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