There are no symptoms that accompany a normal discharge such as burning, irritation, pain or foul odor.
But changes that do occur indicate a cause for concern, which is why women need to be aware of the symptoms indicating that a problem exists.
Differentiating “Normal” from a “Warning Sign”
Identifying normal discharge from discharge that warns of an issue doesn’t have to be complicated.
What is considered “normal” and what is considered a “warning sign” is not difficult to differentiate if women explore the characteristics of the two at the different stages of a woman’s life and reproductive cycle.
Education is the key to the awareness that helps to make good choices when it comes to women’s health and maintaining vaginal health.
What is Leukorrhea?
Leukorrhea is vaginal discharge related to estrogen levels in a woman’s body.(2)
When estrogen levels are imbalanced, the discharge may increase or decrease without it being a cause for concern.
Throughout a woman’s life, from birth to after menopause, these estrogen levels change for different reasons.
Discharge may increase or decrease at certain times such as during ovulation, pregnancy, post pregnancy, peri-menopause and menopause.
But healthcare services are sometimes required when discharge becomes noticeably different in color, texture and odor.
Causes of Leukorrhea Signaling a Problem
Poor hygiene, sexually transmitted diseases, abnormal growths in the reproductive organs, the presence of abnormal cells, daily diet, restrictive clothing, diabetes and weak immune systems can all lead to issues with vaginal discharge, some requiring healthcare services for treatment, others treatable with changes in diet and hygiene habits.
But symptoms requiring medical attention include severe pain, swelling, rashes, odor, color changes in discharge and growths around and in the vagina.
These symptoms are not considered normal.
Leucorrhea: When it is Normal?
At Birth – Normal Discharge
According to the Penn State Hersey Medical Center website, hormones are passed onto newborns leading to vaginal discharge through the first few weeks of life.(3)
Interestingly, the hormones also cause other effects in a newborn along with vaginal discharge, but there is no need to be alarmed since this is all a natural process in female newborns.
Infant Through to Age 12: Causes for Concern
A disorder referred to as vulvovaginitis relates to poor hygiene, according to the University of Chicago’s Pediatric Clerkship.(4) Poor hygiene may cause infection.
But this is not the only cause of abnormal vaginal discharge during these years – it could also be a sign of child sexual abuse, according to this website, or the wearing of restrictive clothing leading to infections.
It’s important to know that discharge that comes along with discomfort is actually not so uncommon for this age group.
“Between the ages of 3 to 10 years old,” according to an article published by The University College Hospital of London (Hayes and Creighton, 2007), “…poor hygiene as well as reactions to soaps, bubble baths, and lotion lead to issues during these years.”(5)
Sometimes discontinuing these products or changes in hygiene practices may quickly resolve these issues, but healthcare attention is recommended to ensure the cause of the issue is identified and reversed before it progresses.
Age 13 through Adulthood: Normal Discharge
The more a woman knows about hormone changes and discharge that occur at different ages and for different reasons during the reproductive years, the better able she will be to know when medical attention is needed.
This will also contribute to preventative measures for avoiding the same issues in the future. Discharge is usually heavier during ovulation, pregnancy and post pregnancy.
Concerns arise when the color changes and symptoms of discomfort are present.
Age 13 Through to Adulthood: Causes For Concern
Bacterial Vaginitis is an overgrowth of bacteria present in the vagina.
As shared on the electronic version of a leaflet on Patient Platform Limited “The main symptom of Bacterial Vaginitis is a vaginal discharge. This is one of the most common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge in women of childbearing age.”(6)
The symptoms, according to this website, are limited to discharge with color changes and a foul odor.
Treatment for this condition is available over the counter.
There are also home remedies that can cure this condition, as shared on the website “Healthline“.(7)
These remedies include adding the following foods to the daily diet:
Additional remedies suggested on Healthline include wearing cotton undergarments, practicing good hygiene and practicing safe sex.
Other Causes of Increased Vaginal Discharge That Raise Concerns
Female Reproductive System Cancers
Medicinenet lists several symptoms of cancers related to the female reproductive system, including increased vaginal discharge.(8)
This requires medical attention.
One type of cancer is cancer of the vagina, which causes discharge that is watery and sometimes includes the presence of blood and bleeding in between periods.
For more on this type of cancer visit the website National Cancer Institute to read more on the symptoms and signs of vaginal cancer, which includes abnormal discharge.
Another type of female cancer that includes a watery discharge is cervical cancer.
The discharge may be tinged with blood and there may be other symptoms such as back pain and one swollen leg, according to the “Cervical Cancer” article on MedlinePlus.(9)
For more symptoms visit the website, which provides a customer support feature for questions related to content.
Unfortunately, this type of cancer does not have many symptoms until late in the disease, so knowing the early signs including the watery discharge may prevent discovery at a stage that is not treatable.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides an overview of sexually transmitted diseases which include abnormal discharge and may also be related to bacterial vaginitis.
These causes of abnormal vaginal discharge require medical attention.
Untreated, several of these sexually transmitted diseases may lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which also requires medical attention.
According to Princeton University – Women’s Health resource, “Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs, usually caused by sexually transmitted bacteria.”(10)
This website also states that bacteria may also be introduced in other ways such as “during the insertion of an IUD (intrauterine device) or during an abortion.” Symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease include the discomfort symptoms mentioned above along with increased discharge in addition to pelvic discomfort and possibly vaginal bleeding.
Yeast infections are an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina and include similar symptoms compared to the other causes previously mentioned.
Yeast infections also include an increase in discharge as well as itching and burning.
According to Health.com, several factors influence these infections in addition to hormone imbalances.(11)
Diets high in refined sugars and wearing tight clothing are two causes. Other causes include health conditions such as diabetes or a weak immune system.
Pregnancy and even chemotherapy may also lead to yeast infections, according to medicine.net’s article, “Yeast Infection.”(12)
Keeping Yeast Infections From Progressing
To avoid severe yeast infections and possibly cure the start of a yeast infection when symptoms are first observed, do the following:
» Avoid refined sugars
» Wear comfortable Loose Fitting Clothing
» Add Yogurt and Probiotics to the daily diet
Maintaining Normal Discharge
Keeping the vagina free from bacteria is the single most practical method women should apply as a part of daily living.
In addition to avoiding refined sugars and processed foods, which are often high in sugars, wearing cotton undergarments and maintaining good hygiene, are advised.
There are also natural remedies to add to the diet before issues progress.
The following list from the website Top10Homeremedies: offers simple additions to make daily.(13)
- Bananas – one or two eaten daily, this assists in maintaining a healthy vagina.
- Figs – eaten daily, these have a laxative effect to remove toxins from the body
- Cranberries – eaten daily, these antifungals and antioxidants help prevent bacteria from sticking to the vaginal walls.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – add to foods or use as a vaginal wash to prevent harmful bacteria from growing..
- Indian Gooseberry – eaten as a paste or mixed with a drink, this has anti-infection properties and believed to boost vagina health.
- Fenugreek Seeds – prepared as a drink, this boosts the immune system and regulates hormones.
A Proactive Approach to Vagina Health
With awareness and application of simple changes to the daily diet, ensuring good hygiene habits, and dressing in nonrestrictive clothing including cotton undergarments, keeping discharge at a safe and infection free level is not a challenge.
Being aware of any warning signs when changes occur is also a proactive way of ensuring a healthy vagina and reproductive system.
As a woman of this modern age – education and prevention are valuable tools for living well and free from female discharge that interferes with feelings of health and hygiene.