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Dr David Nunns, Consultant Gynaecologist
There is no getting around the fact that going to the toilet to discover you have developed a discharge that strongly resembles cottage cheese is not a great feeling.
However, its cause is one of the more commonly suffered, and most-often discussed infections that women can get, but would you know what exactly a yeast infection is, and how to recognise it? We’re here to give you the details.
The good news is that at least your body has let you know something is wrong, and it can generally be easily fixed, so it is not all bad – and there is no need to panic.
While white-coloured discharge is totally normal, texture-wise it should be the same all the way through, without lumps – whether it is sticky, gooey, thin, elastic or thick. This alternative version with clumps in it is not so great, and is very rarely going to be a positive discovery.
The closest thing we can compare it to is cottage cheese (and we’re so sorry if this puts you off your favourite jacket potato topping for life!) But if what you see in your underwear, or on the toilet paper when wiping after a trip to the loo, is thick curd-like discharge with white chunks in it, then that is what we are talking about here.
Other signs that you may have it include itching in the area, or some pain or swelling, and stinging during sex or having a wee. You might also notice a yeasty sort of smell in your underwear.
There are a number of reasons that you can end up with this strange looking discharge, but the main cause of cottage cheese discharge is thrush – or candidiasis.
A yeast infection occurs when the balance of bacteria changes in the vagina, and allows a fungus to grow. This fungus is naturally inside your body and is totally harmless until these new conditions allow it to develop.
It thrives in a moist, warm environment, and is more likely to occur if you have diabetes, are pregnant, are taking antibiotics, or have irritated or damaged skin in the area. It can be passed on by sexual contact, but can also develop even if you aren’t sexually active.
The other main reason for getting cottage cheese discharge is an STI – sexually transmitted infection. The main difference in this discharge is that, unlike with thrush, the chances are it will be accompanied by a strong, unpleasant smell, kind of like fish.
White cottage cheese-like consistency is definitely the most common, but other colours are not impossible. Here is a quick low-down of what you can maybe expect from them:
A pink discharge yeast infection: generally a sign that you have some blood mixed in with your discharge, affecting the yeast infection discharge colour. The lining of your uterus might have been irritated by the infection, causing some light bleeding. Don’t be surprised if your discharge turns pink after you get treatment, as the treatment cream can cause a minor amount of blood in the discharge too.
Otherwise, you may just be getting close to your period, and small bits of blood are appearing. In the short term, there is no need to worry, but if it continues, it is best to get it checked out.
A yellow or green discharge yeast infection: it can become yellow if your discharge naturally has a pale yellow or creamy tinge to it. But more likely than not, like a yeast infection with green discharge, it may signify that something else is going on – either as well as, or instead of a yeast infection.
These colours generally tend to mean you have a bacterial infection or an STI, and should get this looked at by a doctor or at a sexual health clinic.
You have probably heard of some of the natural remedies for thrush – apple cider vinegar, probiotic yoghurt, tea tree oil, garlic, vitamin C… but ultimately – and particularly if it is the first time you have experienced it – you should see your doctor.
Treatment from medical professionals usually entails antifungal medicine, in the form of a tablet or cream, and should clear up within a week or two. If an STI is a cause, the doctor will determine which one it is, and prescribe your treatment.
In the meantime, try to get rid of at least a part of the discomfort and get yourself Always Dailies Panty Liners to wear. They will prevent the discharge from staining your undies, and in the case of STIs, the scented version can help omit the odour.
They can also be handy whilst you are going through treatment, as creams and tablets can cause some extra discharge. They are dermatologically tested, so it is perfectly safe to wear them daily.
There are a few steps you can take to reduce your chances of thrush or an STI.
Basically, all women have some yeast cells in their vagina, and that is perfectly fine and harmless. But if the balance changes and yeast cells become too prevalent, then things start to go a bit pear-shaped, and an infection can kick in. It can be passed on by sexual contact, but can also develop even if you aren’t sexually active.
When you have a yeast infection, you may notice unusual pain or burning sensations in the area, as well as a strong urge to itch. If you believe this is what you have, the advice is to make a doctor’s appointment, as they should be able to give you the treatment to sort it out quickly and easily.
The regular yeast infection discharge colour is white. The discharge will probably be thicker than normal, with clumps in it. It doesn’t normally have a strong smell, but you may notice a bit of a yeasty whiff.
If it is the first time you have suffered from thrush, the advice is generally to see your doctor. The same applies if you are pregnant, treatment hasn’t worked, or you are under 16 or over 60. If a yeast infection is something you have gone through before, a trip to the chemist may be sufficient.
You will get an antifungal tablet or cream to treat the infection, and your discharge should clear up within a week or two. Be aware that medicine itself can temporarily generate extra discharge.
Don’t worry if you find you have white discharge after yeast infection treatment, as it may well just be parts of the medication leaving your body with your discharge. Alternatively, things may have returned to normal and you are just at a point in your cycle where white discharge is to be expected.
Of course, if it is still lumpy or you are concerned that this is still a white yeast infection discharge, make a new appointment and go back to see your doctor with your concerns.
A yellow discharge yeast infection is possible if your discharge naturally has a pale yellow or creamy tinge to it. But more likely than not, like a yeast infection with green discharge, it may signify that something else is going on (either as well as, or instead of a yeast infection). These colours generally tend to mean you have a bacterial infection or STI, and should get this looked at by a doctor, or at a sexual health clinic.
Pink discharge after yeast infection treatment may be a sign that the cream has irritated your vagina, causing a bit of bleeding that has mixed with your discharge. A small amount is not unusual, but if it continues, or if you are feeling raw or painful inside, do follow up with your doctor.
When you are dealing with a yeast infection, you will obviously be focused on getting rid of it as quickly as possible. But in the meantime, it is worth looking at the option of panty liners.
As yeast infection discharge is a bit unpleasant, using liners can stop it leaving stains in your underwear and prevent yeast infection discharge from leaving you feeling wet and uncomfortable. You can choose from a range of Always Dailies Panty Liners. They will leave you feeling clean and fresh and are safe to wear on a daily basis, having been dermatologically tested.