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Vaginal Discharge

December 6, 2017

The mysterious world of vaginal discharge.



All women have discharge. Varying amounts and consistencies especially in pregnancy. Think of the vagina as a

"self-cleaning oven." Some discharge is normal and a good thing!


See the vagina likes to be more acidic, around a 4 on the pH scale. 



If you notice on the picture above, a level 4 is similar to the acidity of a tomato. One time, when I was a student, I had a patient tell me she had wondered if she had an infection because "it (her discharge) tasted like tomato juice." {Shudder} Ok moving on...



Different things can change the environment of the vagina including periods, sexual intercourse, douches, tight swimsuits, and thongs (wear cotton underwear).



Not to mention, the newest fad....BATHBOMBS!!! I call them BV (see below) bombs because they are sure to give you the stinkiest of infections. Giving these as gifts to your girlfriends brings more than just a relaxing soak in the tub. Its the gift that keeps on giving. (Yes even if they are organic and naturally made.)


Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

When the vagina becomes less acidic and more alkaline, bacteria can begin to grow and cause an infection called bacterial vaginonsis. This infection most commonly causes a fishy odor in your discharge.



Many of my patients will say they have tried taking multiple showers, cleaning themselves often, but just can't feel clean or rid the smell. That's because it takes an antibiotic to kill off this bacteria.



Vaginal infections can also lead to pain with intercourse and maybe some vaginal spotting or bleeding. You may also notice color change and consistency in you discharge.


Yeast Infections

Most commonly blamed as the culprit for any vaginal irritation. Yeast infection symptoms includes: lots of itching, horrible irritation, burning, white clumpy or cottage cheese-like discharge. No odor. Some women will think they have a urinary tract infection because of the burning with urination, but it could be the urine touching your irritated skin causing it to burn. I always recommend checking for both infections. 



Sometimes you can feel irritated or "different" in your vagina, but your test results are normal. Doesn't necessarily mean there's not an infection nor does it mean there is an infection. Don't get discouraged. There are some comfort measures you can try at home. 



At Home Comfort Measures



Coconut oil is a great natural lubricant for the vagina. You can use it for vaginal irritation, itching, or dryness. Also, its the best lubricant for sexual intercourse, a bit messy, but great lubricant. 


Baking Soda Sitz Bath

Are you starting to notice some fishy odor to your discharge, try a baking soda bath. In your bathwater add a few tablespoons of baking soda, which will fizz. Just splash it up towards your vagina, don't douche. The baking soda can neutralize the pH. Try this for a few nights. 


Avoid douching. Remember because your vagina is self-cleaning, any synthetic cleansers or creams/ointments can alter the pH, leading to vaginal infections.


I personally am not a fan of over-the-counter vaginal preparations. These tend to mask symptoms and though you may begin to feel some relief, most of the time it can aggravate the infection and make it worse in time.


Diets high in sugar can worsen your infections. Whereas probiotics and yogurts with lactobacillus may be helpful with yeast. Note: eat your yogurt, don't put yogurt up your vagina.


Vaginal Dryness



Some women experience vaginal dryness. This is an especially common complaint during perimenopause. Natural lubricants can help with the dryness AND are found in your very own kitchen: coconut oil or Crisco. Just make sure you apply with clean hands and wash your hands afterwards. Estrogen creams or hormone replacement treatments can help with this dryness if these symptoms are due to menopausal changes.



Anytime you have changes in your discharge, I recommend being seen by your midwife or doctor. Sometimes its normal and is just "self-cleaning," other times it can be from an infection. I've listed above common vaginal infections.



Watch for an upcoming post on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to learn more about infections passed during sexual activity.

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© 2017 by Carlie A. Yearsley, CNM, WHNP, DNP