You may worry because you have vaginal discharge, and wonder if this is normal or a sign of a problem, but most vaginal discharge is very normal. It is designed to clean the vagina and help protect you against unwanted bacteria and viruses. Normal vaginal discharge can be clear or white. Usually the discharge has a minimal salty smell or is odorless. The amount of discharge can fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle from scant to moderate. Stress, hormonal birth control, and diet can all cause changes in your vaginal discharge.
Occasionally, there can be changes in the vaginal discharge that need to be treated. Some signs that your discharge is abnormal include painful urination, increase in discharge, yellow or green discharge, painful intercourse, bleeding after intercourse, and abnormal vaginal smell. The three most common reasons for abnormal discharge are bacterial vaginosis, yeast, and trichomonas.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is due to a change in the normal bacterial flora and allows the bacteria usually present in the bacteria to overgrow, it is not contiguous and can not be transmitted to your partner during intercourse. Symptoms include increased discharge with abnormal odor and color. Occasionally a person will report vaginal itching or irritation. Taking a daily probiotic can restore the vaginal balance if you have frequent BV infections.
Another common reason for discharge is yeast. A yeast infection is caused by candida and is not transmitted during intercourse. Symptoms usually include vaginal itching or soreness and thick white discharge. Yeast infections can be prevented by showering after exercise, wearing cotton underwear, taking a daily probiotic and avoiding tight clothing.
Finally, trichomonas can cause abnormal discharge. Trichomonas is an infection that is passed from partner to partner during sexual intercourse. Symptoms may include vaginal discharge that can range in color from yellow to green, vaginal itching, painful intercourse and dysuria. Trichomonas can be prevented by using condoms during intercourse.
How do you know when you need to come in to the office for evalution? Anytime you feel that there is a change in your vaginal discharge or have any discomfort come in to the office to be evaluated. Having a provider evaluate you will allow us to examine the discharge and send a sample to the lab for verification to help give you the best treatment.
-Sarah Halfmann, FNP