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Bacteria are omnipresent. The same holds true for vaginal secretions as well. The normal bacteria present in vaginal secretions are lactobacilli. They are a part of the normal vaginal flora and it is believed that they play a role in protecting the vaginal epithelium against infection. These bacteria flourish in a pH between 3.8 and 4.4, which is the normal vaginal pH. However, the pH of the vagina may get altered during the different phases of the menstrual cycle or because of factors like consuming birth control pills, using certain deodorants, wearing the wrong kind of undergarments, douching and unhealthy sexual practices. Certain diseases like diabetes and health conditions like pregnancy and menopause wherein the estrogen level falls may also cause the pH to change. Any alteration in the vaginal pH is harmful for the normal vaginal flora and encourages the growth of harmful bacteria. This may lead to vaginal infections associated with abnormal discharges.
The normal vaginal discharge is either clear or white in color. It becomes slippery in consistency at the time of ovulation, which is around two weeks after your menstrual period. Normally the vaginal discharge is odorless. However, in the presence of any infection, the vaginal discharge no longer remains clear and is often accompanied by a foul smell.
Common conditions that may lead to abnormal vaginal discharges
Some of the most common conditions which can alter the vaginal pH and consequently lead to vaginal infections and abnormal discharges include:
- Exercising in tight fitting clothes
- Wearing non- cotton synthetic undergarments which do not allow proper air circulation. Hence, the sweat doesn’t dry up.
- Use of antibiotics
- Use of birth control pills
- Use of scented products like soaps, pads, tampons and douches
- Sexually transmitted diseases
Commonly encountered vaginal infections
Abnormal vaginal discharges are commonly associated with the following infections:
Bacterial vaginosis is a condition wherein the normal vaginal flora is replaced by an overgrowth of certain anaerobic bacteria like Gardnerella vaginalis, Mycoplasma, Ureaplasma, Prevotella sp., Mobiluncus sp., etc.
Trichomoniasis is a condition where the vagina is infected by T. vaginalis. This is a single cellular parasite which spreads during sexual contact.
Yeast is normally present in the vaginal flora. An overgrowth of yeast (Candida) especially associated with the use of antibiotics can lead to candidiasis.
This is a sexually transmitted disease caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
This is again a sexually transmitted disease caused by Chlamydia trachomatis. The disease is characterized by no other symptom except a foul smelling vaginal discharge.