Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” describes a scene in Woolf imagines herself walking down the aisle of grandest British libraries and exhibits, searching for information on women, and finding only male-defined results, ie, “Women, Shakespeare’s Views on” and “Women, the Middle Ages.” While immense progress has been made in the way of allowing the feminine mystique to shine through, there is still a great deal of mystification regarding the vaginal area in general and the topic if vaginal discharge in particular. Since the Bible’s description of menstruating women as being unclean, there has been a great deal of obscurantism and even demonization over what is, in the end, an entirely natural process.
For all of that, however, there are instances in which vaginal discharge is either involuntary or else not healthy in nature. Here are ten of the most common causes of vaginal discharge and how you can identify them.
1. Bacterial vaginosis: To borrow from Douglas Adams, “it is an important and popular fact” that millions of bacteria inhabit our bodies, including the vaginal region. This is completely natural, and these bacteria can fulfill important roles in your body. Even so, however, there is of course such a thing as too much vaginal bacteria, and such is the case with bacterial vaginosis. This condition may be characterized by greyish discharge and an odor reminiscent of fish, as well as a burning pain in some cases.
2. Vaginal Candidiasis: This type of vaginal discharge is characterized by white, milky-looking discharge and potentially some burning. It can be the result of pregnancy in some cases, and is sometimes a side effect of taking certain medications, especially antibiotics.
3. Trichomoniasis: The former two causes of vaginal discharge are not considered to be STDs, even though sexual intercourse can be involved or affected as a result of these conditions. With Trichomoniasis, however, we begin a look at Sexually Transmitted Diseases as a cause of vaginal discharge, what the distinguishing characteristics of these discharges are, and how they might affect you. To begin with, Trichomoniasis is often a symptom of an STD. It is characterized by watery, yellowish-green discharge, and can be particularly odorous. There can be a lengthy incubation period between the time you first catch the STD which causes Trichomoniasis and the onset of symptoms.
4. Chlamydia: This is, by far, one of the most well-known and still one of the most common STDs. This is a serious condition and, if contracted, you should contact a doctor immediately. In terms of vaginal discharge, chlamydia does not always immediately manifest with symptoms. When it does, these symptoms can include vaginal discharge which has a yellow hue to it and is milky in terms of texture; as such, to the naked eye, it can sometimes appear similar to mucus. Further, this condition also carries with it a distinct if subtle smell.
5. Gonorrhea: As with Chlamydia, this is one of the most common and, sadly, one of the most difficult STDs out there to deal with. This condition can effect everything from the pelvis, throat, rectum and urethra. In terms of distinguishing features, this condition is marked by vaginal discharge with a particularly strong odor as well as considerable pain while urinating. In addition, gonorrhea can also lead to irregular discharges over the course of your menstrual cycle. All this and more make it imperative that you seek medical assistance should you contract the disease.
6. Genital herpes: Yet another STD, vaginal discharges related to genital herpes are commonly associated with discharge which is watery in nature and is accompanied by pain, itching, or both. This form of discharge can also come with blisters, and it is once again imperative that you contact a doctor immediately if you suspect that you have contracted this condition.
7. Misplaced tampons/foreign objects: Leaving the realm of STDs behind, there are still more causes of vaginal discharge, one of the most common—and dangerous—being the presence of old tampons or other foreign objects. These can result in vaginal discharge which is dark in color and, once again, odorous. This form of vaginal discharge is usually due to an infection of some kind.
8. Infected Intrauterine Device: An infected intrauterine device (UID) can likewise be the cause of vaginal discharge. If your vaginal area feels particularly tender and your discharge contains trace amounts of pus, an infected UID may be the problem and, again, you’ll want to see a doctor.
9. Atrophic vaginitis: This is a condition which may crop up in post-menopause years as a result of changes to your vaginal cavities and tissue. This is yet another condition marked by watery discharge, as well as inflammation, and may sometimes be accompanied by blood.
10. Cervical or Vaginal Cancer: The importance of consulting your general physician as well as an oncologist in this regard cannot be overstated. Discharge in this case can happen continuously, be watery, pink, brown, or bloody, and have an intense odor. Even if this is not the result of a form of cancer, it should be stressed again that should you encounter these symptoms you contact your doctor.