What Are the Different Causes of Vaginal Discharge?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2018
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There are a variety of potential causes of vaginal discharge in women. Normal discharge ranges from clear to milky white in appearance and does not have a distinct odor. Some discharge symptoms that indicate a need for medical evaluation include infection, sexually transmitted diseases, or cancer. Childbirth and menstrual irregularities may also cause discharge abnormalities. Any questions or concerns about vaginal discharge should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Bacterial or fungal infections are common causes of vaginal discharge, and the color of the discharge depends on the type of infection present. A yeast infection generally involves a thick, white discharge that may resemble cottage cheese and causes pain and itching. Bacterial vaginosis may cause a white, yellow, or green discharge that is often described as smelling fishy. A pink discharge may indicate a urinary tract infection, especially when accompanied by urinary urgency or pain when urinating.

Some sexually transmitted diseases may cause abnormal discharge. Trichomoniasis may cause a green or yellow discharge with a foul odor. Pain and itching when urinating is another possible symptom of this condition. Gonorrhea may involve a cloudy or yellow discharge and can cause bleeding between periods as well. Urinary incontinence is another possible symptom of gonorrhea.


Menstrual disorders are also possible causes of vaginal discharge. Irregular menstrual periods may be caused by a variety of factors, including hormonal disorders or menopause. This may lead to a pink discharge between periods or period-like bleeding. Endometriosis or certain forms of cancer affecting the reproductive organs may be responsible for this type of discharge as well.

Additional medical issues that have the potential to cause abnormal discharge include pelvic inflammatory disease, polyps on the cervix, or certain allergic reactions. Pregnancy and childbirth may cause a variety of discharge changes as well. It is important to consult a doctor any time abnormal vaginal discharge is noticed in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

Some irregular vaginal discharge may not require any specific medical treatment. Bacterial or fungal infections may just require the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications. Sexually transmitted diseases require medical treatment and safe-sex practices. Certain contributing factors such as endometriosis or cancer may require surgical intervention or other forms of intensive treatment. Once an accurate diagnosis is made, the doctor can help the patient decide on the most appropriate treatment options for the individual situation.


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Post 4

I have been taking birth control for five years now with no irregularities. Last month I switched to a new type and had no issues and a normal and short period. This month went by well and I had a normal and short period. That was one week ago exactly. I usually take my birth control at random times but I never miss a pill.

Last night, I forgot to take a pill, which has happened before with no irregularities, and today I had unprotected sex with my boyfriend like we usually do. I took last night's pill and today's pill at the same time and went to the bathroom about an hour later. When I wiped I noticed a

light-pink tint to my discharge. I have never experienced this so I stuck my finger up to check for any cuts and found none.

When I pulled it out I did not notice any color but when I wiped my finger the tissue was light pink. I have not had any abnormal amount of discharge and today I have had none except this pink color when I wipe. What is happening?

Post 3

My discharge is white and creamy in color. Please tell me about it.

Post 2

@ElizaBennett - I *love* that book! I was just recommending it to someone. Something it recommends that I do is to always try to schedule my gynecological exams for right in the middle of my cycle, when I have more cervical fluid (and thus more vaginal discharge). It just makes it a little more comfortable.

I just think it's important for every woman (who's not on hormonal birth control) to be familiar with her cycle for so many reasons, whether she is trying to get pregnant or trying not to. You know when to take a pregnancy test, for instance. And you know whether you're experiencing excessive vaginal discharge that should be checked out by a doctor, or just getting ready to ovulate. Every woman should be educated about FAM!

Post 1

Bleeding between periods can be a sign, certainly, that your menstrual cycle is all out of whack, but it can also be quite normal. In fact, the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) teaches that non-menstrual bleeding and spotting should always be considered a sign of potential fertility.

The reason is that *ovulation* is one of the possibles causes of pink or brown vaginal discharge (not usually red blood). It's easy to tell when you ovulate by taking your basal body temperature each morning. That will help you judge whether your cycle is regular or not.

If it's not, some women are able to get on track by making dietary changes, such as cutting down on meat and upping their

whole milk dairy (sounds weird, I know). Sleeping in a totally dark room (possible with a nightlight on for a few days in the middle of your cycle) has also been shown to be helpful in at least one study - anyone who's interested can find more info in the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, which is pretty much my Bible!

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