Vaginal Health

Updated 29 October 2014

Lifestyle causes of vaginal discharge

Discover 18 common causes of vaginal discharge, from stress to obesity and too much douching.

Most women will have to deal with an unpleasant vaginal discharge at some point in their lives. The key is to get it seen to as soon as possible. 

Here we look at the most common causes - many of which are completely in your control. 

Abnormal vaginal discharges are usually caused by vaginal infections, the most common of which include bacterial vaginosis(BV), vulvovaginal candidiasis(thrush) and trichomoniasis(a sexually transmitted infection).

The following factors may increase the likelihood of an abnormal vaginal discharge:

  • General poor health, including lack of sleep, poor diet and stress.

  • Hot weather, non-ventilating clothing, especially underwear, or any condition that increases genital moisture, warmth and darkness.

  • Changes in hormone levels through pregnancy, breast-feeding, menopause, some oral and intramuscular contraceptives and steroid use.

  • Smoking.

  • Stress.

  • Alcohol consumption.

  • Douching- this can upset the natural vaginal balance, as can other chemically treated products such as "feminine hygiene" sprays.

  • Drugs or diseases that lower the body's resistance to infection - women with HIV infection, for example, are more prone to yeast infections.

  • Diabetes mellitus or a pre-diabetic condition.

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse, especially with multiple partners.

  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

  • Infection elsewhere in the body.

  • Antibiotics can kill beneficial vaginal bacteria.

  • Antibacterial soaps and topical antimicrobial agents.

  • Over-the-counter medications improperly used.

  • Spermicides.

  • Obesity.

  • High carbohydrate intake, especially sugars and alcohol - may stimulate yeast infection.

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