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The Surprising Truth About Normal vs. Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

May 24, 2023

This post explores the difference between normal and abnormal vaginal discharge. Many women are curious to understand this as it is a common (and natural) event in the reproductive system.

Lady in white panties holding a fish in front of her pelvis - some abnormal vaginal discharges have a fishy smell

So read on if you want to know what’s normal or not, what it looks/smells like and what this could mean for your overall health.

Vaginal discharge is a fluid material that your body makes. It’s normally produced by the cells of the vagina and the cervix. It helps to clean the vagina, maintain its pH balance, and keep it free of infection.

However, abnormal vaginal discharge may indicate an underlying infection or other medical condition.

Graphic f the female anatomy with a small inset of germs that can cause abnormal vaginal discharge

Normal vs Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

So here are some differences between normal and abnormal vaginal discharge:

  1. Normal discharge is a slippery and wet fluid, usually clear or white and may have a mild odour.
    • However, abnormal discharge may have different appearances, such as dull, yellow, brown, green or bloody colour. It may also have a strong, unpleasant odour.
  2. Normal discharge may change in consistency and amount throughout the menstrual cycle.
    • For instance, around ovulation, normal discharge is most slippery and thin. It gets thicker when you are pregnant or on the birth control pill. An abnormal discharge may be thick, lumpy, or have an unusual texture. 
  3. Normal discharge may stain your underwear and cause some mild itching or irritation in some ladies.
    • An abnormal discharge may accompany other symptoms such as vaginal pain, burning, pain between the tummy and thighs (pelvic pain) or redness.
  4. Normal discharge is present in a woman at any age and is part of the body’s normal physiology.
    • An abnormal discharge may indicate an underlying infection or other medical condition.
Lady in red jacket and pain in her privates attends for treatment for abnormal vaginal discharge

What Abnormal Vaginal Discharge Means

Here are a few examples of abnormal vaginal discharge and what they could mean.

A vaginal discharge that smells fishy, especially after sex – may suggest an infection known as Bacterial vaginosis.

A thick, white, itchy discharge like cottage cheese may suggest a fungal Thrush infection.

If your vaginal discharge is green, yellow or frothy, it may indicate a type of STI known as Trichomoniasis

You may have a discharge that develops with pelvic pain or bleeding between your periods or after sex. This can suggest STIs like Chlamydia or gonorrhoea.

When you develop a discharge accompanied by blisters or sores, there’s a chance this may be caused by Genital herpes.

Ok, so now you understand the difference between a normal and abnormal vaginal discharge.

Suppose you are experiencing abnormal vaginal discharge or any other symptoms. 

In that case, it is important to consult a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

More Reading

Editing By AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on various healthcare conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality healthcare. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified healthcare practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner here.

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