Vaginal discharge is typically white or clear and may be thick or thin in texture. Healthy discharge can dry yellow. However, yellow discharge with a strong odor may be a sign of infection.

Vaginal discharge is fluid that contains a mix of vaginal secretions and cervical mucus. The amount of vaginal discharge produced varies from person to person.

There are different types of vaginal discharge based on consistency and color. Changes in the color, amount, or smell of vaginal discharge may indicate a problem.

Sometimes, it is difficult to make a diagnosis based on vaginal discharge alone. Other symptoms, such as burning, itchiness, or irritation, often indicate an underlying condition that requires treatment.

Pregnancy, changing hormones, or the presence of an infection can affect the consistency and amount of vaginal discharge.

This article describes what healthy vaginal discharge looks like. It also discusses the types of vaginal discharge based on color, during pregnancy, and during the menstrual cycle.

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Vaginal discharge has several functions. It naturally keeps the vagina clean, provides lubrication during sexual intercourse, and may help prevent infection.

Most discharge is typically healthy and can have the following characteristics:

  • Odor: Vaginal discharge should not have a strong or unpleasant smell.
  • Color: Vaginal discharge can be clear, white, or slightly yellow. Around the time of menstruation, a person may notice that their discharge may be white, brown, or pink.
  • Consistency: Healthy vaginal discharge can be thick or thin. The consistency may change at different times during a monthly menstrual cycle. For instance, discharge may become heavier, thicker, and more noticeable when a person is ovulating. It may also be white at this time.
  • Volume: A person may notice more discharge on some days than others. The amount of discharge may change due to sexual activity, the use of birth control, and a person’s menstrual cycle.

The color of the discharge can indicate the presence of an infection.


Clear vaginal discharge is often normal. However, the amount may vary during a person’s monthly menstrual cycle and between individuals.

For instance, clear discharge may be stretchy and have an egg-white consistency around the time of ovulation.


Different shades of white discharge may be typical, especially during ovulation or just before a person’s period.

As long as there is no vaginal itching, burning, or unusual smell accompanying the discharge, there is probably no underlying issue. However, in other instances, white vaginal discharge could be a sign of an infection.

If the discharge is clumpy and resembles cottage cheese, it may be due to a yeast infection. A yeast infection may also cause vaginal itching and burning. It occurs due to an overgrowth of a type of fungus called Candida.

Thin, white vaginal discharge that has a strong fishy odor may indicate bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is the most common vaginal infection in females between 15 and 44 years. The discharge may also be gray in color.

Other symptoms may include burning during urination and vaginal itching.

Yellow to green

Yellow discharge may or may not indicate an infection. If the discharge is a pale yellow, odorless, and not accompanied by other symptoms, it may not indicate an underlying infection.

In other instances, yellow discharge can signify a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or a bacterial infection.

Causes of frothy, yellow-to-green discharge include trichomoniasis and chlamydia. Trichomoniasis can also cause itching, pain during urination, and an unpleasant odor. Chlamydia often does not present with any symptoms.

Pink to red

There are many causes of pink discharge.

Vaginal discharge can be pink or have a red hue near the time of menstruation. It can also occur after sexual intercourse. This can happen if sex has caused small tears or irritation.

Learn more about the different colors of discharge and what they mean.

During pregnancy, a person may notice that they have more vaginal discharge. The volume of discharge increases as a person reaches the end of their pregnancy.

In the last week of pregnancy, vaginal discharge can contain streaks of mucus that are pink, sticky, and jelly-like.

Vaginal discharge can change in consistency and volume throughout the menstrual cycle.

In the days leading up to a period, a person may notice pink or brown discharge. This happens as the uterus sheds its lining.

A person may also notice higher discharge levels when estrogen levels are high. This can happen a few days before ovulation. The discharge may also be clear and stretchy.

A person does not need to prevent normal vaginal discharge. However, taking the following precautions can sometimes prevent abnormal discharge:

  • Avoiding douching, which can destroy the good bacteria that help prevent vaginal infections.
  • Wearing cotton underwear, which absorbs moisture and may prevent a yeast infection.
  • Using barrier methods of protection during sex, such as a condom, and getting tested regularly for STIs.
  • Using unscented soaps, tampons, and pads as scented or strong products may disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina.

Vaginal discharge is often nothing to be concerned about, but there are times when changes in discharge can indicate a problem.

Different types of infections can have similar symptoms but require different treatment. It is essential to consult a doctor if any of the following develops:

  • green, yellow, or gray discharge
  • vaginal itching or burning
  • discharge that is frothy, foamy, or looks like cottage cheese
  • a fishy or unpleasant odor
  • pelvic pain

To determine the cause of irregular discharge, the doctor may ask about any additional symptoms, a person’s general health, and their sexual history.

Treatment for the underlying cause of abnormal vaginal discharge will vary and may include antibiotics or antifungal medication.

Vaginal discharge is natural, but there are instances when the color, amount, or consistency of discharge may indicate a problem.

Yeast infections, STIs, and BV can all lead to a change in vaginal discharge. In most cases, causes of irregular vaginal discharge resolve with treatment.

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