Vaginal Health

Female sexual anatomy (external)

Female sexual anatomy (internal, side view)

Discharge

What is normal vaginal discharge? If you have a vagina, you will experience some vaginal discharge. Vaginal discharge is necessary to lubricate the vagina during intercourse and acts as a protective shield against infections. Normal vaginal discharge is whitish, drying yellowish on underwear, varying in amount throughout the month and with a characteristic smell that is generally not noticeable to you and others if normal hygiene is maintained. There may be an increase in this discharge during ovulation, about 12-16 days before the next period, and it may become clear and jellylike. A variety of bacteria, yeasts and other micro-organisms live naturally in the vagina. When the vaginal balance is upset, the naturally occurring bacteria can increase and cause symptoms. Some women are more prone to disturbance of the vagina. This can be affected by factors such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Steroids
  • Antibiotics
  • Stress
  • Latex and soap/washing powder
  • Menopause

Uncomfortable symptoms of normal discharge may be decreased by:

  • Keeping the genitals dry and well aired.
  • Wearing only cotton underwear and changing daily.
  • Changing out of damp swimming costumes or sportswear as soon as possible.
  • Changing pads and tampons regularly.
  • Avoiding tight fitting clothes and synthetic materials next to the skin.
  • Avoiding long exposure to hot, sweaty or chafing conditions e.g. sauna, aerobics.
  • Washing after every client with water.
  • Not using strong soap or antiseptics, avoiding over-soaping and rinse all soap off.
  • Not using perfumed talcs or deodorants near the vagina.
  • Not using perfumed pads and tampons.
  • Avoiding infections by wiping from front to back with toilet paper.

An abnormal discharge may be associated with:

  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Bleeding
  • Uncomfortable or painful intercourse
  • Unpleasant odour
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever

Abnormal discharge is often (but not always) a sign of vaginal infection and if you feel that you have this problem, then it is always advisable to seek medical attention. This particularly is the case if there is the slightest chance that a sexually transmitted infection could be the cause. It’s wise to have a check up if you experience new symptoms – even if you have recurrent problems with vaginal disturbance.

What are the common vaginal infections?