Let’s face it, vaginal discharge is its own color wheel. As women, it’s so important to know the difference between these colors because it’s your vagina telling you something. The more in tune you are with your body, the more you learn about your health; and when it comes to vaginal health, you should be sure to keep everything in check.

Have you ever wondered what different colors of vaginal discharge mean? 

Under normal conditions, fluids and juices produced by the vagina help to remove the bad bacteria, also known as the “dead” or “worn out cells.” Mother Nature has provided us with self-cleaning abilities to help prevent the accumulation of unwanted debris and overgrowth of bad bacteria which can cause infections like bacterial vaginosis or BV. It’s simple — our body is powerful!

But don’t feel intimidated by all of these different colors or the process of our body as a woman. It’s perfectly normal to have many different colors of discharge, but pay close attention to specific changes like odor, texture, itching, burning, and change of color from clear to greenish. These are key indicators that you might have developed a vaginal infection/pus or that the vagina just isn’t functioning normally.

We’ll get to the details of what different colors indicate, but first, let’s discuss the causes of these changes?

The amount and color of vaginal discharge usually change throughout your menstrual cycle. For instance, you may experience heavy discharge

  • after an exercise session
  • before or after ovulating
  • sexual arousal

Similarly, the color and consistency of discharge might change because of:

  • Bad bacteria growing in your vagina
  • Accumulation of yeast causing infection
  • pH Imbalance.
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Trichomoniasis

You can also experience color shifts such as white, yellow, green, gray or reddish brown. A study showed that unusual changes in consistency, odor, and color of discharge when combined can be an indication of an arising problem.

Below we’ve broken down each color family, what they mean and what infections could be causing them to show up.

White to light yellow, thin discharge

This type of discharge normally means your vagina is functioning properly and going through the motions in perfect health. You might also experience two different types of white to light yellow discharge. First is the typical clear, thin discharge you may notice regularly. This kind of discharge can increase in amount if you are exercising more intensely or because you are sexually active.The second is a clear, stretchy discharge. This is the kind of discharge you’ll notice when you are ovulating. However, if it is accompanied by foul fishy smell, itching and severe burning there are bright chances of BV infection.

  1. Bacterial vaginosis — is usually caused by the growth of unwanted facultative bacteria in your vagina due to pH imbalance, having multiple sex partners, and using soaps, shampoos or creams, that can disturb the acidic nature of the vagina. BV can lead to other vaginal infections and Pelvic Inflammatory Discharge (PID) and it should be treated immediately. It’s clinical symptoms include increased pH, foul-smelling discharge, itching, and burning sensations.

White, thick, foul-smelling

This type of discharge means you’re having trouble maintaining normal levels of yeast in your vagina. Our bodies naturally carry yeast, however, risk factors such as staying in wet clothes, unhygienic lifestyles and having multiple sex partners can cause normal levels to grow to create yeast infections. In addition to its foul smell and unusual cottage cheese-like appearance, yeast infections may cause severe itching and burning.

Dark yellow to greenish

If you notice that your vagina is producing a yellow or greenish discharge, this could likely mean you have a bacterial infection or uncontrolled bacteria growing inside. Yellow and green colors are normally associated with Bacterial Vaginosis or common STD’s such as Trichomoniasis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia. Normally, these colors are accompanied by symptoms like thick gooey consistency, foul smell, and itching.

  1. Trichomoniasis — is another type of vaginal infection caused by Trichomonas vaginalis which can lead to the production of yellow to greenish discharge. It can be spread from one infected person to another through sex partners or unprotected sex. Pay close attention to these symptoms and consult with your doctor to check for sexually transmitted diseases to avoid spreading it to someone else and treating yourself.

  2. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia — These sexually transmitted infections are commonly seen in sexually active women who have multiple sex partners. Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium called Neisseria. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are caused by the spread of bacterium called Chlamydia Trachomatis. Both of the infections result in yellowish, foul-smelling discharge and extreme burning. These infections might also affect the cervix, so must seek treatment according to the bacteria your vagina is producing.

Green to grayish

If you’re seeing green to grayish, cloudy discharge accompanied by pain while urinating, this indicates pus or abscess formed in your vagina, which can cause severe discomfort but can be treated through antibiotics.

Red or brownish

Normally this type of discharge doesn’t indicate anything serious, depending on the stage of your menstrual cycle. For example, if you are at the end of your period cycle, you might see brownish spots which are completely normal. If you are seeing red discharge or spots away from your normal period timeframe, this might mean you are pregnant.

If you are already pregnant and experience red or brownish discharge, unfortunately, this could mean you are having a miscarriage.

In very rare cases, red or brownish discharge might indicate Pelvic Inflammatory Disorder (PID) or possible growth of cancer in your ovaries or cervix. This is why you should constantly be checking the quality and colors of the discharge your vagina is producing. Remember, it is always trying to tell you something!

Now that you are aware of different discharge colors and what they mean, you can keep track of them on your own. If you notice any bad indicators, you should schedule an appointment with your gynecologist immediately — remember, no question is a stupid question. Your gyno should be your confidant!

Although you should never feel shy to explain any sort of symptoms to your doctor, here are some hacks to prevent problems you may encounter.
  1. Avoid scented creams or soaps in the sensitive areas of your vagina. Using chemically infused products can disrupt normal pH levels, allowing bad bacteria to overgrow good bacteria.
  2. Overcleaning. It’s hard, but do not feel the need to overuse vaginal cleansers; your vagina is already, totally capable of cleaning itself. You can use a soft loofah to gently exfoliate the external area, otherwise known as the vulva, with water.
  3. Have protected sex and avoid multiple sex partners. Do not be afraid to have open conversations with your partner about any symptoms you experience to avoid getting or spreading infections. Remember, as a couple you are in this together!
  4. Add Greek yogurt to your diet. If you are not a fan of yogurt, replace it with probiotics and prebiotics. Both yogurt and probiotic supplements help re-establish the balance between harmful and good bacteria.
  5. Always change into dry, clean clothes immediately after an exercise or swimming session. Staying in wet clothing creates optimal conditions for the growth of infection-causing bacteria. 
  6. Keep your undergarments light and airy. 

The last step in our guide is how to treat infections?

These treatment strategies are mainly based on what type of infection you have first, which can be determined by physical examination of the vaginal discharge. Your doctor will ask you questions about its color, smell, signs of itching, burning and more. Depending on your answers, a culture test can then be taken to identify the exact culprit. 

  • Yeast infections can be treated with different antifungals such as Fluconazole, which can be inserted directly into the vagina or applied in the form of a gel.
  • Antibiotics are prescribed in the cases of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), Vaginitis or other bacterial infections which can lead to complications such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) if left untreated. Common medications for treating such infections include Metronidazole and Clindamycin.

If you swear by herbal treatments and home remedies you can always opt for a more natural way to keep a happy v.

  • Add fruits like pineapple, papaya, and cranberries to your diet. These fruits contain high levels of Vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight the bad odor and infections caused by harmful bacteria.
  • Laugh all you want, but keeping garlic on hand works! Garlic is known for its antibiotic qualities and is one of the most commonly suggested home remedies when it comes to preventing and treating yeast and bacterial infections. 
  • Replace chemically infused products and soaps with natural cleansers like lavender or tea tree essential oils. Simply add few drops in warm water and rinse the external parts of your vagina lightly. 

We can’t say it enough — colors and textures of your discharge is your vagina’s way of telling you what’s going on in your body. These colors and symptoms might vary from individual to individual, but always pay close attention to your body and what’s normal for you. It’s important to always keep HappyV!