Let’s talk about vaginal discharge, and the various colors and forms it can take. The color doesn’t single-handedly tell the entire story. Sometimes however, your vaginal discharge color can act like a mood ring for your vaginal health. It’s not 100%, just like a real mood ring, but it can give you some hints and a good starting point.
What is vaginal discharge?
Vaginal discharge is a normal process for women who menstruate. It is usually clear or white in color and is secreted from tiny glands located in the cervix and vagina. Its primary purpose is to remove old cells and debris, keeping the vagina clean and healthy.
The amount of vaginal discharge produced can vary between women. The color, consistency, and amount can change daily depending on where a woman is in her menstrual cycle.
What types of vaginal discharge are there?
Clear vaginal discharge is a good sign that your vagina is healthy and functioning the way it’s supposed to. It might appear clear or whitish with a slippery consistency similar to egg whites.
Causes: This type of vaginal discharge is more noticeable before ovulation, during pregnancy, and during sexual arousal.
White vaginal discharge is normally not a cause for concern and may range in shade from eggshell to cream. However, if it has an odd texture or noticeable odor, you may have an infection. If so it’s best to get it checked out by your doctor.
Causes: White vaginal discharge is produced by the vagina to provide natural lubrication. This process helps keep vaginal tissue healthy. It also offers protection from friction during sexual intercourse.
If the discharge looks like cottage cheese or is accompanied by symptoms like itching or burning, you might have a yeast infection.
While it’s not completely normal, yellow vaginal discharge isn’t always a cause for concern. Contact with air can sometimes turn mucus and vaginal discharge yellow. If it’s something that has never happened to you before you might want to get it checked out by a doctor just to be safe.
Causes: Yellow vaginal discharge can be a symptom of an STI like gonorrhea or chlamydia. This is especially true if it has a chunky texture and coincides with symptoms like itching and burning.
For some women, trying a new food or vitamin can turn their vaginal discharge yellow. This might seem alarming, but it shouldn’t have a negative effect on your health.
Green vaginal discharge is not normal and should be checked out by your doctor right away. It’s a sign of infections that cannot be treated at home.
Causes: Possible causes for green vaginal discharge range in severity. You might have a common type of bacterial vaginal infection like BV. You could also be dealing with an STI like chlamydia or trichomoniasis. Any of these conditions will require antibiotics and monitoring from your doctor.
Red (or brown) vaginal discharge is normal during menstruation. It might vary in shade from bright red to a rusty, brown color. If you notice red vaginal discharge and it isn’t your time of the month, it could indicate a larger issue. If you’re concerned, it’s best to seek professional medical advice.
Causes: Some women experience irregular periods and spotting, so it might not be abnormal to notice red vaginal discharge. If you have recently started hormonal birth control, it can take a while for your period to regulate so you might experience some bleeding until your body adjusts. This is called breakthrough bleeding. It’s completely normal in most cases.
Sometimes red vaginal discharge can be a sign of cervical polyps (non-cancerous growths on the cervix) or irritation from a vaginal infection. In severe cases, it could be a sign of uterine or cervical cancer, especially if it is joined by unusual pelvic pain. If you have any concerns, please seek immediate medical attention.
Pink vaginal discharge can range in shade from pale blush to deep pink. In most cases, it is a normal sign that your period is about to begin.
However, if you are trying to have a baby or are sexually active, pink vaginal discharge could actually be implantation bleeding. This type of discharge occurs in early pregnancy. If you aren’t sure exactly why you’re having pink discharge it may be best to talk with your doctor about it.
Causes: Sexual intercourse can cause pink vaginal discharge if it caused small tears or irritation in the vagina or cervix. It may also be a sign that you are ovulating. More serious causes include ovarian cysts and vaginal infections like vaginitis and STIs.
Grey vaginal discharge is not normal. It could be a sign of a common vaginal infection called bacterial vaginosis (BV). This type of vaginal infection includes symptoms like watery discharge, itching, and redness around the vaginal opening.
If you think you have bacterial vaginosis, you should make an appointment with your doctor. You might need antibiotics to get rid of it. You could also treat BV from home with boric acid suppositories if you’re already familiar with your symptoms.
Causes: The most likely cause is bacterial vaginosis. The unusual grey color is caused by a mixture of bacteria, white blood cells, and cellular waste products from your vagina.
Final Thoughts on Vaginal Discharge Color
These are the most common colors of vaginal discharge. Keep in mind the shades, texture, and consistency can vary a lot from person to person. It depends on a lot of different factors including hydration levels, amounts of spotting, and a lot more.
If you’re concerned about your health or if your discharge is an unusual color, it’s always a good idea to seek advice from a doctor. You should never feel uncomfortable about seeing a doctor for any women’s health issues.
If you aren’t comfortable talking about this with your regular doctor for any reason, it’s time to start looking for a new doctor! You should always feel like your doctor is somebody that you can talk to about anything.
Sarah Nelson is a nurse with 15 years of experience working with a variety of patients. She has a Masters of Science in Nursing and has spent a large portion of her career working exclusively with women in an OB/GYN setting.
Nursing is a passion for Sarah but she also enjoys writing and sharing her expertise online with people who need helpful information. Treating patients well and helping them learn more about their own bodies is a key essential to a healthy lifestyle that Sarah truly believes in.