Smelly Discharge

Vaginal discharge serves a vital housekeeping function in the female reproductive system. Fluid made by glands inside the vagina and cervix carries away dead cells and bacteria. This keeps the vagina clean and helps avoid infection and bad odor.

Most of the time, vaginal discharge is completely normal. The amount can differ, as can odor and hue (its color can vary from clear to a milky white-ish), depending on the time in your menstrual cycle. For example, there will be more release if you are ovulating, breastfeeding, or are sexually aroused. The smell may be different if you are pregnant or you have not been thorough about your individual health.

None of those changes is cause for alarm. However, if the color, smell, or consistency appears significantly uncommon, particularly if it accompanied by vaginal itching or burning, you might be discovering an infection or other condition.


Any modification in the vagina’s balance of typical bacteria can affect the odor, color, or discharge texture. These are a few of the important things that can upset that balance:

  • Antibiotic or steroid use
  • Bacterial vaginosis, a bacterial infection more common in pregnant women or women who have multiple sexual partners
  • Contraceptive pill
  • Cervical cancer
  • Chlamydia or gonorrhea (Sexually transmitted diseases), sexually transferred infections
  • Diabetes
  • Douches, fragrant soaps or creams, bubble bath
  • Pelvic infection after surgery
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
  • Trichomoniasis, a parasitic infection normally contracted and caused by having unguarded sex.
  • Vaginal atrophy, the thinning and drying of the vaginal walls during menopause.
  • Vaginitis, irritation in or around the vagina.
  • Yeast infections.

See the chart listed below to find out more about what a particular kind of discharge may mean.

Types of Abnormal Discharge and Their Possible Causes

Type of Discharge What It Might Mean Other Symptoms
Bloody or brown Irregular menstrual cycles, or less often, cervical orendometrial cancer Abnormal vaginal bleeding,pelvic pain
Cloudy or yellow Gonorrhea Bleeding between periods,urinary incontinence, pelvic pain
Frothy, yellow or greenish with a bad smell Trichomoniasis Pain and itching while urinating
Pink Shedding of the uterine lining after childbirth(lochia)
Thick, white, cheesy Yeast infection Swelling and pain around the vulva, itching, painful sexual intercourse
White, gray, or yellow with fishy odor Bacterial vaginosis Itching or burning, redness and swelling of the vagina or vulva

How Does the Doctor Diagnose It?

The doctor will begin by taking a health history and asking about your symptoms. Concerns may include:

  • When did the abnormal discharge start?
  • What color is the discharge?
  • Exists any smell?
  • Do you have any itchiness, pain, or burning in or around the vagina?
  • Do you douche?

The doctor might take a sample of the discharge or do a Pap test to pick up cells from your cervix for more evaluation.

How Is Smelly Discharge Treated in Women?

How you are treated will depend on what’s causing the problem. For instance, yeast infections are generally alleviated with antifungal medications placed into the vagina in cream or gel form. Bacterial vaginosis is alleviated with antibiotic tablets or creams. Trichomoniasis is generally alleviated with the drug metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole (Tindamax).

Here are some ideas for preventing vaginal infections that can cause unusual discharge:

  • Keep the vagina clean by cleaning regularly with a gentle, mild soap and warm water.
  • Never ever use scented soaps and womanly items or douche. Likewise avoid womanly sprays and bubble baths.
  • After going to the bathroom, always clean from front to back to prevent bacteria from getting into the vagina and triggering an infection.
  • Use 100% cotton underpants, and prevent extremely tight clothes.

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