sexual relations
- Limit the use of lubricants, especially perfumed ones
- Discuss with your gynecologist the possibility of changing your contraceptive
- Also check with your health professional that you do not have an STI, and if necessary treat with antibiotics
Is the vaginal discharge bleeding?
When we talk about vaginal discharge, we generally mean the cervical mucus that is secreted and flows down the vaginal wall. It does not refer to the various types of vaginal bleeding that can occur outside of menstruation.
Spotting, or small "spots" of blood that may come to the bottom of your panties, is very light non-menstrual bleeding. It is usually benign and can be brown if the blood has oxidized for a while in the vaginal cavity before draining. Causes of spotting may include the following:
- New hormonal contraception, such as a pill
- A sexually transmitted infection
- Ovulatory bleeding
- Uterine polyps or fibroids
- Cervical abnormalities
Lochia is postpartum bleeding that occurs before the return of childbirth and the return of menstruation. This vaginal blood loss can last for several weeks after delivery, while residual tissue and mucous membrane are evacuated. You should not be concerned as long as the volume gradually decreases.
Vaginal discharge FAQ
What is normal vaginal discharge like?
Normal vaginal discharge is usually the color and consistency of egg white! Leucorrhoea should not have a strong odour or be too thick: any abnormal variations in color, odour or appearance should lead you to consult your gynaecologist.
Is it normal to have vaginal discharge every day?
White discharge is completely normal throughout the menstrual cycle. It is cervical mucus that regulates the vaginal flora, whose composition and appearance vary slightly depending on the menstrual phase in the cycle.
What are abnormal discharges?
A foul-smelling, thick, opaque, green or brown discharge may be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection or a gynecological condition. Don't hesitate to consult your health care professional.
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