If you are woman and you're breathing, you have had moments where you’ve wondered if your vaginal health is on track and operating normally. Of course, this is a good thing. To be inquisitive about your overall health is important and natural! And while there are many functions and fluids going on downstairs, today we are sharing some insight into vaginal discharge colors, how they vary, what they could mean, and when it’s time to consider further evaluation.
First, let’s define what discharge is. Vaginal discharge is most often a normal and regular occurrence. However, there are certain types of discharge that can indicate an infection. It serves an important housekeeping function in the female reproductive system by creating fluids, made by glands inside the vagina and cervix, that transport dead cells and bacteria out of the vagina to keep it clean and infection-free. That said, discharge, and the presence of it, is a good thing and nothing to shy away from or wish didn’t exist!
99% of the time your vaginal discharge is normal, even if it varies in volume, odor and color ( with a healthy spectrum of transparent to off-white). It can change due to changing circumstances within our body, including menses, pregnancy, ovulation, arousal and other hormonal factors.
So, with change being inevitable but typically nothing to worry about, when is it time for concern and follow-up? Here, we share the different hues you may see and what they could mean. Of course, feel free to discuss all of this with your healthcare provider for additional support and understanding of what is ideal for your body’s responses.
Thick and White. The most common color of discharge is described as white and with a thick texture. It is also generally smooth without clumps. When it is odorless and not accompanied by any other issues like itching, burning or irritation, it is consider natural and normal discharge. When and if the latter symptoms show up, including a cottage cheese like clumpy consistency, a trip to the gyno can confirm and recommend treatments for possible infection.
Yellowish. A yellowish tint can show up without odor or change in texture, but still points to a sign of infection of sorts. Yellow discharge has been linked to both sexually transmitted infections (formerly STDs), as well as, bacterial infections. It is even possible to have both affecting the other in a viscous cycle that needs to be treated. (P.S. if you’re having to talk with your teenagers about this, read our recent article: Talking to your teens about STIs/STDs)
Brownish. This deeper, darker hue could be caused by untimely and irregular menstrual cycles where “old blood” is still releasing, however, if it happening for a long duration (beyond a few days at a time and well outside your period range), it could be a sign of cervical or uterine cancer. Certainly worth speaking to a doctor about to be safe.
Greenish. Green discharge is nothing to envy. It is almost always a sign of infection. Again, either bacterial or even sexually transmitted. You’ll want to get this looked at right away by your OB practitioner for diagnoses and treatments.
While these colors seem obvious, their odors may not always be. For that reason, it is important to monitor these colors when wiping at the restroom or when observing the protective liner in your panties.
For more information on odor in particular that may or may not accompany these colors of vaginal discharge, visit another blog we wrote tailored specifically to What Discharge Odor Tells Your About Your Vaginal Health.