During a woman’s reproductive years, hormonal changes result in vaginal discharge that may fluctuate with the menstrual cycle. There is no reason for you to be freaked out as this is normal and healthy.
However, if vaginal discharge occurs in large amounts, changes colour, is thicker than usual, has a strong odour or is accompanied by other symptoms such as itching, burning or pain, it is considered abnormal and could indicate an infection.
Symptoms of an abnormal vaginal discharge may include:
• An unpleasant odour – often described as “fishy” or “musty”
• Vaginal and vulval discomfort, which may include burning and itching
• Genital swelling
• Greater quantity of discharge
• A change in consistency of the discharge; it may become milky, watery or curd-like
• Change in colour of the discharge to green, yellow or blood-tinged
• Change in vaginal colour from pale pink to red
• Discomfort during sexual intercourse
• Frequent or painful urination
• Occasionally, pain in the lower abdomen
A healthy vagina produces a slight discharge which changes in amount, consistency and colour over the course of the menstrual cycle and your lifetime. A normal discharge is usually clear, cloudy or whitish, moderate in quantity, thin or slightly viscous, and with a mild odour.
In most cases vaginal infectionscan be treated at home. However, vaginal discharge may indicate more serious conditions that may need further medical attention.
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Reviewed by Dr Owen Wiese, April 2015