Yes. Glands inside your vagina and cervix make small amounts of fluid. This fluid flows out of the vagina each day, carrying out old cells that have lined the vagina. This is your body's way of keeping your vagina healthy and clean. The discharge is usually clear or milky and doesn't smell bad.
The color and thickness of the discharge change with your monthly cycle. The discharge is thicker when you ovulate (when one of your ovaries releases an egg), when you breastfeed or when you're sexually excited.
Changes that may signal a problem include an increase in the amount of discharge, a change in the color or smell of the discharge, and irritation, itchiness or burning in or around your vagina. This is called vaginitis. A discharge that's stained with blood when you're not having your period could also be a sign of a problem. If you have any of these signs, you should talk to your doctor.
You should also be on the lookout for symptoms of yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis, 3 infections that can cause changes in your vaginal discharge.
Changes can occur if the normal balance of healthy bacteria (germs) in your vagina is upset. Many things can disturb the balance of a healthy vagina, including douching, feminine hygiene sprays, certain soaps or bubble baths, antibiotics, diabetes, pregnancy or infections.
The chemicals in douches may irritate your vagina and change the normal balance of germs in your vagina. Douching can also spread an infection into the uterus, increasing your risk of getting pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is an infection of the fallopian tubes that can cause you to be unable to have children.
Douching isn't necessary to keep your body clean. Smells you may notice usually come from outside the vagina (vulva). Keeping this area clean with gentle soap and water can prevent smells.
Small amounts of yeast fungus are often found in a healthy vagina. But if too much grows, it can cause a yeast infection. Yeast infections usually aren't caught from a sex partner. You may be more likely to get a yeast infection if you are using antibiotics, are pregnant, have diabetes, or stay hot and sweaty for long periods. Some women get frequent yeast infections for no obvious reason.
Bacterial vaginosis is usually caused by Gardnerella vaginalis bacteria. Why some women get this infection isn't clear. It's probably not caught from a sex partner.
Trichomoniasis is caused by an organism called Trichomonas vaginalis. You can be infected but have no signs for a long time. Possible signs of trichomoniasis are listed in the box below. Trichomoniasis is usually caught by having sex without a condom with someone who is infected.
Two sexually transmitted infections, chlamydia and gonorrhea, can also cause vaginal discharge. These are infections of the cervix caused by bacteria. Sometimes the only symptom may be an increase of vaginal discharge. Both of these infections can be treated with antibiotic shots or pills.
Sometimes. Talk to your doctor if you're sexually active. You may also need to avoid having sex or use condoms until you've been treated.
Yeast infections are usually treated with a medicine you put into your vagina. Yeast infections can also be treated with oral medicine.
If you have yeast infections often, your doctor may suggest you use a medicine you can buy without a prescription. But if you have any questions about what's causing your vaginitis, you should call your doctor. Many other things besides a yeast infection can cause vaginitis.
Bacterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotic medicine, usually a pill.
It's usually treated with oral antibiotics.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff