Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
My vagina is itchy and white with some kind of mucous. What should I do?
About three days ago, my private parts started to get very itchy. When I looked at my vagina with a hand mirror, it looked like the opening to my vagina was white with some kind of mucous. What should I do? Will this influence my relationship with my husband of two years? Will I still be able to get pregnant?
Lisa Oldson, MD on September 13, 2011
You’ve asked some good questions, and I’m glad to know that you’re observant of changes in your body. Without examining you, I can’t tell you for sure what’s causing your symptoms...but I’m happy to explore with you some possible causes so that you’re perhaps better informed when you see your regular doctor.
You might have a vaginal yeast infection. Yeast infections are actually quite common in women…especially women who are sexually active. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that about 75% of women will have at least one yeast infection during their lives.
Or, you might have bacterial vaginosis (BV), or the STD trichomoniasis. Both of these infections can cause unusual vaginal discharge, and trichomoniasis can also cause itching. A pelvic exam by your doctor will show which of these infections, if any, might be causing your symptoms.
What’s the treatment? If you have a yeast infection, the treatment is a simple anti-fungal medication. If you have bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to kill the infection. The good news is that all of this conditions are curable.
What about getting pregnant? A yeast infection shouldn’t influence your chances of getting pregnant. But if you have bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis, there’s a slight possibility that ⎼ if left untreated ⎼ these bacterial infection could contribute to infertility.
Or, if you’re already pregnant and you have an untreated infection, you might be at a slightly higher risk of giving birth early. However, as long as you visit your doctor soon to get tested and treated for whatever is causing your symptoms, you shouldn’t have to worry about infertility or early birth.
STDs that can cause a discharge include gonorrhea, chlamydia and ⎼ less likely ⎼ herpes and others. So, although it may well turn out that your discharge isn’t STD-related, it’s a good idea to rule out STDs by getting tested.
Finally, how will this impact your sexual relationship with your husband? No matter what infection you have, I would encourage you to stop having sex during treatment (for most of these infections, treatment lasts seven days or less). Also, If you have trichomoniasis, it would be a good idea for you your husband to be treated at the same time as you are.
But besides not having sex for about a week, none of these infections should affect your sex life.
Hopefully this information is helpful in understanding some possible causes of your vaginal discharge and itching. Your doctor will be able to provide you a definite diagnosis and prescription for treatment, if needed.
Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.