Having a certain amount of vaginal discharge (the fluid that flows out of the vagina opening that is produced by glands in the vaginal wall and cervix) is normal. The appearance and amount of the discharge secreted by the vagina usually changes during the menstrual cycle due to hormonal changes in the body. This normal fluid is usually clear or milky white, and without any unpleasant odour. During times of emotional stress, ovulation, breastfeeding and sexual arousal, it can turn thick and opaque. It may sometimes be accompanied by intense itching.
Signs & symptoms
Abnormal discharge should be taken note of, as it may be a sign of infection or other disorders. Signs to look out for include:
• An increase in the amount of vaginal discharge
• A change in the odour or consistency of the fluid
• Pain that accompanies vaginal discharge
The causes of abnormal vaginal discharge include recent antibiotic use, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, sexually transmitted diseases or the use of douches and scented soaps you might be allergic to or irritated by.
Some methods to prevent infection include:
• Eat yogurt with live cultures or take lactobacillus acidophilus tablets if you’re on antibiotics.
• Maintain good personal hygiene. Keep your genital area clean and dry and avoid douching, as it may actually worsen vaginal discharge by getting rid of healthy bacteria lining the vagina.
• Wipe from front to back after urination or bowel movement so as to avoid spreading bacteria to the vagina.
• Avoid wearing extremely tight-fitting clothes such as skintight jeans or shorts, which may cause irritation. Avoid synthetic and silk underwear as these may restrict airflow and increase sweating in the genital area.
• Use condoms during sexual intercourse, to avoid contracting or spreading sexually transmitted diseases.
If the discharge doesn’t clear up after a few days, see a doctor, who will prescribe a treatment depending on what’s causing the problem.
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