This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.
Our article offers a detailed guide on vaginal discharge, which can vary in color and indicate different health conditions, including menstruation and vaginal infections. Using a color-coded system, we explain what each shade of discharge means and provide information on when to seek medical attention. Read on to learn more about this essential aspect of women's health.
Discharge meaning & color
- Healthy discharge
- Hormonal imbalances
Most typical vaginal discharge is clear or white, with a texture that can be compared to egg whites or feel slippery. This slippery egg-white texture for vaginal discharge is considered healthy and normal. Women may notice an increase in clear, slippery discharge right before ovulation and during sexual arousal. Pregnancy also affects the amount of clear discharge due to hormonal changes.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
Gray vaginal discharge is considered unhealthy and is usually a symptom of a common bacterial infection called bacterial vaginosis or BV.
When there are changes in the pH balance of the vagina, it can lead to bacterial vaginosis (BV). Bacterial vaginosis is an infection caused by an overgrowth of bacteria. This condition can cause various symptoms, such as
- Redness around the vulva
- An increase in vaginal discharge
- Fishy odor
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Green / Yellow
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Typically, a pale yellow vaginal discharge is not a cause for alarm and can be attributed to dietary changes or new supplements. However, it's best to consult a physician if the discharge is yellow, thick, and has a strong odor.
Vaginal discharge that is a darker yellow, greenish-yellow, or green can indicate a bacterial or sexually transmitted infection. Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Trichomoniasis commonly cause dark yellow or green discharge. If you have a thick, green discharge with a foul odor, seeking immediate medical attention for appropriate treatment is critical.
- Cervical bleeding
- Implantation bleeding
- Vaginal irritation
Light to dark pink vaginal discharge is commonly linked to slight bleeding or spotting before menstruation or after ovulation.
This discharge can also indicate implantation bleeding during the early stages of pregnancy, which usually happens 10-14 days after conception when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus.
Another cause of pink spotting is sex, which may cause vaginal or cervical irritation or tiny tears, leading to a slight pink discharge. However, this is usually not a cause for concern.
Red / Brown
- Cervical cancer
- Cervical infection
- Cervical polyp
- Endometrial cancer
- Menstruation (mainly)
- Miscarriage (if pregnant)
Red discharge varies from a bright red to a rusty brown color. Typically, menstrual bleeding causes red vaginal discharge that lasts for 3-5 days, occurring approximately every 28 days. Toward the end of menstruation, the color may change from bright red to dark rust or brown. Spotting or occasional red discharge between periods is common for some women. It is advisable for anyone experiencing bleeding between menstrual periods to seek medical attention. While harmless factors can cause intermenstrual bleeding, they could also indicate a severe underlying condition. Those who have completed menopause and have not had a period in over a year should also consult a doctor at the sign of red vaginal discharge.
Brown discharge is usually not a cause for concern and may happen due to hormonal contraceptives or late periods. However, red or brown discharge with a foul odor can signify Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection. A Pap smear can quickly diagnose it, and treatment is available. If left untreated, HPV can lead to cervical or endometrial cancer.
- Healthy discharge
- Yeast infection discharge
A healthy and natural lubrication process in the vagina is indicated by milky white to cream-colored discharge. But, if the discharge consistency has a foul odor and is thick, resembling cottage cheese, it is likely an indication of a yeast infection. Thick white discharge can also cause itching and vaginal irritation.
This blog is part of a series of questions we receive about vaginal discharge. Keep reading our regular blog feature, where we answer your honest questions about feminine health.
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