How does a woman know when vaginal discharge is a problem?

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How does a woman know when vaginal discharge is a problem?
(Female reproductive anatomy. National Institutes of Health.)

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About Vaginal Discharge

The vagina is self-cleaning. A delicate balance of good bacteria and natural fluids keeps the vagina healthy and free from infections. Vaginal discharge is a normal part of this process, since it sweeps out dead skin cells, excess bacteria and irritants. Vaginal discharge is slightly different among individuals and varies in consistency and quantity, depending on the stage of the menstrual cycle. Not only is it unnecessary to douche, but this also in fact raises your risk for vaginal infections.

Normal Discharge

During ovulation, discharge is generally clear and thin, but at other times discharge might be white or cream-coloured, thicker and a bit sticky. There may also be a mild scent. Discharge may be tinged with blood around the time of menstruation. A moderate amount of discharge is normal, but the specific amount will vary from woman to woman.

Abnormal Discharge

Slightly abnormal discharges that last for only a few days can be part of the normal cleansing process. The odour may be slightly stronger or the consistency thicker due to hormones, stress, recent sexual activity or irritations like soaps or spermicides. If changes are very pronounced, last more than a few days or are accompanied by other symptoms, medical attention is likely necessary.

Changes That Signal Illness

Changes that require attention include: Very thick, yeasty discharge with small curds in it Strong, unpleasant odour Very watery, profuse discharge Discharge that appears greyish, greenish, yellow or pink Discharge that contains blood not related to menstruation Any abnormal discharge accompanied by itching, burning, pelvic or abdominal pain or pain during intercourse

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