Some vaginal discharge is normal and when it is normal, it usually means the woman has clear, whitish or yellowish discharge that has no odor and that does not significantly stain their underwear. When the discharge becomes smelly, it can indicate that there is an infection going on that can cause other vaginal symptoms like burning on urination, itching, vaginal pain on intercourse or burning vaginal pain. Smelly discharge is not a normal vaginal phenomenon when it comes to otherwise healthy women.
It means that it is time to see the doctor, especially if she has other symptoms that are bothering her. When she develops smelly discharge, it is a good time to note the color and consistency of the discharge as this can be a clue as to the cause of the smelly discharge.
There are several different kinds of malodorous discharge that differ in color and characteristics. Many of these represent female organ infections that need antibiotics or antifungal treatment. Here are some examples:
- Bacterial Vaginosis. This is an imbalance of the type and number of organisms residing in the cervix or in the vagina and can be transmitted from one person to another through sexual activity. When you have bacterial vaginosis, there can be an increase in gray or brown smelly discharge from baseline levels and you may experience burning on urination and vaginal burning pain. You may notice a fishy odor to the discharge—it ceases to become odorless. Besides being embarrassing, this kind of smelly discharge can lead to an increase in small for gestational age babies and premature labor in women who develop it during pregnancy.
- Trichomoniasis in pregnancy. This is a type of sexually transmitted disease that can change the character of the discharge you notice. Rather than being white in color, the discharge can become thicker and more copious. The discharge is white smelly discharge, yellow smelly discharge or even green smelly discharge. When you have a Trichomonas infection in pregnancy, you are infected with a parasite that can change the character of the vaginal discharge and can contribute to burning pain with intercourse and an increase in risk of developing preterm labor. The infection can spread up inside the uterus to infect the amniotic fluid that surrounds your baby in the womb. This can lead to the preterm contractions that can cause a premature birth. In general, the discharge will be frothy and greener with Trichomoniasis and can be very malodorous. If you experience this type of vaginal discharge regardless of whether or not you are pregnant, seek the advice of your doctor. If Trichomonas is identified, you can be placed on antibiotic therapy, such as metronidazole.