Women’s Understanding and Cultural Practices Related to Vaginal Discharge: A Qualitative Study

Document Type : Original Article



Background: Vaginal discharge is a common gynecological complaint among women in the reproductive age group. Objective: The aim of this study was to explore cultural practices and health‑seeking behaviors related to vaginal discharge among women living in a socially marginalized community in Colombo district, Sri Lanka. Methods: A descriptive qualitative design was used in this study. Three focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted in an urban slum community among women who had a previous history with vaginal discharge. A total of 23 women of different ethnicities and religions were included. FGDs were audio recorded and field notes were taken. Verbatim transcripts were analyzed on the basis of qualitative content analysis. Results: Six themes emerged from the data, namely, confusion in differentiating normal from abnormal vaginal discharge, effects on day‑to‑day life, confusion toward the causative factors, difficulties in disclosing, neglecting behaviors, and socio‑cultural influences toward health‑seeking behaviors. Majority of women expressed that they use home remedies before consulting a doctor for abnormal vaginal discharge. Conclusions: Women are unable to differentiate normal from abnormal vaginal discharge. Thus, it is important for nurses and primary healthcare workers to plan health education activities for women to empower them with adequate knowledge and improve their health‑seeking behaviors.