When we speak of white discharge in women, it is usually vaginal discharge that we speak of. Firstly it is useful to understand what the purpose of this white discharge is and secondly to understand when it is normal and when it can be the symptom of a problem that needs medical attention.
What is normal white fluid discharge in women?
Glands in the vagina and the cervix secrete certain fluids; which pass through and out of the vagina, carrying out dead cells, bacteria and so on with those fluids, resulting in a whitish discharge.
This discharge is a natural way for the vagina to keep itself clean and free of infection by maintaining a healthy balance of bacterial population in the area.
While every woman will have some amount of discernible discharge, the kind and the quantity of it will vary from woman to woman.
Also, the type of discharge will differ depending upon the time of month and age of the same woman.
So clearly when it comes to white discharge in women, the range of what is considered ‘normal’ is really quite wide, but each woman ought to be aware of what is ‘normal’ for her, so that any change in the discharge can alert her to any problems.
Generally speaking however the discharge ranges from a milky white to a clear egg white consistency when ovulation occurs. Normal discharge is odorless though slight changes may be noted during pregnancy or sexual arousal.
What is abnormal white discharge in women?
Any significant change in the smell, amount or nature of the discharge, given the woman, her age, stage of life and what is ‘normal’ for her, can be considered abnormal. Also if there are any other symptoms accompanying the discharge, such as burning sensation (while urinating or otherwise), itching, inflammation, pelvic or abdominal pain, then this could be sign of something being not quite right.
Sometimes the normal bacterial population in the vagina and the discharge can change for innocuous reasons. These can include a course of antibiotics, or if personal hygiene has been a little lax (or conversely been using vaginal douches etc, in the mistaken impression that they ‘clean’ the vagina), or if a woman has just started or gone off a form of birth control, or other medication. These reasons will usually resolve by themselves in time.
The following changes in the white discharge in a woman may be cause for concern:
- If the discharge is brown or bloody at times other than her menstrual period.
- If the discharge seems to be yellowish or cloudy looking.
- A pinkish discharge other than for a few weeks after childbirth (what is also known as lochia).
- Grayish or yellowish discharge with a fishy odor.
- If the discharge is frothy or if it is thick and the consistency of cottage cheese.
- Foul odor is a significant indicator for white discharge before period in women since it indicates the presence of an infection.
It isn’t just the kind of white discharge in women, but its odor and the accompanying symptoms that together will indicate whether the discharge is or is not cause for concern.