Vaginal Discharge: When to Be Concerned

Being in good urological health is something that women will assume to be true unless there’s some type of indication that’s not the case. Vaginal discharge is not uncommon, and much of the time it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. However, in some instances vaginal discharge should be a reason to make an appointment with your physician or to get a referral to a gynecologist. It is best to be precautious if you observe any type of discharge that is abnormal from any you’ve experienced before, and particularly if it is bloody, brown, or watery with an unpleasant odor.

This page is designed to put you in the know regarding vaginal infection symptoms, as well as allowing you to be more aware of other symptoms that may indicate more serious conditions or diseases like pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID), human papillomavirus (HPV), or cervical cancer with vaginal cancer symptoms. As always, this information is only for reference and should not be used for self-diagnosis to any extent. If you suspect any type of infection or disease you must speak with your physician without delay.

Types of Vaginal Discharge and Possible Causes

While a woman is in her reproductive years and before the onset of menopause it is quite common to have discharges related to her period that are not related to her actual menstrual flow. One of the most common types of these is a moderate white discharge at the beginning or end of the menstrual cycle. However, if it comes with any measure of itchiness and is overly thick in its consistency or appearance then it may be a sign of a yeast infection. Fortunately, there are many OTC products that can clear up a yeast infection quite quickly.

A clear and watery vaginal discharge is common and is nearly always no cause for concern. They can occur at any time and for many women they do after vigorous and physically demanding exercise. A discharge that is clear and has a ‘stretchy’ and mucous-like quality to it is most commonly an indication that your ovulation period is about to begin.

Potentially Abnormal Types of Vaginal Discharge

We can start here by saying that a brown or bloody discharge is entirely normal when it occurs during or immediately following a woman’s menstrual cycle. It is also normal to have low-volume bloody discharges between periods, and you shouldn’t be concerned about this if you do. The term for this is ‘spotting’ and it can be sign of pregnancy if you’ve had unprotected sex in the recent past. It’s important to also know that spotting during early stages of a confirmed pregnancy may be an indication of a miscarriage. However, only your ob-gyn will be able to confirm that.

While it is uncommon, it is possible for a brown or bloody vaginal discharge to be vaginal cancer symptoms. Don’t jump to this conclusion though, as most often it’s not and can also be a sign of fibroids or abnormal growths in the vaginal cavity.

Last one here is a yellow or green discharge that is unusually thick and often has an unpleasant smell. This is often a sign of a trichomoniasis infection, which is usually contracted through unprotected sexual intercourse.

A yearly pelvic exam and Pap smear is recommended for all women. Discuss this with your family physician to arrange one.

Vaginal Discharge Causes

The majority of the time a discharge is simply your body functioning normally and keeping that area clean and protected. As mentioned, imminent ovulation can be a cause of vaginal discharge and it can result from sexual arousal as well. Emotional stress, exercise, and reactions to certain birth control medications can also cause it.

Here are the exceptions to those causes, and classified as abnormal vaginal discharge:

  1. Yeast Infection

Yeast is found naturally in this area of a woman’s body, but when there is an excessive buildup of it then a yeast infection can develop. The vaginal discharge with it is usually white, and has the consistency of cottage cheese. It also typically comes with itchiness and a mild burning sensation. Causes of yeast infections include stress, diabetes, pregnancy, birth control pills, and prolonged antibiotic use. Yeast infection creams like Canesten will usually clear up this condition quite quickly.

  1. Bacterial Vaginosis

This is a very common bacterial infection, and it is usually cleared out quite easily with a course of an antibiotic like Cipro. It is characterized by a strong, foul, and sometimes fishy odour but for some women they won’t have any immediately discernible symptoms. Bacterial vaginosis is almost always contracted via sexual activity.

  1. Trichomoniasis

This infection is also usually a result of sexual contact, but it can also be acquired sharing towels or garments from an infected person that come into contact with the genital area. Trichomoniasis is characterized by a yellow or green vaginal discharge that has a foul odor. Pain, itching, and inflammation are common symptoms. Some women, however, will have no symptoms here.

  1. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

PID is marked by a heavy and foul-smelling discharge and is caused by sexual contact. It can be overcome with a number of standard antibacterial medications but timely detection and treatment is key.

  1. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) or Cervical Cancer

HPV is a very serious condition for a woman, and in particular because if left untreated it can lead to cervical cancer. It is important to understand that you can have HPV and have no symptoms, but some women will have a bloody, brown, or watery vaginal discharge. See your physician as quickly as possible if you have these potential vaginal cancer symptoms.