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Vaginal Discharge

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What do I need to know about vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is normal. It is usually clear or white and odorless. Vaginal discharge is your body's way of cleaning your vagina so it is healthy. Irritation, itching, burning, or a change in the amount, smell, or color may indicate a problem.

What causes changes in vaginal discharge?

  • Chemicals in douches
  • Feminine hygiene sprays
  • Certain harsh soaps
  • Antibiotics
  • Diabetes, pregnancy, or an infection

How can I help keep my vagina healthy?

  • Always wipe from front to back after you use the toilet. This prevents spreading bacteria from your rectal area into your vagina.
  • Clean in and around your vagina with mild soap and warm water each day. Gently dry the area after washing. Do not use hot tubs. The heat and moisture from hot tubs can increase your risk for another yeast infection.
  • Do not wear tight-fitting clothes or undergarments for long periods. Wear cotton underwear during the day. Cotton helps keep your genital area dry and does not hold in warmth or moisture. Do not wear underwear at night.
  • Change your laundry soap or fabric softener if you think it is irritating your skin.
  • Do not douche or use feminine hygiene sprays or bubble bath. Do not use pads or tampons that are scented, or colored or perfumed toilet paper.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about birth control options if necessary. Condoms have latex and diaphragms have gel that kill sperm. Both of these may irritate your genital area.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have swelling, burning, itching, or irritation in or around your vagina.
  • You have an increase in the amount of discharge.
  • The color or smell of your discharge changes.
  • Your discharge looks similar to cottage cheese.
  • Your discharge is bloody and it is not your monthly period.
  • You have pain during sexual intercourse.
  • You have trouble urinating, or you urinate often and with urgency.
  • You have abdominal pain or cramps.
  • You have a fever or chills.
  • You have low back pain or side pain.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.