What causes a yellow vaginal discharge?
Vaginal discharge can be a variety of colors. The color and consistency of discharge can be affected by many factors, including diet, stress, medication, and sexual activity.
Yellow is a relatively common color and not usually cause for alarm. It can indicate different things. Causes of yellow discharge vary from normal bodily functions to infections to pregnancy.
It is essential to note that anyone who is concerned about any vaginal discharge, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms, should contact a doctor.
Three common causes of yellow discharge are listed below.
1. Thin, watery, yellow discharge
There are many different reasons for yellow discharge.
Thin, watery, yellow discharge is typically nothing to worry about. It usually indicates that someone is nearing menstruation and is about to start their period.
In most cases, the yellow tint is simply some early menstrual blood mixing with the mucus.
Other signs that a period is due could include premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms such as:
- acne or more spots on the skin
- sore or sensitive breasts
- feeling more tired than usual
- abdominal cramps
- a change in bowel movements, such as constipation or diarrhea
- feeling bloated or gassy
- headaches and increased mood swings
- feeling anxious or depressed
People who do not experience any of the symptoms indicating that their period is due, or who are confident they are not due for their period, should be aware that watery yellow discharge can also be a sign of infection.
2. Thick, yellow discharge
A thick, yellow discharge without a smell can also be a sign that a period is coming or be an early sign of pregnancy. This is because the tint of yellow signals that there is some new or old blood in the mucus.
The yellow tint can also come from implantation bleeding in early pregnancy, which can also cause similar symptoms. As such, it is always worth taking a pregnancy test — especially after missing a period.
Many women are not aware that bleeding can also occur during implantation, but it is usually lighter or presents as spotting rather than the usual flow.
Other signs of early pregnancy to watch out for could be:
- food aversions or cravings
- nausea or mild dizziness
- constipation and bloating or cramps
- mood swings
These symptoms are very similar to those of menstruation, so it is important that a person takes a pregnancy test if they think they might be pregnant.
However, even if someone is pregnant when their period is due, a positive result may not show up immediately. People are more likely to get more definite result a few days after a missed period. Also, those who have experienced some bleeding might get a clearer result once the bleeding subsides a few days later.
If someones does discover they are pregnant, they can expect an increase in discharge throughout their pregnancy. This discharge should be odorless or mild-smelling, and milky white. This discharge known as leukorrhea is perfectly normal according to the American Pregnancy Association.
3. Smelly, yellow discharge
Discharge with a strong or unusual smell may indicate an infection.
A yellow discharge with a strong smell suggests an infection. The infection could be anything from bacterial vaginosis to a sexually transmitted infection (STI). An example of an STI is trichomoniasis, or "trich."
An estimated 3.7 million people in the United States have trich, yet only 30 percent develop any symptoms. Symptoms that people can look out for include:
- Discharge with an unusual fishy smell
- soreness, itching, redness or burning
- an increased volume of discharge that can be yellowish, but also white, clear, or green
- discomfort during sexual intercourse
If someone suspects that they might have trich, they should visit the doctor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that a trich infection can last for months or even years without treatment.
If the infection is caused by bacterial vaginosis, the discharge is likely to be a little more green or gray than yellow.
Even if the discharge is yellow or white, a person could still have bacterial vaginosis if they have the following symptoms:
- fishy-smelling vaginal odor
- gray, white, green, and thin discharge
- vaginal itching
- burning when urinating
Anyone who experiences a new, strong-smelling discharge should visit the doctor regardless of the color and consistency of the vaginal discharge.
Some people may find it difficult to talk about changes in vaginal discharge, but it is important to remember that vaginal discharge is a normal and healthy part of the reproductive system.
A typical color range is usually clear or milky white depending on the stage of the menstrual cycle. The smell should also be mild, not strong.
If someone experiences the following symptoms, they should see a doctor as soon as possible:
- greenish color to discharge
The earlier someone gets a diagnosis and treatment, the sooner they can resolve any potential issues.