article_vaginal-infection.jpgAre you worried that the discharge you see in your underwear could be a sign of more serious things? Before you panic, let’s first determine the difference between normal and abnormal discharge. All women have discharge--it’s how the vagina cleans itself. While you use soap to clean the outer parts of your body, the body has also its own way of cleaning particular parts that you couldn't reach.

Now that we’ve got that sorted out, here are ways to tell if your discharge is normal or if it’s an indication of an infection.

NORMAL
- Color: clear or white; variable quantity
- Odor: none
- Other symptoms: none

BACTERIAL
- Discharge: thin; grey or white; sticky; excessive discharge
- Odor: bad, fishy odor (worse after intercourse)
- Other symptoms: possible itching

PARASITIC (TRICHOMONAS)
- Discharge: yellow-green; frothy; excessive discharge
- Odor: fishy or foul
- Other symptoms: itching; painful urination

FUNGAL (CANDIDA)
- Discharge: white and curdy, like cottage cheese; normal or increased discharge
- Odor: none
- Other symptoms: itching or burning

(First published as “Normal Discharge?” in the “Health Check” section of Good Housekeeping Philippines’ August 2001 issue. Adapted for use in Female Network. Photo by Callee MacAulay via Flickr Creative Commons; used for illustrative purposes only.)

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