Vaginal Discharge and Infections
Vaginal discharge is normal, healthy, and to be expected. Occasionally, however, vaginal discharge may indicate a vaginal infection or other medical condition requiring treatment. The trick is to know when to see your OB-GYN about vaginal discharge.
Vaginal discharge is a natural substance excreted from the vagina. How often you experience the discharge and its characteristics can vary significantly among from woman to woman. For example, some women have vaginal discharge every day while others experience it far less often.
Normal vaginal discharge is usually clear or white and odorless. Its consistency may vary, depending on which phase of your menstrual cycle you’re in, as well as other factors. For example, vaginal discharge is usually most abundant before ovulation (in the week after your period). You may also notice your discharge levels increase when you are breastfeeding or when sexually aroused.
Vaginal discharge may indicate an infection, hormone imbalance – such as with the dramatic drop in estrogen that occurs as a woman enters menopause – or other type of problem.
Signs and symptoms your vaginal discharge may indicate a medical condition requiring treatment include:
- Discharge that is no longer clear or white
- Smelly discharge
- Itchiness and/or burning around the vagina
- Inflammation (vaginitis)
- Significant increase in amount of vaginal discharge
- Pain or discomfort in the area
- Pain during sex
Vaginal discharge, itchiness, and pain are common signs of a variety of vaginal infections. If you are experiencing any of the above signs or symptoms, talk to your gynecologist as soon as possible.
Common Vaginal Infections
Common types of vaginal infections that the OB-GYN specialists at Women’s HealthFirst regularly diagnose and treat include:
This is a bacterial infection that occurs when the delicate balance of bacteria within the vagina is disrupted, resulting in the presence of more harmful types of bacteria than beneficial types. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in women of childbearing age. It is also common in pregnant women. Antibiotic pills, creams, or gels are typically used to treat bacterial vaginosis. Only women with bacterial vaginosis require treatment – their male sex partners do not.
The most common type of sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause vaginal discharge, itchiness, and pain is trichomoniasis, which is more commonly called “trich.”
Trich is a parasitic infection requiring both partners to take a single dose of an oral antibiotic. Signs and symptoms of trich include smelly discharge that may be greenish-yellow in color – although many people will have no signs or symptoms.
Not all women with a STI will have symptoms, which is why it’s important to ask your OB-GYN about STD/STI screening.
Yeast infections are perhaps the most well-known type of vaginal infection. Yeast infections affect more than 75% of women at least once in their life. This type of infection occurs at the opening of the vagina and is caused by a fungus called Candida albicans, or C. albicans. While this type of fungus exists naturally in the vagina, too much of it can lead to a vaginal infection. Yeast can multiply due to stress, pregnancy, and the use of antibiotics or birth control pills.
A yeast infection can cause itching, burning, redness, and irritation in the vaginal area, as well as a white discharge with a texture similar to cottage cheese. It can also cause pain during sexual intercourse.
Treating yeast infections typically involve the use of an antifungal cream or suppository, or a single-dose antifungal pill. Topical medications are available by prescription as well as over the counter. Oral forms are only available with a doctor’s prescription. In some cases, your doctor may recommend other treatment options, such as in cases of frequent yeast infections or particularly severe symptoms.
When to See Your OB-GYN about Vaginal Discharge
When it comes to vaginal discharge, if you experience changes in what is normal for you, ask your OB-GYN at Women’s HealthFirst about it. This includes changes in the amount, consistency, or color of the discharge.
To get started, call Women’s HealthFirst near Chicago, Illinois at (847) 808-8884 or request an appointment now. Our highly qualified women’s health specialists will take the time to answer all your questions, as well as rule out any vaginal infections or conditions that require medical treatment.
If you’re an existing patient, use our online patient portal to request an appointment, message your provider, and more.