Normal Vaginal Discharge

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Vaginal discharge refers to the fluid that comes out of the vagina on a regular basis. This fluid is secretion from the uterus, cervix or vagina. This discharge is the normal way these structures clean themselves, get rid of old cells and prevent infection from outside. 

When is vaginal discharge considered to be normal?

All women (of reproductive age) have vaginal discharge. This is considered normal when it is clear or white in colour with its stickiness changing throughout the menstrual cycle and not associated with itching, rashes or burning sensation. If it deviates from this, the woman may need evaluation, as it may be associated with infection. 

Normal vaginal discharge may vary in quantity and consistency at various times and conditions. For example, the quantity may increase during ovulation, sexual arousal, use of contraceptive pills and pregnancy. This is due to the influence of reproductive hormones on the glands secreting this discharge within these periods. The reasons for the increase in the quantity of discharge within these stated circumstances are as stated below: 

  1. Ovulation: Vaginal discharge not only increases during ovulation, it also becomes thinner. This increased quantity and reduction in thickness during this period facilitate the movement of sperm along the reproductive tract on the journey to fertilize egg.
  2. Sexual arousal: Increased vaginal discharge during sexual arousal makes sexual intercourse go on with minimal friction and pleasurable for both partners. Without it, there may be much friction during sexual intercourse which may leave both partners with bruises, if no any other form of lubrication is employed. 
  3. Pregnancy: Increased vaginal discharge during pregnancy helps to reduce the chance of infectious agents moving up to the uterus, as they are constantly being washed down by the discharge.
  4. Contraceptive (birth control) pills: This is due to the body’s response to the hormonal content (oestrogen) of the pills.

What is the composition of vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is made up of fluid and old cells lining the inner part of the uterus, cervix and vagina, as well as the bacteria living inside the vagina.

What is the function of normal vaginal discharge?

Normal vaginal discharge helps to clean and lubricate the vagina. The normal bacteria content fight foreign bacteria that cause infection by making the secretion acidic, thus making the environment non-conducive for disease-causing bacteria, viruses and fungi to replicate comfortably. 

Is normal vaginal discharge preventable?

Normal vaginal discharge cannot be prevented. This is because this discharge is a natural way of keeping the vagina clean and healthy.

Can douching help prevent vaginal discharge?

Douching refers to washing or cleaning out the inside of the vagina with water, soap or mixtures of different fluids. This act, which is done by some women to get rid of vaginal discharge, can also get rid of normal bacteria that reside in the vagina, which prevent the vagina from infection by foreign bacteria.

The act of douching itself may introduce infection into the vagina. Therefore, douching should be avoided since the vaginal discharge is neither unclean nor injurious to the woman.

How to keep vaginal discharge normal

Keeping vaginal discharge normal entails maintenance of good perineal hygiene, avoidance of douching which reduces the population of normal bacteria in the vagina, leading to overpopulation of harmful bacteria causing abnormal discharge, as well as the use of condom while having sexual intercourse with a non-regular sexual partner. 

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