- A change in your vaginal discharge color means your vagina is telling you something. Knowing the difference between normal discharge and atypical discharge can actually help you identify a yeast infection, a sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia, and even pregnancy!
- Unusual changes in consistency, like changing from thin to clumpy discharge, abnormal smells, and sudden changes in the color of discharge when combined can be an indication of a problem.
- If you’re experiencing a change in your regular discharge, pay close attention to foul odor, texture, vaginal itching, burning, and a change in color from clear to greenish—these are key indicators that you might have developed a vaginal infection or that you don’t have a healthy vagina.
Table of Contents
- Does the Color of My Vaginal Discharge Matter?
- What Causes Changes in Vaginal Discharge?
- White Discharge to Light Yellow Vaginal Discharge
- Dark Yellow to Green Vaginal Discharge
- Green to Gray Vaginal Discharge
- Red or Brown Vaginal Discharge
- How To Keep Your Vagina Clean and Avoid Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
- When To See A Health Care Provider for Unusual Discharge
- Knowing the Difference Between Healthy Discharge and Abnormal Discharge Can Help You Have a Happy V
Let’s face it, the vagina is pretty amazing. Not only is it self cleaning and perfectly pH balanced, but it can even tell you when it’s not feeling well through vaginal discharge!
Vaginal discharge may just seem like a part of everyday life, but knowing the difference between normal discharge and atypical discharge can actually help you identify a yeast infection, a sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia, and even pregnancy! A change in your vaginal discharge color means your vagina is telling you something. When it comes to feminine wellness, the more you know, the better!
Does the Color of My Vaginal Discharge Matter?
In a healthy body, the vagina helps keep the body clean by naturally producing cervical fluid to help remove the accumulation of unwanted debris and overgrowth of bad bacteria which can cause infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV). But the appearance of this fluid can change; atypical discharge can be a sign of miscarriage, a sign of pregnancy, or a sign of an infection.
It’s perfectly normal to have many different colors of discharge, including pink discharge, brown discharge, or even black discharge! However, a recent study indicated that unusual changes in consistency, like changing from thin to clumpy discharge, abnormal smells, and sudden changes in the color of discharge when combined can be an indication of a problem. (1) If you’re experiencing a change in your regular discharge, pay close attention to foul odor, texture, vaginal itching, burning, and a change in color from clear to greenish, particularly if you’ve recently started having sexual intercourse with a new partner or changed your birth control method. These are key indicators that you might have developed a vaginal infection or that you don’t have a healthy vagina.
What Causes Changes in Vaginal Discharge?
The amount and color of vaginal discharge usually change throughout your menstrual period. For instance, you may experience heavier discharge:
- After an exercise session
- Before or after ovulating
- Due to sexual arousal
If you’re experiencing unusual vaginal discharge—or even if you have normal discharge! — check out what these common colors of vaginal discharge may mean.
White Discharge to Light Yellow Vaginal Discharge
White or yellow discharge normally means you have a healthy vagina. There are two types of very normal 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 white discharge. This is the kind of discharge you’ll typically notice when you are ovulating. However, if it is accompanied by foul fishy odor, intense itching, or severe burning, you might have a BV infection or a vaginal yeast infection.
Bacterial vaginosis is usually caused by the growth of unwanted facultative bacteria in your vagina due to pH imbalance; having multiple sex partners; or using scented soaps, shampoos, or creams that disturb the acidic nature of the vagina. BV can lead to other vaginal infections as well as Pelvic Inflammatory Discharge (PID), (2) so it should be treated immediately. Its clinical symptoms include increased pH, discharge with an unpleasant smell, and itching and burning sensations. (3)
Yeast infections occur because you’re having trouble maintaining normal levels of yeast in your vagina. Our bodies naturally carry yeast; however, wearing wet or tight clothes, like swimming suits or biking shorts, living unhygienic lifestyles, and having multiple sex partners can increase your likelihood of yeast infections.
In addition to its foul smell and unusual white, chunky discharge, some common symptoms of yeast infections include severe itching and vaginal irritation. To prevent frequent yeast infections and keep your vagina healthy, wear cotton underpants, avoid tight pants, and change your panty liner frequently.
When you have signs of bacterial vaginosis or yeast infections, taking a high quality probiotic can help.
In a double-blind, placebo-clinical study involving 48 women who took either a placebo or the two main probiotics in Happy V’s Pre+Pro, women saw a significant decrease in vaginal discharge related to both yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
Dark Yellow to Green Vaginal Discharge
If you notice that your vagina is producing a yellow or greenish discharge, this may mean you have a bacterial infection in your vagina causing BV, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia. (4) These unusual vaginal discharge colors are often accompanied by symptoms like thick gooey consistency, foul smell, and itching.
Trichomoniasis is a type of vaginal infection caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. (5) It can be spread from person to person through unprotected sex. If you notice dark yellow or green discharge, get tested for sexually transmitted diseases by your health care provider to avoid spreading it and to get treatment.
Gonorrhea and Chlamydia
Gonorrhea and chlamydia are commonly seen in sexually active women who have multiple sex partners. Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium called Neisseria, and chlamydia is caused by the spread of a bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis. Both of these infections result in yellowish discharge with a bad smell and extreme burning. (6) These infections might also affect the cervix, so it’s important to seek medical care if you notice symptoms.
Green to Gray Vaginal Discharge
Green or grayish cloudy discharge accompanied by painful urination may indicate pus or an abscess in your vagina. While this can cause severe discomfort, it should resolve with antibiotic treatment.
Red or Brown Vaginal Discharge
Depending on the stage of your menstrual cycle, this type of discharge doesn’t indicate anything serious. If you are at the end of your period cycle, you might see brownish spots from dried blood, which are completely normal. Red or pink discharge between periods might mean you are pregnant.
Unfortunately, red or brown discharge can also signify a serious medical condition. If you are already pregnant and notice red or brownish discharge, this could mean you are having a miscarriage. In very rare cases, red or brownish discharge might indicate PID or ovarian or cervical cancer. (7)
How To Keep Your Vagina Clean and Avoid Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
Wondering how to keep your vagina happy and avoid vaginal infections? With a few simple tips, you can prevent unusual discharge and maintain the health of your vagina.
- Avoid using scented creams or soaps in your vagina. Using chemically infused products can disrupt normal pH levels, allowing bad bacteria to overgrow good bacteria.
- Do not overuse vaginal cleansers; remember, your vagina is already capable of cleaning itself. Instead, use a soft loofah to gently exfoliate the external area, known as the vulva, with water.
- Use protection when you have sex, and avoid having multiple sexual partners. Don’t be afraid to have open conversations with your partner about any unusual symptoms you experience to avoid getting or spreading infections. Remember, as a couple you are in this together!
- Add Greek yogurt to your diet to support good bacteria in your vagina. If you are not a fan of yogurt, replace it with a prebiotic and probiotic for vaginal health. Both yogurt and probiotic supplements help re-establish the balance between harmful and good bacteria, which supports gut health and vaginal health.
- Always change into dry, clean clothes immediately after exercising or swimming. Staying in wet clothing helps infection-causing bacteria grow. The same goes for your underwear—keep your undergarments light and airy. Tight, moist environments support the growth of bad bacteria.
When To See A Health Care Provider for Unusual Discharge
If you notice atypical discharge, it’s important to discuss it with your health care provider. Your provider will start by determining what type of infection you have through a physical examination of the vaginal discharge. Your doctor will ask you questions about its color and smell and whether it itches, burns, or is associated with any other strange symptoms, like abdominal pain or pain with urination. Depending on your answers, a culture may then be taken to identify the exact culprit.
- Yeast infections can be treated with different antifungal medications such as Fluconazole. These may be inserted directly into the vagina or applied in the form of a gel.
- Antibiotics are prescribed for BV, vaginitis, or other bacterial infections which can lead to complications such as PID if left untreated. Common medications for treating such infections include Metronidazole and Clindamycin.
Knowing the Difference Between Healthy Discharge and Abnormal Discharge Can Help You Have a Happy V
We can’t say it enough—the human body is amazing. The colors and textures of your vaginal discharge is your vagina’s way of telling you what’s going on in your body. These colors and symptoms might vary from person to person, so it’s important to pay close attention to your body and learn what’s normal for you.