Vaginal Discharge Color – White, Yellow, Pink, Brown, and Green: What Does It Mean?

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Vaginal Discharge Color - White, Yellow, Pink, Brown, and Green
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Normal vaginal discharge is usually a clear-white or whitish sticky fluid that changes in consistency in the menstrual cycle. Vaginal discharge color can also tell you something about the health of your vagina. For example, thick white discharge, yellow cervical mucus, or green vaginal discharge can mean an infection, especially if the labia is swollen and itchy.

However, not all changes in vaginal discharge color mean that there is something to worry about. For example, just before or at the end of your period, you may notice pinkish or brown discharge-like vaginal fluid. Pink-colored discharge when you are expecting your period could be a sign of implantation. Brown or very dark discharge is common at the end of the period. Or, you may notice some pink spotting with mild cramping in mid-cycle when you ovulate.

In this article, I will examine what vaginal discharge color means and what you can do to treat the symptoms of abnormal cervical mucus. At the end of the article, you will find answers to questions relating to the reasons for different colors of vaginal discharge.

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What is Discharge?

It is normal for women to have vaginal discharge or mucus that is a clear or white color with a sticky texture.

Doctors from the National Health Service say that discharge is necessary to keep your vagina and reproductive organs free from infection. Glands inside the vagina produce cervical mucus that flushes out dead cells and bacteria. Discharge can be clear to white and, depending on where you are on your menstrual cycle, thick to sticky thin.1

Also, you will notice that the amount and consistency of normal whitish discharge varies throughout the month. For example, around the time of ovulation, the amount of vaginal discharge increases and becomes stickier. There should be no distinct odor to normal cervical mucus.

White Discharge

White milky discharge is usually normal during the menstrual cycle and shows that your vagina is healthy. However, changes to the consistency and smell from white creamy discharge could indicate a yeast or bacterial infection.

Let’s look in more detail as to why you can have white discharge before or after your period.

Normal discharge

The medical journal BMJ, says that normal cervical discharge can be milky whiteish and is nothing to worry about. Normal white vaginal discharge should only have a faint odor or no smell at all.2

Ovulation discharge

White discharge a week or two before your period can also be a sign of ovulation and will be more stretchy than sticky.

According to the UNC School of Medicine, cervical mucus that is white, thick, and creamy can indicate that ovulation is approaching. When you ovulate, the vaginal discharge looks like raw egg white and the mucus has a “stretchy” consistency. There may also be tinges of blood in ovulation discharge that occurs from the uterus contracting. This is usually nothing to worry about.3

The journal Conception says that noticing egg white discharge around the mid-cycle point can be an accurate indicator of when your chances of conceiving are their greatest.4

Yeast infection (candida)

Thick white clumpy discharge that has a consistency of cottage cheese could be a sign of a yeast infection.

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According to the book Clinical Methods, the strain of yeast called candida causes candidiasis in the vagina. This happens if there is a hormonal imbalance or too few “good” bacteria. Candidiasis can cause a thick white discharge in the vagina. Other signs of a vaginal yeast infection include:5

  • Itching around the labia or vulva
  • Burning sensation in the vagina
  • Redness at the opening of the vagina and on the vaginal walls

If you have noticed chunky white discharge and other signs of a vaginal yeast infection, you can use natural remedies to treat a yeast infection naturally. For example, coconut oil and tea tree oil have antifungal properties to kill off pathogens that cause candidiasis. You could also try using raw yogurt to treat yeast infections because it helps to balance good bacteria in your body.

Bacterial infection

In some cases, thin white discharge from the vagina could be symptomatic of a genital bacterial infection. A common bacterial infection is bacterial vaginosis (BV) that will also cause white smelly discharge.

Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet says that apart from thin whitish/gray discharge, bacterial vaginosis can cause the following symptoms:6

  • Vaginal itching
  • Burning feeling when you pee
  • Increased vaginal discharge after sex that smells bad
  • Vaginal discharge that is yellow or green

For helpful advice on how to rid yourself of a genital bacterial infection, please read my article on the best home remedies for BV.

Off-white vaginal discharge

Bacterial vaginal infections are usually to blame if your notice vaginal discharge that has an “off-white” or gray color.7

Clear Discharge

Clear watery discharge is usually a normal part of your monthly cycle and is rarely a cause for concern. It is normal that vaginal discharge changes from milky white to clear transparent with a thinner consistency during the month.

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services say that clear or white cervical discharge is normal. Some women have discharge daily, whereas other women have more discharge during ovulation and vaginal dryness just before or after their period.8

Yellow Discharge

Yellow discharge that comes out of your vagina can mean that you have an infection. Vaginal infections usually require some treatment to treat the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted disease.

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis can change normal vaginal discharge color to a yellowish thin cervical fluid that has an offensive odor.

According to the journal StatPearls, bacterial vaginosis is caused by an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in the genitals. This upsets the normal bacterial flora and causes a watery and thin discharge that can be yellow. There will also be a very bad smell from the yellowish discharge.9

As already mentioned, BV can cause vaginal itching and discomfort, painful urination, swelling of the vulva, or pain during sexual intercourse.

Vaginal infection

Yellowish discharge that is smelly can also be a symptom of other types of vaginal infections.

For example, the journal BMJ says that yellow smelly discharge that is frothy is often seen in women with Trichomonas vaginalis. This is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can also cause infections in the urinary tract and reproductive organs.10

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that other symptoms of trichomoniasis can include:11

Green Discharge

Green discharge from the vagina is not normal and, like yellow discharge with odor, is usually a sign of vaginal infection.

According to the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology of India, green vaginal discharge can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, candidiasis, or a sexually transmitted disease. Usually, a whiff of fishy odor from greenish discharge indicates a bacterial infection.12

Vaginal discharge color from a bacterial infection can also look like greenish-yellow cervical fluid that has a thin consistency.7

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Another reason for noticing green discharge on your underwear or pad is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Pelvic inflammatory disease can be contracted through sex, however, infections after childbirth or having an intrauterine device (IUD) fitted can also cause PID symptoms.

Doctors from the Cleveland Clinic say that bacteria that get into the vagina and infect the reproductive organs cause the disease. PID causes discharge from the vagina that is green or yellow with an abnormal smell.13

Other symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease can include:

Pink Discharge or Brown Discharge

There can be many reasons why your vaginal discharge is brown, or that you notice light pink discharge when you wipe.

The reason for pink or brown discharge is usually small amounts of blood mixed with the discharge. Doctors from WebMD say that brown discharge is old blood that doesn’t get expelled from the body quickly.14

Let’s look in more detail as to why you can have brown discharge or pink discharge during your menstrual cycle.

Irregular menstrual cycle

If your period is often late or you have other irregularities in your menstrual cycle, you could notice brown discharge from time to time.

According to Dr. Traci C. Johnson, who is an expert in women’s reproductive health, brown vaginal discharge is common if you have an irregular menstrual cycle. This is caused by old blood mixing with cervical mucus to make cervical discharge look rusty brown or dark brown.15 This could be something as simple as spotting after your period.

Keeping a menstrual diary can help to identify what is a normal menstrual cycle for you and help identify if you have changes in your cycle.

End of period

Doctors from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation say that brown discharge often comes out the vagina near the end of menstruation. The brown vaginal discharge color is because old blood is present and usually the flow is weaker at the end of your period.16

Ovulation

As already discussed, discharge around the time of ovulation becomes a transparent white color with a stretchy texture. However, it’s not unusual to notice some brown discharge when ovulation happens.

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Doctors say that it’s normal for some women to notice brown discharge after they wipe when ovulating.16

Implantation spotting

Small amounts of pink discharge or rusty brown-colored discharge can happen if you have become pregnant. Implantation will usually cause signs of spotting just before your period.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health say that around one-quarter of women experience light pink spotting when they become pregnant. Implantation bleeding usually happens about 6 to 12 days after conception when the fertilized egg implants itself on the uterine lining.17 Depending on when implantation happens, the spotting may be a light brown color.

Other signs of early pregnancy include:

You can find other signs of early pregnancy in my article “14 Signs of Implantation or Early Pregnancy Before Missed Period“.

Birth control

Irregular brown or pink vaginal discharge when you’re not expecting it could happen if you have recently started using hormonal contraception or have had an intrauterine device (IUD) fitted.

Doctors from the National Health Service say that pink spotting between periods could happen in the first few months after starting hormonal contraception. Usually, after 3 months, irregular bleeding and discharge should stop, however, you may notice signs of spotting if you miss taking the pill.

Other causes of brown discharge

Other reasons for noticing brown mucus discharge or light pink discharge can include:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Occasional discharge in the first trimester of pregnancy
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Irregular periods due to approaching the menopause

You can find other reasons in my article “Spotting Between Periods: Low and High-Risk Causes Not to Ignore“.

Bloody Discharge (Red)

Vaginal discharge color can be red if there is a larger amount of blood in the discharge and it’s not old blood.

According to Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet, bloody discharge can be a sign of a vaginal infection like vaginitis, candidiasis, or another kind of bacterial vaginal infection.18

In rare cases, blood in vaginal discharge could be a sign of cervical or uterine cancer. However, doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that it’s good to remember that most signs of abnormal vaginal discharge are relatively harmless.19

If you regularly have bloody mucus discharge, and especially if you are postmenopausal, you should see a doctor to get your symptoms checked out.

FAQ About What Normal or Abnormal Vaginal Discharge Is

The color of vaginal discharge is one way to tell about the health of your reproductive system and know when you are fertile. However, there are answers to questions about conditions and symptoms of vaginal secretions that are important to know.

Why do I have lots of vaginal discharge?

There are many reasons why the amount of vaginal mucus can increase during your menstrual cycle. As already mentioned, vaginal discharge becomes plentiful around the time ovulation. This excessive discharge resembles a translucent white fluid that has an elastic consistency.

Other reasons why you might have more vaginal discharge than usual include being sexually aroused or are breastfeeding.15

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What do vaginal discharge colors mean?

Generally, the color of normal vaginal should be clear to milky white and have a thin to thick consistency depending on your menstrual cycle.

Usually, any vaginal discharge color other than clear to white means that you probably have an infection. This can be either a yeast infection that causes thick white clumpy discharge without an odor. Yellow-green discharge or gray, off-white discharge with a foul odor means that you have a bacterial infection.15

Is there something to worry about if I have discharge after sex?

Noticing an increase in the volume of cervical discharge after sexual intercourse may or may not be a cause for concern.

According to doctors, being sexually active usually increases the amount of discharge you have, and sex stimulates vaginal secretions.1

However, if you have more vaginal discharge after sexual activity with other symptoms, it could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis. One of the symptoms of BV is discharge with a bad smell that is more noticeable after sex.6

What can I do if I have smelly vaginal discharge?

Knowing what to do if you have smelly discharge from your vagina depends on the cause of the bad odor.

Because odorous vaginal discharge that is yellow or greenish could be symptomatic of an infection, treating the vaginal infection should stop cervical mucus smelling.

However, sometimes the root cause of vaginal discharge that has a distinct whiff is connected to hygiene. Dermatologist Dr. Amanda Oakley says that smelly vaginal discharge could be caused by a mixture of urine, sweat, and bacteria. Usually, regularly washing your genitals and wiping from front to back can stop the bad discharge smell.20

Why does my vagina itch when I have discharge?

Vaginal itching can be an uncomfortable and embarrassing problem, especially if you have excessive discharge along with it. There are a number of reasons why you have an itchy vagina. According to Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet, some causes of a vaginal itch can be:21

  • Using hygiene products or detergents that irritate the delicate skin of your vagina.
  • Menopause can cause vaginal dryness and itching without extra discharge.
  • Stress can increase your risk of a yeast infection that can cause itchy genitals.
  • Mild to severe itching of the vagina is a symptom of many vaginal infections.

Is excessive vaginal discharge a sign of cervical cancer?

Not usually. The main cause of increase in vaginal discharge is ovulation. However, women who have passed the menopause should be aware that any kind of spotting or vaginal bleeding is abnormal and should be examined by a doctor.

Doctors from the American Cancer Society recommend seeing your doctor if you have blood in vaginal discharge between periods or you are postmenopausal.22

Yeast infection discharge – what is it?

Many women wonder what exactly yeast infection discharge is. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic answer that an overgrowth of yeast fungi in the vagina causes a thick white discharge that may slightly smell of yeast. There will also be signs of inflammation along with the yeast discharge.23

Yeast infection discharge is usually a symptom of candidiasis which can affect 3 out every 4 women. The vaginal discharge is described as thick white discharge from the vagina that has a cottage cheese-like appearance. Other symptoms include itching and burning sensation around the vagina, redness and vaginal soreness.

When to See a Doctor

Having clear white discharge with no odor means that your vagina and reproductive system is in good health.

However, if you notice any changes in the appearance, consistency, smell, or color of your discharge, you may need to see a doctor. According to Dr. Laurence Knott on Patient.info, you should visit your doctor for vaginal discharge in the following circumstances:24

  • Your vaginal discharge color is yellow, green, gray, or bloody.
  • There is a putrid smell or fishy smell from your vaginal secretions.
  • Vaginal discharge becomes thick, white and lumpy.
  • You have other symptoms with abnormal discharge like redness around the vulva, itching, pelvic pain, or unusual spotting between periods.

Read my other related articles:

Medical Sources

  1. NHS. Vaginal discharge.
  2. BMJ. 2007 Dec 1; 335(7630): 1147–1151.
  3. UNCEdu. Cervical mucus monitoring.
  4. Contraception. 2002 Oct;66(4):231-5.
  5. NCBI. Clinical methods. Vaginal discharge.
  6. MedicineNet. Bacterial vaginosis.
  7. ClevelandClinic. How to decode your vaginal discharge.
  8. HSS. Vaginal discharge.
  9. NCBI. Vaginosis, bacterial.
  10. BMJ. 2007 Dec 1; 335(7630): 1147–1151.
  11. CDC. Trichomoniasis.
  12. J Obstet Gynaecol India. 2016 Oct; 66(Suppl 1): 534–540.
  13. ClevelandClinic. Pelvic inflammatory disease.
  14. WebMD. Menstrual blood problems.
  15. WebMD. Vaginal discharge: what’s abnormal?
  16. PAMF. Vaginal discharge.
  17. NHS. What causes bleeding between periods.
  18. MedicineNet. Vaginal discharge.
  19. MayoClinic. Vaginal discharge.
  20. DermNetNZ. Vaginal or genital malodour in women.
  21. MedicineNet. Vaginal itching.
  22. CancerOrg. Signs and symptoms of cervical cancer.
  23. MayoClinic. Yeast infection (vaginal).
  24. PatientInfo. Vaginal discharge.
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