All women have some vaginal discharge. 

Normal vaginal fluids can vary somewhat in texture and colour but should:

Normal discharge is usually clear, cloudy white, and/or yellowish when dry on clothing. It may also contain white flecks and at times may be thin and stringy. 

Normal vaginal discharge has several purposes: cleaning and moistening the vagina and helping to prevent and fight infections. Although it is normal for the color, texture, and amount of vaginal fluids to vary throughout a woman's menstrual cycle, some changes in discharge may indicate a problem. 

The pH balance of the vagina is acidic, which discourages infections from occurring. This acidic environment is created by normally-occurring bacteria. A healthy vagina produces secretions to cleanse and regulate itself, in much the same way that saliva cleanses and regulates the environment of the mouth. These vaginal secretions are normal vaginal discharge. Any interference with the delicate balance of vaginal secretions sets up an environment conducive to infection.

Changes in normal discharge can occur for many reasons, including menstrual cycle, emotional stressors, nutritional status, pregnancy, usage of medications - including birth control pills - and sexual arousal.

The menstrual cycle affects the vaginal environment. The discharge is thicker at ovulation, during breastfeeding and during sexual arousal.  The pH balance of the vagina fluctuates during the cycle and is the least acidic on the days just prior to and during menstruation. Because the acidic nature of normal vaginal secretions helps protect the vagina from infection, it is during this period when vaginal infections are most likely to begin.

Many other things can disturb the pH balance of a healthy vagina, including douching, feminine hygiene sprays, certain soaps or bubble baths, antibiotics, diabetes, pregnancy or infections

The changes that show problems include:

  • an increase in the amount of discharge
  • change in odour (especially an unpleasant odour)
  • change in color or texture (especially greenish, grayish, or anything looking like pus) 
  • vaginal itching, burning, swelling, or redness 
  • change in color that is caused by vaginal bleeding or spotting that is not a menstrual period
  • discharge accompanied by itching, rash or soreness 
  • persistent, increased discharge 
  • burning on skin during urination 
  • white, clumpy discharge (somewhat like cottage cheese) 
  • grey/white or yellow/green discharge with a foul odor 

Any changes in colour or amount of discharge may be a sign of a vaginal infection. If you experience any of the symptoms above, you may have a vaginal infection and should see your GP.

Some common infections which cause abnormal vaginal discharge are:

    • Bacterial Vaginosis can cause a copious amount of thin, watery discharge which is grey or greyish white in colour, and which has a foul or fishy odour. This odour is increased immediately after sexual intercourse. Almost half of women with this infection display no symptoms at all.

    • Trichomoniasis can cause a greyish or yellow/green, frothy, discharge with a musty, stale odor. The amount of discharge is increased.Women suffering from Trichomoniasis can also experience increased frequency or urination, inflamation of the vulva and vagina and itching. 

    • Women suffering from a yeast infection often experience an increased amount of discharge, which is white and clumpy,   redness, itching, and burning in the vaginal and vulvar areas. 

    • Women suffering Vaginitis may experience an abnormal, perhaps foul-smelling discharge, itching or pain inside or outside the vagina, redness and swelling outside the vagina  and pain during sex or when urinating.

    • Pregnant women whose amniotic sac has ruptured slightly can experience a thin clear leakage from the vagina, rather than the flow or gush which is expected.


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