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Vaginal discharge as a warning sign

Discharge is a good reflection of your vaginal health status, and malodorous discharge should always be considered seriously. Getting to know your body, your discharge, and your scents make it easier to discover when something is not normal. Always remain alert to malodorous or abnormal discharge, especially if you also experience other symptoms such as a burning sensation. Remember that discharge is never supposed to smell bad!








Seek healthcare if your discharge has an unpleasant smell, if it becomes abnormal, or if it appears together with other symptoms such as discomfort or pain from the genital area.


Vaginal discharge may at certain phases of the menstrual cycle become brown or red in color, this happens when the secreted mucus becomes mixed with blood. This is known as spotting or breakthrough bleeding. Discharge with streaks of blood or minor breakthrough bleedings commonly occur just prior to or after menstruation or ovulation. It rarely means that something is wrong. Hormonal contraceptives may initially also cause so-called breakthrough bleeding. However, certain conditions which need medical attention may also cause breakthrough bleeding.

Therefore, you should seek healthcare if you:

  • Experience bleeding during or after sex
  • Suspect a sexually transmitted disease
  • Have used the same contraceptive for more than three months and experience breakthrough bleeding
  • Notice bleeding before the period without an apparent cause
  • Pain in the lower abdomen

Bacterial vaginosis

Vaginal discharge during bacterial vaginosis is often thin, with a color varying between grey and yellow. The amount of discharge is not necessarily more abundant than usual but is characterized by a malodour reminiscent of fish. The symptoms are often exacerbated after menstruation and sexual intercourse. Both sperm and blood raise the pH of the vagina, which in turn promotes the growth of harmful bacteria and in extension the number of amines which are the cause of the malodor.

Fungal infection

During a fungal infection the vaginal discharge may be white, gritty, and with a consistency reminiscent of cottage cheese. The most common manifestations of a fungal infection are itching, stinging, and a burning sensation around the vaginal opening and labia. It is also possible to experience a scent that is similar to yeast.


Chlamydia is asexually transmitted disease, passed on via unprotected sexual intercourse. It does not necessarily present with any typical symptoms but may be associated with pain when urinating, discharge from the vagina or the urethra, and breakthrough bleeding. Some may also experience pain in the lower part of the abdomen. Left untreated a chlamydia infection may progress into infections of the fallopian tubes in women, in turn a risk for permanent damage of the tissue leading to infertility. Chlamydia is sometimes mistaken for the sexually transmitted infection Mycoplasma genitalium.

Mycoplasma genitalium

Genital mycoplasma infections present with largely the same symptoms as chlamydia. Common symptoms include pain when urinating, itching in the genital area, breakthrough bleeding or a change in discharge, and low abdominal pain. Like chlamydia it is a sexually transmitted disease.


Trichomoniasis does not always present with
any symptoms. Possible signs of a trichomoniasis infection include abundant and malodorous discharge, which can be foamy and sometimes mingled with blood. The genital area may feel swollen, and sometimes it can sting when urinating.



Learn more about vaginal health:

Seek medical treatment if you suspect that
you are affected by any of the above diseases, if your discharge is malodorous,
seems abnormal, or appears together with other symptoms such as genital
discomfort or pain.

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