Vaginal discharge, often simply referred to as discharge, refers to the fluid that comes out of the vagina. It can happen throughout the menstrual cycle and be normal, or it can occur with an infection or another vaginal health problem. Paying attention to your discharge patterns and any other symptoms you have can help you determine if you should see your doctor about a genital infection or other issue with your vagina. Here’s what you need to know about vaginal discharge and how it relates to sexual health. Vaginal Discharge is a Sign of Genital Infection What should I know about vaginal discharge? Vaginal discharge or vaginal secretions are your body’s way of keeping your vagina clean and healthy. Changes in vaginal discharge can be normal, but they can also signal a problem. Talking with your doctor or nurse can help you understand what’s normal for you and how to take care of it. What kinds of changes should I watch for?: Some common changes include: Change in color: The discharge may become yellowish or greenish, which may be caused by bacteria that live naturally in your vagina. Vaginal Discharge is a Sign of Genital Infection Genital Infection What are normal symptoms of vaginal discharge? There are many factors that can cause changes in vaginal discharge, including menopause and hormonal changes. Changes to your discharge, however, should be examined by a doctor. Abnormal vaginal discharge could mean you have an STD or other type of infection, such as bacterial vaginosis (BV). If you notice any abnormal vaginal discharge or STDs symptoms, contact your doctor right away. When does vaginal discharge indicate a health concern? It’s important to note that vaginal discharge isn’t abnormal; in fact, it’s an entirely natural byproduct of bodily functions. You experience vaginal discharge when your body releases fluids from your cervix (the part of your uterus that extends into your vagina) and Bartholin’s glands (located near each side of your vaginal opening). However, if you have noticeable discharge that persists for more than a few days, make an appointment with your OB-GYN. What do abnormal symptoms of vaginal discharge mean? Vaginal discharge, which can be white, gray, yellow or green and may be thick or thin, as well as lumpy or itchy are all signs that there is something amiss. Don’t ignore them. Can I make my symptoms better at home? For a lot of women, vaginal discharge—like that caused by bacterial vaginosis—is just a fact of life. It often doesn’t hurt, smell bad, or seem like anything to worry about. How can I prevent infection from occurring in the future? Some STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, can be easily treated with antibiotics. For example, if you are diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis, your doctor may prescribe one or two rounds of antibiotics to help clear up your infection. You may need additional treatments in order to prevent future infections. If your symptoms persist after two weeks of treatment or you experience new symptoms, see your doctor for another evaluation. How do I know if I need to see my doctor? Vaginal discharge can be normal, but it can also indicate an infection. In most cases, women should seek treatment if their discharge has a fishy odor or is accompanied by itching or burning. Other warning signs that may require medical attention include increased vaginal odor and burning during urination. If you are concerned about your discharge, make an appointment with your health care provider. Your doctor will examine you and determine if you have any infections or other problems that need to be treated. Will anything else be done to find out why I have symptoms? Yes, your doctor will collect samples from your vagina and cervix to send to a lab for analysis. It’s possible that testing may show another condition, such as an infection or inflammation. Your doctor will let you know if there’s another reason for your symptoms and what to do next. If not treated properly, some genital infections can lead to infertility (the inability to get pregnant). If you are concerned about fertility issues because of vaginal discharge, talk with your doctor right away. What else will be done to help me get better? A doctor will help you determine if your vaginal discharge is caused by a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis. The condition of your vaginal discharge can also indicate whether or not you have STDs such as HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis. If you’re experiencing any pain with your vaginal discharge, call your doctor immediately to schedule an appointment. Pain could be an indication that something more serious than an STD may be occurring in your body.