Vaginal infections | Gleneagles Hospitals
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Preventive Care
Women’s Health

Understanding vaginal infections

24 July 2023 · 4 mins read


Learn about the different types of vaginal discharge that indicate vaginal infections.

Normal vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharge is normal and is experienced by most girls and women. It is the fluid or mucus that originates from the vagina. 

Typically, vaginal discharge goes unnoticed until it exits the vagina, which is the passage connecting the uterus to the outside of the body. The upper part of the vagina contains the cervix, while the lower part leads to the vulva and labia. The vulva refers to the skin surrounding the vaginal opening. 

Normal discharge consists of vaginal skin cells, bacteria, mucus, and fluid produced by the vagina and cervix. It usually has a slight odour and may cause mild irritation of the vulva. Vaginal discharge protects the vaginal and urinary tract from infections and provides lubrication to the vaginal tissues.

To determine if your vaginal discharge is normal, consider the following:

  • Odour: Normal discharge typically does not have a strong or unpleasant smell.
  • Colour: Normal discharge is usually clear or white in colour.
  • Consistency: Normal discharge can have different consistencies. It can be thick and sticky or slippery and wet, depending on factors such as your menstrual cycle and hormonal changes.
  • Amount: The amount of discharge can vary among individuals and throughout different stages of your menstrual cycle. Heavier discharge may occur during pregnancy, sexual activity, or when using birth control.

Abnormal vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharge is a common concern for women and often prompts them to seek medical attention. While some amount of vaginal discharge is normal, it becomes a concern when accompanied by itching, burning, or other uncomfortable symptoms.

It is essential to distinguish between normal vaginal discharge and vaginal discharge that is accompanied by the following signs and symptoms. 

  • Unpleasant odour 
  • Itching of the vulva, vaginal opening, or labia
  • Soreness, redness or swelling of the vulva 
  • Pain during sexual intercourse or urination
  • Blood-tinged vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain

Please contact your gynaecologist if you have any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above. 


Leucorrhoea is a thick, whitish vaginal discharge. There are three causes of leucorrhoea, which is physiological, inflammatory, and parasitic.

  • Physiologic leucorrhoea: Occurs during puberty, ovulation and around the date of menstrual cycle, mostly caused by estrogen imbalance.
  • Inflammatory leucorrhoea: Results from inflammation or congestion of vaginal mucosa. A gynaecologist must be consulted once the discharge turns yellowish or has an odour as that is a sign of diseases in progress.
  • Parasitic leucorrhoea: Caused by parasitic bacteria. Common symptoms of parasitic leucorrhoea are burning sensation, itching as well as frothy, thick, white, or yellow discharge.


Vaginitis refers to inflammation of the vagina that can result in discharge, itching, and pain.

Vaginitis may be due to infections or non-infectious causes which, may be caused by bacteria, fungus, or parasitic organisms. Reduced estrogen levels after menopause and some skin disorders can also cause vaginitis.

Changes in the smell, colour, or texture of vaginal discharge can indicate an infection.


Possible cause 



Associated symptoms 


Candidiasis (yeast infection caused by the organism Candida albicans)

Thick, white vaginal discharge that appears curd-like and in flakes, often adherent to the vaginal wall


  • Severely intense vulvovaginal itching
  • Painful sexual intercourse


Trichomoniasis (sexually transmitted infection caused by the organism Trichomonas vaginalis)

Bubbly or frothy, thin, profuse 

Fishy, malodorous (foul-smelling) 

  • Soreness
  • Itching around the vagina
  • Painful urination
  • Increased frequency of urination


Bacterial vaginosis

Watery, bubbly, profuse 

Fishy, malodorous (foul-smelling)

  • Irritation 

Yellow-green (from the cervix)



Variable, usually malodorous (foul-smelling)

  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Painful sexual intercourse

Treatment options for abnormal vaginal discharge

Although some women may prefer to avoid seeking medical care, relying on self-treatment can result in delays in receiving an accurate diagnosis, increased expenses, or even aggravation of symptoms.

In most cases, it is recommended to undergo a physical examination by a gynaecologist before initiating any treatment.

Depending on the cause of vaginal discharge, antibiotics or antivirals may be required.

Certain lifestyle practices can also help:

  • Wear loose cotton underwear.
  • Rinse genitals with warm water, and pat dry after using the toilet.
  • Do not wash inside your vagina (douche).
  • Do not use perfumed or scented soaps or wipes.

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy

During pregnancy, it is common to experience an increase in vaginal discharge, which serves as a protective mechanism to prevent infections from spreading to the uterus.

During the final weeks of pregnancy, discharge tends to increase further. There may be pink, sticky, jelly-like mucus with streaks. This is called a “show” and signifies the separation of the mucus that has been present in your cervix throughout pregnancy. It indicates that the body is initiating preparations for childbirth. It is possible to have multiple small "shows" in the days leading up to labour.

Book an appointment at Gleneagles Hospitals

Although vaginal discharge is normal, understanding the signs and symptoms of abnormal vaginal discharge is crucial for early intervention. 

Get in touch with us to book an appointment with a gynaecologist today, or find out more about the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Services at your nearest Gleneagles Hospital.

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