Vaginal discharge: expert tells us what’s normal, what’s not and when to worry 

Vaginal discharge is normal in all women. The discharge is made up of cells and bacteria that lubricate and clean the vagina, and help to fight off infection. It ranges in colours, consistancy and smell. All of this is important to know because any change could be a sign that something’s wrong and you need to see a doctor. Health-e News speaks to Durban-based gynaecologist Dr. Sibu Lubelwana about changes in vaginal discharge and what to look out for. 

What do the changes in discharge mean? 

  • A greyish discharge is associated with bacterial vaginosis. This is caused by a bacterial imbalance in the vagina. Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition in women. If left untreated it can lead to problems in pregnancy including miscarriage and preterm delivery. It also increases the risk of getting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. But it can be treated with antibiotics. This type of discharge has a fishy smell and causes itching in the vagina. 
  • Brownish discharge is old blood at the end of the menstrual cycle. It is normal when it happens around two days after your period. But bleeding outside of the menstrual period could be a sign of hormonal imbalances, fibroids, or pelvic inflammatory disease. It is important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. 
  • Greenish or yellow discharge could be caused by a bacterial infection. It can also be caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like gonorrhoea. Symptoms of infections may include pain during sex or while urinating. Luckily, treatment is available for most STIs.   

Go to a doctor if you spot any unusual colour in your discharge. That way you can be properly checked and diagnosed. 

How can I keep my vagina healthy? 

Always prioritise your well-being and see a doctor when in doubt. Early detection and intervention can contribute to a healthier vagina and reproductive journey. 

Avoid cleaning their genital areas with soap. This can disturb the natural ph balance. Remember, the vagina is self-cleansing, so using soaps could interfere with the bacteria found naturally in the vagina and lead to its overgrowth.

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You should also wear breathable underwear to allow air circulation and decrease moisture. This helps to prevent infections.

What about sexual hygiene?

The most important thing often overlooked is practising safe sex.

This means you should ensure that your sex toys are always clean before using, and avoid lubricants that affect the protective bacteria in the vagina. 

Use protection to prevent sexually transmitted infections. 

Can a healthy diet improve my vaginal health? 

Yes, living a healthy lifestyle is important. 

A balanced diet helps to improve your overall health. This includes your immune system, which plays a significant role in preventing infections. Habits such as eating plain yoghurt, drinking lots of water and avoiding sugary food are a good start to a healthy lifestyle. – Health-e News

*This article is for information purposes only and is not medical advice. 


  • Oratile Kekana

    Oratile is a journalism graduate from the Tshwane University of Technology. Her journalism journey began at Zebediela FM, where she worked as a news reader. At university, she joined TUT FM as a presenter and producer. She later interned at the Polokwane Observer, where she worked as a general reporter and photographer. In her free time, she’s also a TikTok content creator.

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