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Friday, 8 February 2019

Health Check: This Is What Your Vaginal Discharge Means

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Unexpected marks in your underwear? In most cases, vaginal discharge is completely normal, but it can sometimes indicate something is amiss. 
We speak to Karen Morton, gynaecologist and obstetrician at Dr Morton's – the medical helpline about the six most common causes of vaginal discharge, so you know when to relax and when to worry:

What is a vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is produced by small glands in the lining of the vagina and the cervix and is usually nothing to worry about. 'Vaginal discharge is perfectly normal,' says Morton. 'If a woman is not on the Pill and is at reproductive age, then there are very few days in a normal menstrual cycle where she would not expect to not have a discharge.



The amount you produce will vary, but you may find you experience heavier vaginal discharge during pregnancy when you ovulate and if you’re sexually active.
Here are the six most common causes of discharge, so you know what to look out for:
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Ovulation

Ever noticed that your discharge is occasionally clear and stretchy looking? This means that you're most likely ovulating and your ovary is releasing a mature egg that will pass through the fallopian tube for fertilisation. 
'Two to three days before you start to ovulate, you will experience ovulation discharge, the texture being like raw egg white,' says Morton.
This clear sticky fluid makes it easier for sperm to travel to the egg, which is also a great indicator for women who are wanting to conceive. If you're trying to get pregnant, it's wise to keep an eye on your discharge. It is also worth using fertility lubricant.

Menstruation
A few days after ovulation, you may not notice any discharge at all because the cervical mucus (which is the egg white discharge) is no longer needed to trap sperm. But don't be alarmed if you have a thicker creamier white discharge.
'After you have ovulated and produced eggs, there will be a release of the hormone progesterone in the bloodstream, and this is the reason for the white discharge,' says Morton.
As long as it's odourless and doesn't itch or burn, there's nothing abnormal about this discharge. It's just reflecting your bodily changes at different points in your cycle.
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Pregnancy

Believe it or not, your discharge can tell you when you're pregnant. At the beginning of your pregnancy, you may notice a heavier, gummy or thick discharge. This is because the cervix and vaginal walls get softer, and discharge increases to help prevent any infections travelling up from the vagina to the womb
You can also experience discharge towards the end of your pregnancy as well. 'Most women will have an increased amount of vaginal discharge during pregnancy, particularly in the later stages,' says Morton. 'As long as the discharge isn't smelly, itchy or bloodstained then nothing needs to be done. The most important thing to be aware of is "Could this be leakage of waters?" If there's a lot of watery loss, get checked out by your midwife or the hospital.'

Stress

Women are increasingly more stressed today with work, family and hectic lifestyles. But the perils of stress can also affect our physical health. Stress is a major cause for hormonal imbalances within the body, which could, in turn, can lead to vaginal discharge, according to some experts
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Infection

In most cases, vaginal discharge is completely normal, but sometimes it can indicate an infection such as thrush, bacterial vaginosis (BV) or an STI.

Thrush

If you're experiencing white discharge that is odourless, thick and has a lumpy texture and a bit like cottage cheese, it's likely to be a yeast infection or thrush. You may also experience itching, soreness, burning and irritation.
'Thrush usually occurs when there's an overgrowth of yeast that lives normally in your gut. But if this yeast gets out of control, it can lead to unpleasant symptoms,' says Morton. 'A typical reason is taking antibiotics, for something unrelated like an earache or tonsillitis, which kills off healthy bacteria.'
Thrush can be easily treated using an over-the-counter product, such as Vagisil.
Bacterial vaginosis
The same applies to bacterial vaginosis (BV). This is an unpleasant looking mucus discharge and can be accompanied by a fishy odour and burning sensation.
'This is also due to a loss of balance of the normal bacteria of the vagina,' says Morton. 'It's also very common in older women when they don't have oestrogen, which creates moisture in the vagina and keeps germs in the right balance.'

 Sexually Transmitted Infection

Your discharge could even be an indicator of an STI, but bear in mind this is not always the case, as STIs can often lie dormant with no symptoms.
'No doubt that all common infections, such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, can cause vaginal discharge but they are also often silenced and are causing much more serious problems higher up in the tubes – so it's better to get checked out,' says Morton.

When to see your GP

You may experience spotting, which is a reddish, rusty brown discharge, before or after your period, which is perfectly normal and very common. If you're on the Pill, you may even experience spotting throughout your cycle. But a prolonged blood stained discharge is more worrying.
'This could be a uniformity brown staining, slightly unpleasant smelling discharge,' says Morton. 'It should be investigated as it could be something more serious higher up on the cervix or in the uterus.'

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Sexual health resources

If you think you might have an STI, it's important you get tested. Try one of the following resources:
  • Ask your GP for advice.
  • Find a sexual clinic near you.
  • Try Brook's Find a Service tool
  • Find contraceptive services near you
  • Watch Video Below:

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