Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
Is it OK to get oral sex if my discharge looks like cottage cheese?
I have discharge that looks like cottage cheese...and my vagina itches. But I have no other signs of illness. Is it OK to receive oral sex?
Eric Christoff, MD, AAHIVM on September 26, 2011
Thanks so much for sharing your concern about your health...and your partner’s health. I’m pleased to offer you my best thoughts on your circumstances.
First, just so you know, some vaginal discharge is normal for most women. The body cleans the vagina by flushing out dead cells and normal bacteria every day...in fact, a woman may have between 1 and 4 milliliters of vaginal discharge per day. Normal discharge can be white and thick, and may have a slight odor.
However, if the discharge has a strong odor or is accompanied by vaginal itching, burning and pain...then there’s a possibility that you have a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, or maybe even a sexually transmitted infection.
Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of fungus called candida albicans, which overpowers good bacteria in the vagina. Diabetes, feminine hygiene sprays, certain soaps, antibiotics, or tight undergarments worn in hot weather can all contribute to the imbalance.
Meanwhile, bacterial vaginosis (BV) is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. In fact, this condition is the most common cause of vaginal discharge in women of childbearing age, accounting for 40-50% of cases. And according to a 2007 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 29% of women between the ages of 14 and 49 have BV.
Additionally, the CDC reports that untreated BV increases the risk of premature birth for pregnant mothers and increases the risk of contracting STDs like HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes.
To know for sure if you do or don't have one of these (or other) STDs, I would encourage you and your sexual partner to get tested. From there, you can either rule out STDs, or you can take the next steps toward treatment and safer sex practices.
The good news is that all STDs are treatable and many are curable.
Bottom line? Because there are several possible causes of your symptoms, I would encourage you to see your doctor for a full examination of your vaginal discharge and itching, and to discuss whether STD testing is right for you.
As for oral sex being performed on you…if the discharge you’re experiencing is normal, and you don’t have a vaginal infection, and neither you or your partner have any sexually transmitted infections, then giving and receiving oral sex should be OK for both of you. But, again, until you’ve seen your doctor to determine the cause of your symptoms, I would encourage your partner to use a latex dental dam when giving you oral sex.
While dental dams and condoms aren’t foolproof, they go a long way toward reducing the risk of transmitting STDs or other infections during sexual activity.
Thanks again for your thoughtful question, and I hope you’ll soon consult a doctor about the cause of your symptoms.
- CDC: Bacterial Vaginosis
- Washington University School of Medicine: Prevalence of bacterial vaginosis: 2001-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data
Dr. Christoff is a practicing physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. His areas of expertise include the treatment of HIV and syphilis along with other STDs, the medical treatment of depression and chronic fatigue, and the specific health needs of gay and lesbian patients. Dr. Christoff was educated at the University of Toledo, College of Medicine and completed his residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.