Prevent Abnormal Vaginal Discharge and Infection

It is normal for women during and after puberty to have vaginal secretions. In fact, vaginal mucus plays an important role in helping women to become pregnant. It also plays a role in protecting a growing fetus.

The amount, color, and texture of the mucus changes over the course of a woman's monthly cycle. That said, however, abnormal vaginal discharge can be a sign of an infection. Many factors can play a role in the occurrence of vaginal infections and discharge.

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The Causes of Abnormal Vaginal Discharge and Infection

Abnormal vaginal discharge is different from normal monthly vaginal secretions. It is likely to be accompanied by burning or itching or both and may have a strong odor. This type of discharge should not be ignored because it is a sign of a problem that should be addressed.

Sometimes the infection can be caused by an overgrowth of normal vaginal bacteria. This can cause both itching and discharge. A yeast infection, for example, is itchy and unpleasant. In other cases, the infection is sexually transmitted.

Gonorrhea and chlamydia, for example, are both sexually transmitted infections caused by bacteria which result in vaginal itching and discharge. Left untreated, STDs can cause serious illness and even death. Fortunately, most STDs can be effectively treated with a course of antibiotics.

How to Reduce the Risk of Vaginal Infections

Practicing these simple tips significantly reduces your risk of getting a vaginal infection:

  1. Always wear cotton panties. Cotton allows your genital area to breathe, helping it stay dry. It's also a good idea to wear panties only during the day and not at night when you are sleeping.
  2. Don't use vaginal douches.
  3. Never use petroleum jelly or oils for vaginal lubrication. This can create a breeding ground for bacteria to grow.
  4. If you are being treated for a vaginal infection, use all the medication as directed, even if you think you are better.
  5. Don't have sexual intercourse during treatment for a vaginal infection. Wait until you have no more symptoms.​
  6. Avoid vaginal contact with products that can irritate the vagina, such as feminine hygiene products, perfumed or deodorant soaps, powders, lotions, and bubble baths.
  7. Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing, such as bathing suits, exercise wear, or pantyhose, for prolonged periods of time.
  8. Many times, vaginal infections cause intense itching - don't scratch! Scratching infected, inflamed areas will only make things worse.
  9. If your period starts while you are using vaginal creams or suppositories, continue your regular medication schedule during your period, and don't use tampons - use pads instead.
  10. If you are self-treating a vaginal infection and your symptoms have not improved after treatment, see your healthcare provider for a vaginal exam. Don't use any vaginal products or treatments for 48 hours before your appointment.
  11. Always use condoms during sexual intercourse unless you are in a long-term monogamous relationship.
  12. Always wipe from front to back after urination or having a bowel movement. Improper wiping easily spreads bacteria to the vagina and may lead to vaginal discharge and infection.

Of course, good basic hygiene, getting plenty of sleep, and a well-rounded diet with an appropriate fluid intake are always a good idea for vaginal health, as well as for your overall health and well-being.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Vulvovaginal health.

  2. American Academy of Family Physicians. Vaginal discharge.

Additional Reading

By Tracee Cornforth
Tracee Cornforth is a freelance writer who covers menstruation, menstrual disorders, and other women's health issues.