What Vaginal Discharge Colors are Normal?
The glands inside your vagina and cervix secrete fluids to keep your vagina moist and healthy. These secretions help shed old cells along the vaginal wall, keep the area clean, lubricate for sex, and influence fertility. They’re pretty amazing.
A healthy vagina has daily discharge. Every vag owner’s fluids are a bit different, and you’ll get to know your normal amount, feel and scent. Changes in your vaginal discharge’s color, consistency and smell can be from normal factors, such as hormones for your monthly cycle or a pregnancy, or they can be a sign that something is wrong, like an infection.
Here’s a basic primer for what different color discharges may mean to help you know what may be going on in your vagina. Please note: this article is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. Always consult with a licensed physician when seeking personal medical advice.
Vaginal Discharge Colors and Their Meanings
Vaginal discharge can range in color from clear to dark brown, depending on many factors. The consistency can range from thin to sticky or stringy to clumpy. The scent can range from mild and somewhat sweet to very strong, unpleasant and “fishy.”
In general, a strong or foul vaginal odor and certain colored discharge means the delicate balance of vaginal flora has been disrupted and could be an indication that you need to see your doctor to treat an infection and restore a healthy vaginal biome.
What does clear discharge mean?
Clear vaginal discharge is normal. Thin, watery clear discharge (sometimes quite a lot of it) is common after exercising. Clear discharge that is stretchy and mucus-like (like the consistency of an egg white) is often a sign of ovulation. If the discharge stays thicker or slightly white after ovulation, it might be a sign of early pregnancy.
Increases in the amount of estrogen and progesterone in your monthly menstrual cycle and during pregnancy affect the consistency and amount of your normal vaginal discharge.
What does yellow discharge mean?
Pale yellow discharge without increased odor or other symptoms is likely normal, especially right before your period. If your discharge is darker yellow or yellow-green, thicker or clumpier with a foul smell, or you have symptoms such as pain, itching, or burning, you may have a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Trichomoniasis, gonorrhea and chlamydia can all cause a yellowish discharge that is typically thicker, heavier, and smells bad. If you notice these symptoms or think you could have an STI, schedule an appointment with a clinic or your doctor.
Is milky white discharge normal?
Normal vaginal discharge is clear or milky white and has a subtle scent. Your discharge may be more milky in the days right before your period, during ovulation, or during a pregnancy. If the discharge is milky and slippery, it’s likely normal. However, if the discharge is thick, clumpy, opaque white, and accompanied by itching or burning, you may have a yeast infection or another vaginal infection and should see your doctor.
Why is my vaginal discharge brown or tan?
Brown or tan vaginal discharge contains oxidized blood and is usually normal. Fresh blood is bright red; older blood is brown as it is exposed to oxygen. You may have brownish discharge at the beginning or end of your period or from implantation bleeding when a fertilized egg attaches to the uterus.
If you are spotting frequently between periods with light brown discharge, get checked out by your doctor as there may be an underlying medical cause.
Is gray vaginal discharge an infection?
See your doctor if you have gray vaginal discharge. It’s not typical and tends to be a sign of an common infection, bacterial vaginosis (BV). See your doctor right away if your discharge is gray or “storm-cloud” colored. BV can be treated with antibiotics.
What does green discharge mean?
Green vaginal discharge is not normal and is a sign of a sexually transmitted infection. Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics or other medication to treat the STI and ensure that it’s cleared up.
Vaginal discharge that is pink or red
Pink or red vaginal discharge is tinged with fresh blood. Your discharge can be pink after vigorous sex (when slight tearing can occur), due to implantation bleeding when a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining, after IUD implantation or a small injury to the vagina or cervix, or as your period begins or ends. It’s typically not a cause for concern, but if you have frequent breakthrough bleeding, get it checked out with your doctor.
Why does vaginal discharge change?
Changes in your hormones throughout your monthly menstrual cycle or due to pregnancy or perimenopause cause changes to your vaginal discharge. Other factors such as how much water you drink, whether you keep wet clothes on after exercise (don’t!), if you drink beer, how stressed you are, what menstrual and feminine hygiene products you use, how you wipe when you use the bathroom, and what type of sex you have can also affect your vaginal discharge. Finally, injury and infection can change your discharge color, consistency and odor.
It’s normal for your vaginal discharge to change some from week to week or year to year, as your body changes. But pay attention to what comes out of your vag so you can keep it healthy and happy.
Vaginal Color Discharge Chart
|Color||Consistency||Smell||Amount||Other possible symptoms||Concern?|
|Clear or milky white||Egg-white or thin & watery||Mild||Typical or increased||None||Generally, no|
|White||Thick, clumpy||Mild or slightly stronger||Increased||Burning, itching||Yes|
|Yellow||Thicker||Foul||Increased||Pelvic pain, burning||Yes|
|Green||Thicker||Strong or foul||Increased||Pain, burning||Yes|
|Gray||Normal or thicker||“fishy”||May be increased||Itching, burning, redness||Yes|
|Pink||Thin, watery||Mild or metallic||Typical or increased||Cramping||Maybe, if this occurs frequently or between periods|
|Brown/Tan||Thick, clots or clumps||“iron-like”||Increased||Cramping||Maybe, if frequent or between periods|
This chart is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider about a medical condition.
Help Keep Your Vagina Healthy
Part of self-care is being fresh, balanced and healthy “down there.” Follow these tips for the care and keeping of your vag:
- Use a condom to protect yourself from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
- Get regular check-ups with your ob/gyn or primary care physician and get tested frequently for STIs, especially if you have more than one partner.
- Wipe from front to back to minimize chances for bacteria from the anus to get into the vagina and cause an infection.
- Wear cotton underwear and get out of wet workout clothes quickly to help avoid a yeast infection.
- Get to know your normal vaginal discharge consistency and smell so you’ll know when something is off.
- Avoid putting scented menstrual products or soaps in the vagina.