4 reasons why you should be concerned about your vaginal discharge

‘Being so humiliated and embarrassed about myself, when ever I am among my peers. They never complained of any heavy fluid from their vagina, after their menarche. Ever since my first menses, I have had infrequent but heavy discharge especially when I sleep or when I am in public. This makes me feel that something is wrong with me, but I honestly don’t know what…

This normally is one of the deepest concerns of women, especially those in their teens. Some women usually ignore the discharge, especially when it doesn’t irritate or cause any burning sensation. However, majority deem it to be an issue, even without the irritation and burning sensation. This is usually because of the amount of fluid passed and the odor produced.

These factors often create a loss of self-esteem in public and even among close relations. The general function of every woman’s reproductive system varies with respect to the activity of female sex hormones. However, vaginal discharge is only abnormal when there is presence of irritation, burning sensation and foul odor.

WHAT IS VAGINAL DISCHARGE? 

In simple words, Vaginal Discharge refers to the production of secretions (mucus) from the cervix due to stimulation from the female sex hormone, estrogen. When some of the secretions come out from the vagina, we then have a vaginal discharge.

Discharge from the vagina normally has no odor and is usually milky white or thin and clear.

Estrogen is normally increased in any female in these circumstances.

  • A few days before the egg is released in the menstrual cycle
  • A few months before girls have their first menstrual period (menarche).
  • During pregnancy
  • When drugs “containing estrogen” or “to stimulate estrogen production” are taken.

WHY SHOULD YOU BE CONCERNED ABOUT VAGINAL DISHARGE?

  • Infection:

Most often, when the discharge gives off a foul smell, the first thing any health practitioner suspects is an infection. A foul fishy smell is characteristic of a bacterial infection or a protozoan infection. In addition, a foul smell with presence of blood in discharge is normally seen with a foreign body in the vagina, like a tampon or an aftermath of sexual abuse.

  • Cancer:

When the color of the discharge changes, it could be due to a variety of factors. However, a bloody or brown discharge could much likely be cervical or endometrial cancer. It sometimes presents with abnormal vaginal bleeding and severe pelvic pain.

  • Perforation:

This mostly occurs in any age, but is mostly common in women of child-bearing age. Often due to an injury during childbirth, post-surgical procedures, or cancer of the digestive tract or reproductive organs. The discharge is often smelly, with the presence of stool in the vagina or in the discharge.

  • Inflammation:

This is normally present due to an infection, often fungal or poor hygiene. In addition, the vagina appears red and swollen, with pain when urinating. The genital area often feels itchy and sometimes has a burning sensation. Acquired sexually transmitted infections can also present as such, however they often have a foul discharge.

In summary, vaginal discharge is not a disease condition. It is normal in every female approaching early puberty, pregnancy and menopause. However, it becomes abnormal when it presents thicker and heavier than usual, containing pus, appearing whitish and clumpy, grayish or greenish colored, blood-tinged, foul or fishy odor and accompanied with itching, rash, burning or soreness.

It is advisable to seek medical care when confronted with changes in odor, color, appearance and amount of vaginal discharge.