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It is true that a change in vaginal discharge can sometimes be a symptom of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in women - but vaginal discharge is often normal and harmless

We see many women who have noticed a change in their vaginal discharge, and perhaps the vaginal smell, and who are worried that something is wrong.

Gramstain

Sexually transmitted infections can sometimes cause a change in discharge

It is therefore important to have a check-up for STIs if you have had a change in partner or are worried that you are at risk of STIs. A self-check for STIs (either done in clinic, or ordered online and done at home) will test for important infections and is just as reliable as tests done by a doctor.

Vaginal discharge is normal

It would be very uncomfortable if the vagina was completely dry - just like the mouth. The vagina produces normal discharge to keep itself lubricated. This normal discharge can vary between women, and between different days for the same woman. It can be clear, creamy, or yellow. It can be watery, thick, or stringy. The scent of normal discharge can also change during the menstrual cycle.

We used to examine all women who reported a change in vaginal discharge

The main reason we examine people is to check for STIs, or for other conditions which might require treatment. A great deal of the time, we would examine women who did not have any infections or need any treatment. They might still have needed a check-up for STIs, but this can be done just as well using a self-test.

If you have noticed a change in discharge, but it is not actually bothering you:

Doing a self-check for STIs is enough. You do not need any treatment, unless your tests show an STI.

If your change is discharge is bothering you:

You can discuss this with the doctor or nurse. They will make an assessment of your symptoms and may examine you, which might help to explain the change in discharge. However, you may still not require any treatment. This is because discharge which is not caused by STIs generally resolves by itself.

If you are noticing the same symptoms often:

Discuss this with the doctor or nurse. They may be able to help you identify any pattern or triggers, which might make it easier to manage. They can also discuss treatments which you can obtain from your local pharmacy or online.

For more information about vaginal discharge, click to read our leaflet

 

Vaginal Discharge