Green to yellow and white…what your vaginal discharge is telling you about your health

VAGINAS are amazing, self-cleaning machines.

And part of that self-cleaning process is producing discharge.

But although discharge is totally normal, it might not always look or smell the same – and it's those changes that we should all be on the lookout for.

Anything out of the usual could be a sign that you've got an infection of some kind.

And the quicker you get that seen to, the quicker you can get it sorted.

Dr Fevzi Shakir, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist tells Healthista what we should all be looking out for.

Clear or white

Normal, everyday discharge is clear or white – so nothing to worry about here.

Sometimes, that can leave an off-white stain on your underwear, and that's because your vagina contains lots of good bacteria that helps maintain the perfect acidity level.

Dr Alex Eskander, consultant gynaecologist at The Gynae Centre, tells "When exposed to the air, the discharge can stain underwear a mild yellow colour due to oxidation.

"Having bleached patches on your underwear is quite normal and generally nothing to worry about."

Thick and sticky

If you find your discharge becoming thicker, it's probably down to your menstrual cycle.

"Depending on the time of one's menstrual cycle, it could actually be thick and sticky – especially at the time of ovulation or when an egg is released," explains Dr Shakir.

Green or yellow

Dr Shakir says that if your discharge is yellow, green, frothy, then that can be a sign of infection.

Infections that your GP or local GUM clinic will test for include chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

"It's really important to get t his treated as soon as possible to stop any long term problems in the future," Dr Shakir advises.

Natika Halil, chief executive of sexual health charity FPA told us that green discharge is often associated with gonorrhoea, as is "thin and watery" discharge.

It is easily treated with antibiotics but is not without risks.

Treated early, it is unlikely to lead to complications but without treatment it can spread to other parts of the body and cause harm.

In women it can spread to the reproductive organs and cause pelvic inflammatory disease which can lead to long-term pelvic pain and even infertility.

In pregnant women it also increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and the baby being born with conjunctivitis which can lead to vision damage.

So it is important to get tested straight away if you notice this change in your discharge.

Cottage cheese

If your discharge looks a bit like white cottage cheese, then Dr Shakir warns that it could be a sign you have thrush.

To deal with that kind of infection, you need to see your doctor who can prescribe antibiotics and creams to help kill the bacteria and soothe the area.

He goes onto say that it's really important that we don't use any perfumed soaps, deodorants or douches when cleaning the vagina.

"These can exacerbate the problem of discharge and in some instances, actually cause it."

Dr Virginia Beckett, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: "Vaginal thrush is a common yeast infection that affects most women at some point in their lives.

"It may be unpleasant and uncomfortable, but can usually be treated with medication available from pharmacies or on prescription from GPs.

"However, for some women, vaginal thrush can be difficult to treat and keeps coming back."

Bloody discharge in older women

"That is an important symptom because sometimes that can be associated with abnormalities in the lining of the womb."

He says that in order to rule out things like cancer, you need to see your GP ASAP.

The most common symptom of womb cancer, for example, is unusual bleeding from the vagina.

What are the symptoms of womb cancer?

Womb cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women.

The most common symptom is abnormal bleeding from the vagina.

The NHS says that it can start as light bleeding and a watery discharge, which then gets heavier over time.

In women who haven't been through the menopause, periods may be heavier than usual or women may experience bleeding between periods.

Symptoms can include:

  1. abnormal bleeding
  2. pain in the lower abdomen
  3. pain during sex
  4. pain in the back
  5. loss of appetite
  6. tiredness
  7. nausea

Because most cases of womb cancer occur in women who have been through the menopause, any kind of bleeding is odd and has to be checked out.

If you have any doubts about your vagina or discharge, just go to see your GP.

Remember that they've seen it all before and any issues can quickly be sorted if you see them early enough.

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