Vaginal discharge is secreted as a white liquid from glands in the cervix and the vaginal wall. This flushes out dead cells and bacteria from the genital area, helping to prevent infections. It plays an important physiological role, but for many women, it also has a strong psychological significance, especially when the color, consistency and amount of vaginal discharge changed significantly. Therefore, excessive vaginal discharge can always be a concern. Is it really a problem?
Excessive Vaginal Discharge: When to Relax
During sexual arousal, the vagina secretes a clear or cloudy fluid for lubrication to make sexual intercourse easier and more pleasurable for both partners. It can also stop condoms from breaking. The vaginal secretions during arousal may lead to excess discharge, compared with what women normally experience. If you think that you’re not producing enough vaginal discharge for sex, try increasing the time you spend on foreplay with your partner. Alternatively, there are many water-based lubricants on the market designed to mimic your natural secretions and increase your enjoyment of sex.
Ovulation is the term used when an egg (ovum) is released from the ovaries into the fallopian tubes, ready for fertilization. To aid sperm in locating the egg, the cervical glands release mucus into the vagina. About two weeks after the first day of menstruation, women frequently notice an increase in the amount of vaginal discharge they are producing. The increased vaginal lubrication during ovulation also makes sexual intercourse easier, further increasing the chance of pregnancy.
The hormone progesterone stimulates the increase in vaginal discharge seen both at ovulation and during pregnancy. However, spikes in progesterone levels causing excess discharge can occur at other times. For example, oral contraceptives containing progesterone can trick the body into thinking that it’s pregnant, therefore increasing vaginal secretions. If this is causing you problems, speak to your doctor or pharmacist to see if you can change your birth control medication to another formula.
Excessive discharge is often seen in early pregnancy due to rises in progesterone levels combined with an increase in vaginal blood flow. The fertilized egg is protected by the excess discharge, and can safely develop in the moist uterine environment. As the pregnancy progresses, women usually see decreased discharge, but this is not always the case. In fact, the excess vaginal discharge can continue even after the birth. Although whitish or clear discharge in pregnancy is common, a pink or red color indicates that there could be a problem, so see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Excessive Vaginal Discharge: When to Worry
If you have a yeast infection, the discharge will usually appear thick and white in color, similar in consistency to cottage cheese, and may have an unpleasant smell and be excessive. You may also experience vaginal itching. Yeast infections occur due to an over-abundance of Candida yeast, and this can be easily treated with antifungal medication.
Imbalances in the vaginal bacteria can lead to a condition known as bacterial vaginosis. This may cause the excessive vaginal discharge that is grayish, and has a strange fishy smell. Patients may also get a burning or itchy sensation. Although up to one in three bacterial vaginosis cases get better by themselves, women who have symptoms or who are pregnant should see a doctor to prevent any complications from the infection.
Changes in the amount of vaginal discharge may be a result of a sexually transmitted disease (STD). For instance, gonorrhea and chlamydia infections can lead to yellow-colored discharge. The discharge can have a foul smell and patients may also feel itching. STDs are very common, with more than half of the entire population suffering from one at some point in their life. There are many sorts of sexual infections and disease, but most of these can be treated if you speak to a doctor to get the correct diagnosis. To defend yourself against catching an STD, make sure that you always practice safe sex using barrier protection.
In some cases, the excessive discharge is due to cancer. Tumors frequently stimulate glands in the cervix to generate more mucus, which is usually white-colored with a creamy consistency, although it doesn’t normally have a marked odor. The main risk factors for developing cervical cancer include losing your virginity at an early age, having multiple sexual partners, smoking, taking oral contraceptive medication frequently, and infecting with the human papilloma virus (HPV).
If you see any change in the vaginal discharge and worry about it, make an appointment with a gynecologist, so he or she can perform a thorough assessment for your condition. A diagnosis of a urinary tract infection means that the problem can easily be treated with antibiotics. Women over 25 are often advised to have a cervical (pap) smear, to screen for cervical cancer.