Vaginal Discharge & Colour

What the Color of Your Vaginal Discharge Means

Vaginal Discharge & Colour

Vaginal discharge is fluid that comes from the vagina. You might see this on the toilet paper when you wipe, or in your underwear.

Normal vaginal discharge has several purposes: cleaning and moistening the vagina and helping to prevent and fight infections. It's normal for the color, texture, and amount of vaginal discharge to change at different times of the month during a woman's menstrual cycle. Many of these changes can indicate a healthy body while other colours may mean there is a problem.

“A normal and healthy vaginal ecosystem is maintained by lacto-bacilli that secrete lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide resulting in a vaginal pH < 4.5 which protects against the overgrowth of anaerobes that thrive in an alkaline (high) pH.”

Always ask your healthcare provider if something doesn't look right to you, but here are a few of the most common kinds of colours and their meanings, according to doctors.

Clear Colour :

Normal vaginal discharge is clear to white (or slightly yellow when it dries) and odorless or with a mild, non-foul odor that is not noticeable unless you place the discharge very close to your nose. Around the middle of your menstrual cycle is when the discharge gets very white, signifying that you are most fertile at that time. It may be slippery or have the consistency of egg whites. A woman is likely to experience more clear, slippery discharge just before ovulation, during sexual arousal, and during pregnancy.

White Colour :

The shade of white can extend to include cream or light yellow. If a person has no other symptoms, white discharge is most likely a sign of healthy lubrication.

However, yeast infections can produce a thick, white, vaginal discharge with an appearance similar to cottage cheese and the discharge may have an odor something like spoiled milk. Yeast infections are quite common and are most often caused by an overgrowth of the fungus candida albicans within the vagina. Certain antibiotics can disrupt the microbiome of your vagina, leading to a yeast infection. Other causes of yeast infection include pregnancy, a compromised immune system, contraceptive use, hormone therapy, and uncontrolled diabetes. In addition to cottage cheese-like discharge, signs of a yeast infection may include burning during urination, vaginal itching, irritation, and a swollen vulva.

Gray Colour :

Gray vaginal discharge is not healthy, and it can be a symptom of a common bacterial infection called bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is not an sexually transmitted disease (STD), but rather an infection that can cause an imbalance of the normal flora, the microorganisms in the vagina. BV is often accompanied by a strong, fishy odor. Other symptoms include itching, irritation, and redness around the vulva or vaginal opening. It can be a bit alarming, but the good news is that this is usually treated with a simple antibiotic from your doctor or a pH vaginal regulator, such as GYNALAC which you can pick up at your local pharmacy without a prescription. If you are prone to BV, never douche. Furthermore, abstaining from sex can help lower your risk but it is certainly not mandatory! Just keep your risk at bay by using condoms, as sometimes sperm may contribute to creating an pH imbalance in the vagina.

Gray discharge can also be a sign of trichomoniasis, which is an STD which can be treated and cured with antibiotics. If you have a gray discharge, it is highly recommended you immediately consult your healthcare practitioner.

Yellow-green Colour :

If the discharge has a very slight yellow hue, it may not indicate a problem. This is especially likely if the hue only coincides with a change in diet or dietary supplements. However, if your discharge is foamy, itchy, darker shade of yellow, or yellow-green in color, it can be a sign of an sexually transmitted disease (STD) or other infection. Some women may also experience an itching or burning sensation while urinating. The most likely cause is trichomoniasis or gonorrhea and this would necessitate you consult a healthcare practitioner immediately, especially so if the discharge is thick or clumpy and has a foul odor. Also keep in mind that chlamydia can cause a discharge like this, but frequently it has no symptoms at all — so just because you don’t have a discharge doesn’t mean you don’t have an infection.

Red or Brown or Pink Colour :

Discharge with a red or dark brown tint is usually just a sign that your period is about to begin. It may also be caused by a slower shedding of the uterine lining and will generally occur after the menstrual cycle. Sometimes, during menstruation, there are leftovers of the uterine wall that were not yet completely shed, or that did not make a timely exit during the menstrual cycle. When this old blood is discharged from the body it may be discolored and cause the normal vaginal discharge to be brown in color. The shade of red can vary from bright to a dark rust color. It can also be the result of light bleeding (mixed with normal discharge) after penetration.

However, if your discharge is also frothy, has a foul odor, and is accompanied by burning and itching symptoms while urinating, this is considered abnormal vaginal discharge. If you experience these symptoms, you should definitely go to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Likewise, if you’re bleeding in between cycles or it looks slightly off, it could signify something more serious. Possible culprits could include, but are not limited to, breakthrough bleeding on the pill, infections, polyps, ectopic pregnancy, and pregnancy. Pink discharge most commonly occurs with spotting before a period. However, it can also be a sign of implantation bleeding in early pregnancy. Some women experience a little bit of spotting after ovulation, which can also cause pink discharge. Bottom line, while there are many benign causes of intermenstrual bleeding, it can sometimes signal a serious condition so you should see a doctor to be on the safe side.

Lastly, anyone who has gone through menopause and not had a period for at least 1 year should see a doctor if they experience vaginal bleeding. It can sometimes be a sign of endometrial cancer.

“Your vagina can tell you a lot about your health — especially when it comes to discharge, which can signify everything from normal cycles to major health issues, like sexually transmitted diseases or other infections.”

What to Do If You're Concerned About Vaginal Discharge

What's coming out of your body is a pretty good indicator of what's happening inside your body. Vaginal discharge colors and consistencies can be key indicators of your vaginal health. Whether you're sexually active or not, vaginal discharge happens. Just make sure to keep an eye on the color, smell, and your comfort levels and you should be good to go!

Keep in mind that while most changes are normal, others can signify anything from an STD to whether you just need to drink more water. If you do feel like something is wrong based on your discharge, do not douche or use over-the-counter cleansers inside your vagina. Douching messes with your vagina’s natural cleaning system and isn’t a treatment for vaginal infections. In fact, douching can actually make certain infections worse.

If your discharge is out of the ordinary (cottage cheese-like, yellow, green, gray, or foul-smelling) or is accompanied by pain or vaginal itching, don't hesitate to make an appointment with a gynecologist who can diagnose the issue and guide your treatment plan. If your discharge changes drastically or is accompanied by vaginal pain, bleeding during sex, or pain when you urinate, talk to a doctor or nurse so they can make sure everything’s okay.

Bottom line: Knowing what is normal vaginal discharge and what indicates a problem is important at any age. As you become familiar with what is normal for you, be sure to consult your healthcare provider if you notice any unusual changes.

“A normal and healthy vaginal ecosystem is maintained by lacto-bacilli that secrete lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide resulting in a vaginal pH < 4.5 which protects against the overgrowth of anaerobes that thrive in an alkaline (high) pH.”

Bacterial Vaginosis: Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is the most common cause of vaginal infections and results from an imbalance in the natural flora of your vagina and a change in its pH.
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Types of Vaginal Odor: Click to learn more about the different types of vaginal odor.
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Vaginal Discharge: Click here to learn more about what the color of your vaginal discharge means.
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Importance of pH: A healthy vaginal pH is usually between 3.8 and 4.5. Click to learn more about why pH of the vagina is so important.
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Vaginal Health: Click to learn more about vaginal health.
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Antibiotic Resistance: The growing concern over the risk of antibiotic resistance is the primary reasons most healthcare practitioners are now turning towards non-antibiotic approaches to prevent recurrent infections.
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Pregnancy: Bacterial Vaginosis is found in about 25% of pregnant women. Click to learn more about potential risks to your pregnancy.
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UTI or Vaginal Infection? If you experience discomfort in your genital area or when you urinate, you may have an infection. Click here to learn more about difference between a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and Vaginal Infection.
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Bacterial Vaginosis or Yeast Infection: Which Is It? Click here to learn how to tell the difference between bacterial vaginosis and a yeast infection.
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