Vaginal discharge

View original article on NHS Choices

Vaginal discharge is normal – most women and girls get it. It's a fluid or mucus that keeps the vagina clean and moist, and protects it from infection.

Vaginal discharge is not usually anything to worry about if it:

  • does not have a strong or unpleasant smell
  • is clear or white
  • is thick and sticky
  • is slippery and wet

You can get vaginal discharge at any age.

The amount of discharge varies. You usually get heavier discharge during pregnancy, if you're sexually active or if you're using birth control. It's often slippery and wet for a few days between your periods (when you ovulate).

If your discharge changes – for example, in smell, colour or texture – it might be a sign of an infection. But do not self-diagnose – see a GP if you're worried.

Discharge Possible cause
Smells fishy Bacterial vaginosis
Thick and white, like cottage cheese Thrush
Green, yellow or frothy Trichomoniasis
With pelvic pain or bleeding Chlamydia or gonorrhoea
With blisters or sores Genital herpes

See a GP or go to a sexual health clinic if:

  • your vaginal discharge changes colour, smell or texture
  • you produce more discharge than usual
  • you feel itchy or sore
  • you bleed between periods or after sex
  • you get pain when peeing
  • you get pain in the area between your tummy and thighs (pelvic pain)

Sexual health clinics can help with abnormal discharge

Sexual health clinics treat problems with the genitals and urine system.

Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service, where you do not need an appointment. They'll often get test results quicker than GP surgeries.

Find a sexual health clinic

You cannot prevent vaginal discharge.

Panty liners can help with heavy or excessive discharge or if you're worried about any smell. But do not use them all of the time because they can cause irritation.

To help avoid irritation, soreness or dryness:

Do

  • wash the skin around your vagina gently using plain water

Don't

  • do not use perfumed or non-perfumed soaps or gels

  • do not use deodorants or scented hygiene wipes

  • do not wash inside your vagina (douche)


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