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    GYNECOLOGY 101: Is My Vaginal Discharge Normal?

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | August 28th, 2016

    GYNECOLOGY 101: Is My Vaginal Discharge Normal?

    Yes, if the discharge is not associated with odor, itching, burning, bleeding or abdominal pain. Yes, if the discharge is clear or white. It may stain a slight yellow on the underwear when exposed to air.

    Our vaginal discharge changes depending on our age and where we are in our menstrual cycle. The most change in our discharge occurs during our reproductive years – from the time of puberty until the time of menopause.  It is dependent on the hormone, estrogen that we produce. When our estrogen levels are high, right before ovulation, we typically have a lot of discharge that is clear and sometimes sticky. Once we ovulate, we have less of a discharge and that is influenced by our other hormone, progesterone.  Our discharge is also affected by the use of birth control. Those who are on the Nuvaring or the IUD may experience more vaginal discharge that those on other forms of birth control.

    What is not normal is if your discharge is associated with certain symptoms. If you notice that your discharge has a different color than what I described earlier, or if there is an odor, or you have itching, you need to see a health care provider. If the discharge is associated with abdominal pain, you should seek care.

    The most common cause of abnormal discharge is due to vaginitis – bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection or trichomoniasis. There is another type of vaginitis associated with being in menopause called atrophic vaginitis. For more information on vaginitis, please click here.

    Here are some facts:

    • You cannot douche away an odor or mask an odor with perfume. These are temporary fixes and does not solve the problem.  There is something going on if there is an odor. You will probably need antibiotics. There is no need to douche. Save your money.
    • Not every vaginal discharge with itching is a yeast infection. There are serious infections that have itching as a symptom. Also, itching can be related to an allergic reaction. It is so important to keep it simple when dealing with the vulva. For more information, check the blog – What Is Really Down There?
    • You should never use a tampon to stop vaginal discharge. Feminine hygiene products should only be used for menstrual blood flow. For those of you using panty-liners due to habit consider not using panty-liner after your cycle is complete and see whether it makes a difference.
    • Shaving does not prevent infections and may actually contribute to the problem. If you have a need to shave limit it to the bikini line.


    Take home message:  Vaginal discharge is normal except when you have certain symptoms. If you have symptoms, I would recommend seeing a health care professional instead of self-medicating.

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    With her trademark wit and straightforward communication, Dr. Osuagwu continues to dole out valuable medical advice using the letter form and addressing women’s health conditions and issues in a method that was praised for its innovative approach in her earlier award-winning book, Letters to My Sisters: Plain Truths and Straightforward Advice from a Gynecologist. In this book, each letter is paired with reference sources and statistics about the condition that is the subject of the letter.

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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.

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