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Vaginal Discharge: Colour Guide, Causes Of Excess Discharge And Everything You Need To Know

Vaginal discharge is normal and is a common occurrence in women. Vaginal discharge is the secretion from the vagina which is common among all women after they reach puberty [1]. It is a clear or milky white fluid that is produced by the glands inside the vagina and cervix, and it is designed to flush out bacteria and dead cells, to keep your vagina healthy.

In terms of consistency, vaginal discharge can be thick, pasty or thin. The colour and smell might vary according to each woman. The normal discharge is clear or cloudy white and at times, it might even appear to look a little yellowish when dry.

In most cases, vaginal discharge is perfectly normal. However, depending on its consistency, odour, hue, etc., one can determine if it is time to be concerned [2]. Although a small amount of vaginal discharge is necessary to keep the vagina healthy and prevent dryness, if it seems unusual, then you must visit a professional.

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Vaginal Discharge: Colour Guide

The amount of vaginal discharge produced can vary from one person to the other. Depending on the menstrual cycle, the colour and consistency of the discharge can vary [3]. Here is a colour guide on vaginal discharge to give you a better understanding:

Day 1-5: The discharge is usually red or bloody during the beginning of the cycle as the body sheds the uterine lining.
Days 6-14: During these days, there will be less vaginal discharge than usual. And will be white or yellow and may feel sticky.
Days 14-25: The discharge will be thin and have a slippery texture, almost similar to egg whites. After the 20th day, the discharge will become cloudy, white or yellow, and sticky.
Days 25-28: By this time, the discharge will be less and will lighten in colour.

Below mentioned are the shades in which vaginal discharge can appear [4].

  • White: Vaginal discharge in white shade usually indicates healthy lubrication. But if the discharge has a thick consistency (like cottage cheese/paneer) along with a bad odour, there could be chances of yeast infection [5]. One might also have irritation and itching.
  • Yellow: This shade can vary from very light yellow to a greenish shade. If it is very light yellow, there are no infections. Discharge that is a darker shade of yellow, yellowish-green, or green and is thick with a strong odour, indicates bacterial or sexually transmitted infection.
  • Red: Red discharge is most commonly the result of bleeding during a period. If red spotting occurs, between the menstrual periods, you should consult a doctor. Anyone who has gone through menopause and not had a period for at least 1 year should see a doctor if they experience vaginal bleeding.
  • Pink: This shade can range from light pink to deeper pink and may contain a little bit of flood. Pink discharge usually appears before a period cycle and also can be a sign of implantation bleeding in early pregnancy.
  • Gray: This shade of vaginal discharge is not healthy and can be a symptom of a common bacterial infection called bacterial vaginosis. If the grey spotting is accompanied by itching, irritation and a strong odour, consult a doctor.
  • Clear: A clear vaginal discharge is the ordinary form and can also be whitish with a slippery texture. A clear vaginal discharge occurs just before ovulation, during sexual arousal, and during pregnancy.
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Causes Of Vaginal Discharge

A normal vaginal discharge is nothing to be worried about and is a healthy bodily function. Exercise, emotional stress, use of birth control pills, sexual arousal, ovulation etc. are some of the causes for an increased discharge - and it is A-okay.

  • Ovulation: One of the most common reasons for vaginal discharge is the fact that you're ovulating. Hence, there will be a hormonal influx. Though not every woman will experience discharge at this time, some may experience discharge at times [6].
  • Birth control pills/IUD: An IUD may not have any control over vaginal discharge. Further, some women may experience constant vaginal discharge, like the IUD string in the body is foreign. Pills too cause a change in vaginal discharge [7].
  • Allergies: As a general rule, you mustn't put straight things into your vagina. Sometimes, your body will react unexpectedly to new condoms, sex toys, soaps or detergents due to an allergy. If you're allergic to any of these substances, then your body could create more discharge as a response [8].
  • However, an abnormal vaginal discharge can be a sign of infection.

    Here are the causes [9][10]:

    • Bacterial vaginosis: Bacterial Vaginosis is known to appear more often in women who have a recently acquired sexually transmitted infection or have had unprotected sex. The symptoms include too much vaginal discharge, a fishy smell and vaginal itching.
    • Yeast infection: If you have a thick, white, clumpy cottage-cheese like discharge with itching, then you might be suffering from a yeast infection. This is one of the reasons for heavy vaginal discharge. Vulvovaginitis: Vulvovaginitis is an inflammation that affects the vulva of a woman. It may either result in yellow vaginal discharge or brown discharge. Other signs are vaginal dryness along with pain during urination and sex.
    • Trichomoniasis: Green, yellow or grey discharge that has a foamy appearance is caused by a parasite called trichomoniasis. It is a sexually transmitted infection that causes too much vaginal discharge, which usually has a bad odour.
    • Chlamydia and gonorrhoea: If your discharge is unusually heavy, it could be due to gonorrhoea or chlamydia that are the two common sexually transmitted diseases. This discharge can be a result of an infection that comes along with itching, burning, a foul smell or discolouration. This occurs if you recently have had unprotected sex or sex with new or multiple partners. STIs are one of the top reasons for heavy white discharge.
    • Lost condom or tampon: If a condom or a tampon get stuck or forgotten down there, then your discharge may be foul-smelling. You need to see your doctor get it removed and put an end to the discharge issue.
    • Pelvic inflammatory disease
    • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
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Causes Of Excessive Vaginal Discharge

Vaginal discharge is a natural way in which the vagina expels the waste and cleanse itself naturally, so a small amount of white discharge is normal. However, sometimes the discharge could be excessive, have a foul odour, could be dark in colour, etc. In such cases, one must get it checked. Here are a few of the causes of excessive vaginal discharge in women [11].

  • STI: If you are suffering from sexually transmitted infections, caused by unprotected sex with an infected person (STI), it could lead to excessive, foul-smelling discharge, coupled with itching and burning sensations. For example, gonorrhoea, a sexually transmitted infection that causes too much vaginal discharge. The discharge will be yellow and might also be bloodied. Other indications of gonorrhoea are bleeding between periods and a burning sensation while urinating. Another example is human papillomavirus (HPV) [12].
  • Chlamydia: Abnormal or excessive vaginal discharge can be caused by Chlamydia, which is a sexually transmitted infection. The vaginal discharge will be heavy and frequent. Other symptoms of Chlamydia include a burning sensation while urinating and bleeding between periods.
  • Cervical cancer: The HPV virus converts some of the cervix cells into cancer cells, which leads to cervical cancer. Some of the symptoms of cervical cancer are watery, bloody discharge with a foul odour. But the most important symptom of cervical cancer is too much vaginal discharge [13].
  • UTI: If you are suffering from a urinary tract infection (UTI), excessive and foul-smelling vaginal discharge would be one of the symptoms.
  • Yeast infection: Yeast is present in small amounts in the vagina. If there is too much of this fungus present in the vagina, you might have contracted a yeast infection. One of the most important symptoms of yeast infection is an excessive vaginal discharge which is white and lumpy.
  • Ovulation: Most women experience excessive vaginal discharge once a month, when they are ovulating, which means, they are in their most fertile phase in that month.
  • IUD: If you are a woman who is using intrauterine devices (IUDs) to prevent pregnancies, then there is a chance of your vagina getting infected by this foreign body inside, causing excessive discharge [14].
  • Allergies: Using perfumed soaps, vaginal douche, sprays, lubricants, etc., can cause an allergic reaction in some women, leading to infection and the consequent excessive vaginal discharge [15].
  • Condoms: Sometimes, when people use flavoured or scented condoms during sex, it could also have a negative reaction on the woman and infect her vagina, leading to abnormal discharge [16].
  • Tampons: There is an increase in vaginal discharge if a foreign object remains in the body for too long. So, if you do not change your tampons frequently, it will result in too much vaginal discharge [17].
  • Pregnancy: The excessive discharge of odourless, white or clear substances which do not irritate the vagina is a normal part of pregnancy [18].
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What Does A Yellow Vaginal Discharge Mean?

Apart from the white discharge, yellow vaginal discharge is also commonly reported [19]. A yellow discharge can be due to several medical conditions. Depending upon which is responsible in your instance, the treatment might differ. Sometimes vaginal discharge may become yellow due to stress, toxins or an unhealthy lifestyle.

A few of the most typical reasons for yellow vaginal discharge is sexually transmitted diseases, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, vulvovaginitis and cervicitis. Very rarely, vaginal cancer might lead to a yellow discharge. Apart from the yellow vaginal discharge, ladies with cervicitis may also encounter irregular bleeding, fertility issues and pain.

In most cases, a yellow vaginal discharge requires sufficient treatment. The doctor will ascertain the condition which is causing the release based on your other symptoms.

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When To See A Doctor

The best thing to do when detecting a strange secretion, like a yellowish vaginal discharge, is to see a physician to know for certain whether you need treatment or not. Each time the vaginal discharge changes in colour and becomes yellow, green or bloody, it implies that something has occurred within your body to trigger this change.

If the vaginal discharge is accompanied by fever, abdominal pain, sudden weight loss, fatigue and increased urination, consult a doctor [20].

Is it normal to have VAG discharge everyday?

Yes. Some women have discharge every day, while others experience it less frequently.

What is the reason for white discharge?

Vaginal discharge is normal and is a common occurrence in women. Vaginal discharge is the secretion from the vagina which is common among all women after they reach puberty.

Story first published: Thursday, October 14, 2021, 19:32 [IST]
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