Why do I have a vaginal discharge?
- All women have some amount vaginal discharge. It is a part of the body’s immune system – a way to clean the vagina, to maintain an environment for healthy bacteria, and to prevent bad bacteria from thriving.
- The discharge is normally clear or milky and does not smell much. (It can have an odour sometimes)
- The discharge may increase during ovulation, which occurs about two weeks before your period, and when you are sexually aroused.
- Other circumstances such as breastfeeding, or use of some birth control pills, can also cause changes in discharge.
- Vaginal discharge is healthy and normal – but can also be a source of frustration….
- If your discharge suddenly increases, has a stronger smell, changes in colour, or is stained with blood when you do not have your period – something may be wrong.
- Irritation, itchiness and a burning feeling inside and/or around the vagina or on your vulva (lips) are also signs of a problem.
Why do all these problems happen to me?
There are different reasons to a change in the vaginal discharge. These different causes are diagnosed when you are examined and tests done to confirm them. You are unlikely to make a diagnosis on your own other than for a yeast infection.
- If the vaginal discharge is white, grey or yellowish and has a foul smell, you might have a condition called Bacterial Vaginosis (BV).
- This is a condition caused by a disturbance in the normal balance of healthy bacteria in your vagina.
- The balance of a healthy vagina can be upset from e.g. douching, use of products like soaps, bubble baths and hygiene sprays that may irritate, taking antibiotics, diabetes, pregnancy, infections, aging, and sexual intercourse.
- The imbalance is usually corrected by itself, and treatment is not needed.
- However, if you are bothered by the discharge, or by itching or burning, you should see your doctor.
- We will use either antibiotics or Probiotics (natural special lactobacilli) to treat BV
- A white, cottage cheese-like discharge can be a sign of a yeast infection.
- Usually intense itching, swelling, redness and pain accompany the discharge. Small cuts on your vulva can occur.
- Burning and pain can be experienced during sexual intercourse and when urinating.
- Yeast infections can be a result of taking antibiotics, birth control pills, pregnancy, diabetes, or staying hot and sweaty for a long time.
- Some women get yeast infections for no obvious reasons.
- Yeast infections are not dangerous, but you might need treatment for the pain and itchiness.
- Medicines usually come in a cream or a pill that you can buy without a prescription.
- However, if you have any questions about what is causing your problems, talk to your doctor.
- If the symptoms don’t go away, please arrange for a consultation.
- Not all itching is a yeast infection!
- A yellowish or greenish discharge with a foul smell is a sign of a trichomoniasis infection.
- Sometimes swelling, pain, itchiness and/or burning occur – especially when peeing.
- This infection is usually transmitted through sexual intercourse.
- It can spread to your urinary tract and cause a urinary infection.
- Both you and your partner need to be treated with antibiotic pills.
- An increased vaginal discharge, sometimes stained with blood, can also be a sign of chlamydia or gonorrhea.
- Both infections are spread through sexual activity and need to be treated with antibiotics.
- Often these infections cause no symptoms at all and are discovered when you have a pap test.
- There may be symptoms like irritation, a burning sensation when peeing, or lower abdominal pain.
- If you have had unprotected sex with a new partner you should go to your doctor to be tested.
- During Menopasue, the lining of the vagina becomes thinner and fragile. This is called Atrophic Vaginitis
- This can result in painful intercourse and often a yellowish, burning discharge.
- We can easily treat this and help your sexual enjoyment by increasing lubrication and vaginal strength when we use special designed local estrogen and/or probiotics. These are safe with no real risk to Breast Cancer or Uterus Cancer.
- There are numerous other conditions that can cause ongoing vaginal discharge and discomfort. We will review these during the consultation.
What can I do to avoid these problems?
- If you suspect that you have any of the conditions described above, you should contact your doctor.
- However, there are things you can do to help keep your vulva and vagina as healthy as possible and prevent irritation and infection!
- Avoid tight-fitting clothes and wearing synthetic materials next to your skin
- Wear cotton underwear – this allows your genital area to breathe
- Do not wear underpants at night
- Do not use hygienic products that irritate your genital area
- Never Douche….ever (it causes infection by destroying the normal, good, protective vaginal organisms.
- Try to change your laundry soap (we recommend Dove, Ivory or Pear soap)
- Change to a gentle, hypoallergic laundry detergent, such as Zero or Woolite.
- Never use fabric softeners in your laundry or dryer (they can have chemicals that irritate your gentle vulva skin)
- Avoid sex during infection, or use condoms to prevent the infection from spreading
- Avoid Latex condoms (can be irritating and cause skin sensitivity and allergies.)
- Use Aventi condoms (non-latex, polyurethane, can use with lubrication oil)
- Change pads and tampons regularly – at least every 6-8 hours
- Wipe from front to back after having a bowel movement
- Use simple cooking vegetable oil on your Vulva skin (lower lips) is excellent. (Sesame, Canola or Sunflower oil)
- This keeps the fragile vulva skin protected and comfortable without any irritation.
- Use small amounts to prevent staining on your panties.
- Especially after a shower or bath and during intercourse if you are not using Latex condoms (safe with Avanti condoms).
- Vegetable oil is a great lubricant to make sex more comfortable and great fun during foreplay.
When do I need to see my doctor?
- At Meridia Gynecology, we recommend you see your family doctor or us if your discharge is not going away.
- If you are having vulva irritation
- If you have a fever or pelvic pain.
- If you are concerned, always have it checked.