Recurrent vaginal discharge in children

J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2013 Aug;26(4):205-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpag.2011.12.065. Epub 2012 Jan 20.


Background: Childhood vaginal discharge remains a frequent reason for referral from primary to secondary care. The Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology (PAG) service at Kettering General Hospital was established in 1993 and provides a specialized service that meets the needs of children with gynaecological conditions.

Aim: To investigate recurrent vaginal discharge noting symptomatology, defining pathogens, common and rarer causes, exploring management regimes, and any changes in practice over time.

Method: Retrospective review spanning 15 years identifying prepubertal children attending the outpatient PAG clinic with recurrent vaginal discharge. We reviewed the medical notes individually.

Results: 110 patients were identified; 85% were referred from primary care. The age distribution was bimodal at four and eight years. Thirty-five percent of our patients were discharged after the initial consultation. The commonest cause of discharge was vulvovaginitis (82%). Other important causes included suspected sexual abuse (5%), foreign body (3%), labial adhesions (3%), vaginal agenesis (2%). 35% of patients were admitted for vaginoscopy.

Conclusion: Vaginal discharge is the most common gynecological symptom in prepubertal girls and can cause repeated clinical episodes. Vulvovaginitis is the most common cause and often responds to simple hygiene measures. Awareness of the less common causes of vaginal discharge is essential.

Keywords: Prepubertal; Sexual abuse; Vaginal discharge; Vulvovaginitis.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual
  • Child, Preschool
  • Congenital Abnormalities
  • Female
  • Foreign Bodies / complications*
  • Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Steroids / therapeutic use
  • Tissue Adhesions / complications
  • Vagina / abnormalities
  • Vaginal Creams, Foams, and Jellies / therapeutic use
  • Vaginal Discharge / etiology*
  • Vaginal Discharge / microbiology
  • Vaginal Discharge / therapy
  • Vulvovaginitis / complications*
  • Vulvovaginitis / drug therapy
  • Vulvovaginitis / microbiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Hormones
  • Steroids
  • Vaginal Creams, Foams, and Jellies

Supplementary concepts

  • Vagina, absence of