What is Vaginal Discharge?
Vaginal discharge in woman can be called as a housekeeping function in the reproductive system of women as it keeps the vagina moistened and cleaned and also helps in preventing from infections. This fluid form is made by glands inside vagina and cervix which carries away dead cells and bacteria.
The colour, texture and amount of this discharge may slightly vary throughout the menstrual cycle but it is normal as long as it is white or clear and watery. There will be more discharge if you are ovulating, breastfeeding or sexually aroused but that is again very normal! If the colour and odour of this vaginal discharge is different from the normal one then there is something which you need to get examined.
Types of Vaginal Discharge
Let us take a sneak peek into various types of discharges that happen in a woman’s body!
- Clear & Watery: This discharge is absolutely and can occur anytime during the month. If you do rigorous physical activity then it can be little heavy.
- White: This generally happens in the beginning of menstrual cycle and is normal if it is not accompanied by itchiness and foul smell.
- Brownish or bloody: This might happen at the end of your menstrual cycle. When your periods are almost over, then this charge might happen and since it is mixed with blood it appears to be brown.
- Clear & Stretchy: If the discharge is clear but a little stretchy and mucous like rather than watery then that indicates that you are ovulating and is considered to be normal.
- Yellow or Green: This discharge is not normal. If your vagina is discharging something which is yellowish or greenish which is thick, chunky and has a foul smell too then that needs to be examined as soon as possible. It might look like yellow nasal discharge which comes from nose during sinus. It can be due to yeast infection or can also be indicating a sexually transmitted disease.
When can you experience yellow discharge?
Yellow discharge is common among women and can happen:
- Yellow discharge before period: The normal vaginal discharge is generally white, clear and watery before menstrual cycle begins. You can term it as similar to egg white. But it might turn yellow as it is exposed to air and that is absolutely normal as it goes away as soon as your period starts. But if this discharge is foul smelling and causing itchiness and redness then that might be indicating bacterial or fungus infection and should be diagnosed.
- Yellow discharge during pregnancy: Yellow discharge during pregnancy is normal as women experience elevated levels of oestrogen during this phase. But if it is accompanied by foul smell and itchiness then it needs to be examined. The main cause of this yellow discharge pregnancy apart from the ones listed in the section below is dominance of hormone called oestrogen. This hormone is responsible for maintaining and developing female sexual characteristics and is produced within fat cells, ovaries and adrenal glands. During pregnancy the level of this hormone shoots up because during this stage a woman goes through hormonal imbalance.
- Yellow discharge during sexual intercourse: During sexual intercourse, vaginal secretion increases automatically to provide lubrication. If you are sexually aroused then changes in physical and psychological environment leads to increased blood flow to pelvic area which ultimately increases the mucus secretion. Also, during sex muscles of uterus and vagina contract and become engorged with blood which leads to secretion of thick yellow discharge! This gives psychological fulfilment and peace and thus comforts your inner being during sex! There is no ejaculation in females like in males but this vaginal secretion during orgasm is an indication of sexual satisfaction.
Can yellow discharge happen to women of any age?
Yellow mucus discharge can happen to girls/women who have hit their puberty age. In unfortunate cases, if girls have undergone sexual abuse then it might hit them in early years of their lives! But in normal cases, it can happen to women of any age. Although its occurrence among girls who have newly hit puberty can be lesser but it may hit depending upon hormonal balance.
Prepubertal vaginal discharge is extremely uncomfortable and can be chronic and distressing too! Yellow discharge while pregnant, during periods and ovulation is normal if it is not bothering you with foul smell and itching.
What causes change in discharge among women?
The extent and consistency of discharge varies among women! In other words, not every girl or woman have same level of discharge. This discharge is made of natural fluids and cells produced by the body and thus differ in every woman.
The various factors which leads to this variance are:
- Age: As we move up and high in the graph of age, vaginal discharge changes. The muscles become loose and thus their retention capacity also varies.
- Amount of sexual activity: If you are young and not so active in your sexual life then the discharge which happens because you feel sexually aroused might be less! But if you are quite active and matured then it can be high.
- Hormonal changes: The major factor is hormonal changes! Imbalance in hormones can lead to heavy discharge and thus can be discomforting at times too! Yellow vaginal discharge during pregnancy generally occurs because women go through hormonal imbalance during this stage. It can also happen when girls are nearing puberty or menopause.
- Medications: Some of the medicines also impact the discharge in women. This is because heavy doses of some of the medicines impact the whole body and can lead to excessive or minimal discharge. They might make the body cells dry and contract which leads to less than normal discharge while on the other side, heavy discharge may be the medium to throw out the entire infection out of your body.
- Presence of infection: Bacterial, fungal or yeast infection as discussed in section below leads to varying discharge among women.
Causes of Yellow Discharge
There are several factors which can cause yellow discharge and as it is mentioned if it has bad odour and is causing itchiness and redness then that might be indicating something which needs doctor’s attention. So here are few causes of this discharge! Read on and find out what could be causing yours!
- Cervicitis: When the opening of uterus or cervix is inflamed then that is called as cervicitis. Gonorrhea, genital herpes, warts, Trichomoniasis and Chlamydia are some of the sexually transmitted diseases which can cause cervicitis. Bacterial infections can also cause inflammation of uterus which leads to cervicitis. If you have undergone some of the gynaecological procedure such as pessary or birth control devices such as cervical cap or diaphragm then that might also lead to overgrowth of harmful bacteria and thus becomes a reason of yellow vaginal discharge. Inflammation of uterus leads to yellow discharge.
- Bacterial Vaginosis: Women have both good and bad bacteria in their vagina and normally the good bacteria outnumber the bad ones making a shield over the vagina. But due to infection or sexually transmitted diseases, bad diet and poor hygienic conditions bad bacteria multiplies and outnumber the good ones. This is then accompanied by a foul smell and yellow discharge. This odour is worse during periods and during sexual intercourse too. If it is caused due to bacterial infection then it might not be causing irritation or soreness but the foul odour is quite irritating.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases: STD’s can cause number of incurable diseases in some cases. Yellow discharge is curable but it can also be caused due to transmission during sex. This can lead to thick, excessive, smelly and yellow discharge.
The three major STD’s that can contribute to this are:
Chlamydia: It is caused by bacteria known as Chlamydia trachomatis. It can occur in women of any age and can lead to fertility problems. If it occurs during pregnancy then it is marked by yellow discharge which keeps on darkening with time. it has a sour smell and can also cause swelling and itching of labia. This needs to be brought to the attention of doctor immediately as it might cause issues in delivery.
Trichomoniasis: A parasite known as Trichomonas vaginalis causes this disease. The main symptom is frothy yellow green vaginal discharge along with urination problems and pain during intercourse. The consistency is thick and can cause irritation in genitals.
Gonorrhea: One of the most common STD caused due to unprotected sex is Gonorrhea. It can occur in both men and women and spreads through direct contact through vagina, penis, mouth or anus! The yellowish vaginal discharge in conjunction with foul smell, bleeding, swollen vulva, burning sensation, area feels hot, painful intercourse, fever and sore throat are some of its symptoms. Immediate medical help should be sought in case of Gonorrhea especially during pregnancy as it might lead to development of fertilized egg outside the uterus.
Just like cervicitis leads to inflammation of uterus, this leads to infection and inflammation in the outer vulva and inner vagina. It can be caused due to bacteria, virus, yeast, parasites or even due to STD’s. Use of harmful chemicals in form of soaps, deodorants, allergens and poor hygiene can lead to inflammation and vulvovaginitis. It causes dryness in vagina which leads to irritation and itching followed by pain and redness. Light yellow discharge prior to beginning of menstrual cycle becomes regular and it also causes burning sensation while urinating.
- Yeast Infections:
This sort of infection may cause severe itching and burning but doesn’t cause a strong odour. Pregnant women are much more prone and exposed to the risk of developing yeast infections especially during second trimester of pregnancy i.e., during third to sixth month.Vaginal itching and woollen vulva along with yellow discharge may occur during yeast infection. The colour of this discharge varies among different women depending upon hormones stability and thus can be dark or light yellow. It is believed that during pregnancy the pH of vagina is alters which leads to growth in yeast and thus become a cause of infection. Growth of yeast can multiply in certain situations apart from pregnancy like stress, diabetes, heavy and prolonged dose of antibiotics and usage of birth control pills and condoms.
When should you seek medical assistance?
Yellow vaginal discharge may not pose health threat if it occurs before and after periods and during pregnancy. Yellow discharge with no odour is absolutely normal and should not be worried about.
But if this is caused due to bacterial, yeast infection or STD’s then it needs to be brought into attention of health expert. Since producing of mucus type discharge is normal process in a female’s body and helps in self-cleaning of vagina, it is perfectly fine to have it during your monthly cycles.
During pregnancy it can be little heavy in flow but until and unless it is not containing bad odour or leading to itchiness and redness of vagina, it is fine. Similarly if your delivery date is approaching then also you might see change in colour of discharge from clear white to yellow which should not be of much concern! Fishy smell and burning sensation is your vagina is the only alert signs!
If alteration in consistency, odour, colour and quantity of discharge is causing irritation then you should not delay seeking medical advice. Doctors review symptoms and examine yellow green discharge along with medical history to know the cause of this discharge.
If you will tend to ignore it then it might increase and can cause discomfort in intercourse which might impact your relationship. Discharge can happen to anybody and there are many causes of it, hence it is necessary to get it diagnosed before it spreads across different organs.
You are the best judge of the extent when it comes to vaginal health as you know before and after symptoms closely. Thus, it is very important to see a doctor so as to ensure that your vagina is healthy!