The body alerts us in subtle ways if something is not quite right.
That is why women should pay attention to any change in the colour, consistency or amount of their vaginal discharge.
Such a discharge usually presents after a girl reaches puberty and it serves to protect the vagina against infections while providing lubrication.
Ms Quek Imm Pin, an advanced practice nurse (community - women's health) at the Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic's nursing services, said the amount of discharge produced depends on the body's level of oestrogen.
Infections can also cause abnormal discharge.
Women with bacterial vaginosis - when there is a change in the number and types of bacteria in the vagina - could have an unusual amount of discharge that has a fishy odour.
Vulvovaginal candidiasis, known as thrush or yeast infection, could also cause itchiness, soreness and a curdy discharge.
To reduce the risk of developing such infections, women should eat and sleep well, exercise regularly and manage their stress properly.
Other tips include:
1. Adopt good hygiene habits
Use water or unscented non-soap cleansers to wash the genital area.
Rinse with water or pat dry after using the toilet.
Choose underwear made of breathable material, such as cotton, and avoid synthetic fibres which may trap moisture and heat.
Avoid douching or using feminine hygiene products, baby wipes or scented toilet paper.
2. Beware of antibiotics
Take antibiotics only if the doctor prescribes them. Most antibiotics kill a wide variety of bacteria including the "good" ones in the vagina.
3. Keep diabetes in check
Diabetics, whose conditions are poorly controlled may have glucose in the urine, which encourages the growth of candida (a fungus) that leads to vulvovaginal candidiasis.
4. Talk to your doctor
Women who are taking oral birth control pills, undergoing intra-vaginal oestrogen therapy or are fitted with an intrauterine contraceptive device may be more prone to vulvovaginal candidiasis. They may wish to discuss this with the doctor and explore other contraception methods.
Brought to you by the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics as part of the Care To Go Beyond campaign. For more information, go to www.caretogobeyond.sg.
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