The difference between bacterial vaginosis and thrush

Most of the time, a vaginal discharge is perfectly normal. However, it’s important to recognise the signs of an abnormal vaginal discharge as it could be a sign of an infection or other health condition.


Vaginal discharge is fluid secreted from tiny glands in the vagina and cervix. This fluid leaks from the vagina each day to remove old cells and debris, keeping the vagina and reproductive tract clean and healthy.

Is it normal?

Most of the time, a vaginal discharge is perfectly normal. The amount can vary, as can odour and colour, which can range from clear to a milky whiteish, depending on the time in your menstrual cycle. For example, there will be more discharge when you’re ovulating, breastfeeding, or when you are sexually aroused. It may smell different when you’re pregnant or if you’ve been letting your personal hygiene slide.

A typical vaginal discharge does not have an offensive smell and does not cause any irritation. It’s quite likely that you won’t even know you have any discharge until you see some in your underwear. It is usually clear or creamy in colour. Sometimes there may be a slight yellow tint to it.

Your menstrual cycle has a significant effect on the type of vaginal discharge you experience throughout the month. About halfway between your periods, you will see a normal increase in clear vaginal discharge. This increased wetness and clear vaginal discharge signals ovulation. That is the time of the month when you are fertile and can get pregnant.

ALSO SEE: How to calculate your ovulation day

Signs of an abnormal vaginal discharge

It’s important to recognise the signs of abnormal vaginal discharge as it could be a sign of an infection or other health condition.

The following could be signs of an abnormal vaginal discharge:

  • A discharge that suddenly and randomly increases
  • A bright yellow or greenish discharge
  • A thick clumped or chunky discharge
  • A very watery discharge.

These signs can all indicate that something is amiss down there.

The difference between bacterial vaginosis (BV) and thrush

It’s common for women to get confused between bacterial vaginosis and thrush.

Both yeast infections and BV are vaginal infections and are common causes of vaginal discharge, but the two conditions are not the same.

ALSO SEE: 5 types of vaginal discharge during pregnancy

Bacterial vaginosis

A change in your vaginal pH may trigger BV. A change in pH can cause the bacteria that naturally grow inside your vagina to become more dominant than it should. The most common bacteria that causes an overgrowth is Gardnerella vaginalis.

Some symptoms of BV include:  

  • A “fishy” odour that gets stronger after sex or during menstruation
  • Thin grey, yellow, or greenish vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal itching
  • Burning during urination.

Yeast infection

Yeast infections can develop if there’s an overgrowth of the Candida fungus in the vagina.

Some symptoms of thrush includes:

  • Thick, white, “cottage cheese-like” vaginal discharge
  • Redness and swelling around the vaginal opening
  • Pain, soreness, and itching of the vulva
  • Burning during urination
  • Burning during sex.

While not all vaginal problems can be prevented, regular checkups can help ensure that problems affecting your vagina are diagnosed as soon as possible. Don’t let embarrassment prevent you from talking to your doctor about any concerns you might have about your vaginal health.

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DISCLAIMER: This editorial has been commissioned and brought to you by iNova Pharmaceuticals. Content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

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