Some women produce a white vaginal discharge instead of experiencing a normal period. More often than not, vaginal discharge is not a major health concern. Just as our saliva protects our mouth from drying out, vaginal discharge is constantly produced to protect the very delicate vaginal tissue. Learning the distinction between "normal" and "abnormal" vaginal discharge can help you evaluate whether or not you should be concerned about the discharge you are experiencing.
Functions of White Discharge
The vagina is an integral part of the female reproductive system. It not only serves a crucial role during copulation and childbirth, but it is also the doorway to the cervix and uterus - two key reproductive organs. Both the acidic environment within the vagina and white discharge it emits serves highly significant functions.
The acidic pH of the vagina preserves its internal environment by acting as one of the major defenses against bacterial and fungal threats. Women are often advised to avoid vaginal douching, bubble baths, and harsh deodorant soaps or feminine washes because they may disturb this acidic environment.
White vaginal discharge is produced by glands embedded in both the cervix and vagina. This protects the reproductive system as a whole from external threats of infection. If the vaginal discharge is described as a white, transparent fluid with no reported foul odor, itchiness or discoloration, then the reproductive system is working efficiently and there's no cause for concern.
White vaginal discharge is usually the body's way of getting rid of old cells containing bacteria and other impurities. This enables the reproductive system to work without the hidden dangers of bacteria threatening to enter the vagina.
Normal Signs of White Discharge
White discharge is commonly experienced by all women who experience a regular menstrual cycle. The amount, color, consistency, and odor of this discharge will vary depending on the state of a woman's health.
The normal characteristics of vaginal discharge include: clear, milky-white or transparent in color; no unpleasant odor or without any odor at all, and a slippery or sticky consistency without any signs of vaginal irritation.
The aforementioned characteristics may vary depending on the stage of a woman's menstrual cycle. Right before the start of menstruation, the vaginal discharge is usually sticky and in great quantity.
During ovulation (between the tenth and nineteenth day of the monthly cycle when the woman is most fertile), vaginal discharge is slippery and has a consistency comparable to an egg white. This phenomenon results from the sudden fluctuation of female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.
Abnormal Signs of White Discharge
In some cases, especially if other undesirable signs and symptoms are present, a white vaginal discharge becomes a major indicator of an existing health threat. This happens when the protective defenses of the female reproductive system are suddenly disrupted and the vagina becomes vulnerable to bacterial infection. The following are known infections in which white discharge occurs with other pathologic signs and symptoms:
- Yeast infection - Characterized by a white, cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge, inflammation, pain and itchiness. Yeast infection is commonly caused by a fungus thriving in the vaginal area. Women who are diabetics, pregnant, or who are presently using antibiotics or oral contraceptives are more vulnerable to developing these infections.
- Bacterial vaginosis - The bacteria Gardnerella vaginalis can enter the vaginal area, causing an infection. Signs and symptoms of this infection include a white or gray vaginal discharge, itchiness, burning, and a distinct fishy odor.
Experiencing white discharge instead of your period is usually a strong indicator of a woman's reproductive health. There are other symptoms that should be evaluated to determine if a vaginal discharge is caused by a medical concern.
Treatments and Preventions
In most cases, home remedies can help you eliminate a white discharge from the vaginal area.
- Placing yogurt on the affected area or inserting a tampon covered in yogurt in the vagina can help kill off bacteria causing a white discharge.
- Boiling walnut halves or soaking coriander seeds in water and using these liquids to douche can also help eliminate a white discharge.
Medications are also available to help eliminate an uncomfortable white discharge from the vagina. Pills, suppositories or creams can be used depending on your symptoms. Consult with your gynecologist to determine which medications are most appropriate. You may need to use antibacterial medications or alter your contraceptive schedule to return your periods to normal.
Taking steps to prevent your white discharge in the future is essential to maintaining good reproductive health. Practice good hygiene, washing the genitals with gentle, non-perfumed soaps. Avoid using hygiene sprays that can cause additional irritation. Wear loose cotton underwear to allow air flow to the genital area. Use condoms during sex to prevent spreading or contracting sexually transmitted diseases that could cause vaginal irritation as well.