Most women don’t give their vaginal discharge much thought. It’s something that is always there. The consistency and amount might change from time to time, but as long as it feels normal there is no reason for worry.
The composition, (thickness, colour and smell), of vaginal discharge varies from woman to woman. Usually, discharge has a whitish-clear to light-yellow color and the consistency is watery to thick. While the odour also differs, many women notice a slightly acidic smell.
Discharge can change during the menstrual cycle. The amount often increases during ovulation and shortly before your period. These changes are completely normal.
However, if you notice an unusual change in your discharge this could be an indication of something more serious.
If your discharge changes to crumbly white, (often compared to cottage-cheese), and you are experiencing itch, it could be a sign of a vaginal yeast infection. The infection is caused by an overgrowth of yeast cells in your vagina.
Fortunately, yeast infection, or thrush, is fairly harmless, but nevertheless uncomfortable. The treatment can include anti-yeast creams or pessaries (antimycotics), or self-care products which treat the infection and restore your natural vaginal flora. The healthy flora will then prevent the infection from reoccurring.
Another change in discharge, that usually doesn’t go unnoticed, is a strong odour (almost fish-like). This type of odour is one of the main symptoms of bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection caused by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in your vagina. Its usual symptoms are a thin, grayish white discharge and the strong odour. The usual treatment for bacterial vaginosis are antibiotics. However, there are self-care products with natural ingredients, which can treat the infection without any side effects.
Decreased amount of discharge can also cause problems. This condition is called vaginal dryness and is commonly associated with menopause, but women of all ages can develop it. The main symptoms of vaginal dryness are itching, burning, and pain during sex.
Women can relieve these symptoms by using some form of lubricant or vaginal moisturiser. There are many self-care products available that will increase the moisture levels; choosing a product with natural ingredients will prevent irritation and help restore the tissue.
After having unprotected sex, the discharge may also change. The reason for this lies in the acidity of the vagina. The sperm is alkaline, which increases the pH of the vaginal environment. Though this is not necessarily harmful, it can increase the chance of developing bacterial vaginosis. If your discharge changes after unprotected sex, and you suspect it could be an STD, contact your doctor.