Vaginal Discharge 101: A Color Guide

At some point, for some reason, most women will experience vaginal discharge. It can feel disgusting, it’s frustrating, and, the worst part—it can cause worry if you don’t know what it is. For the most part, vaginal discharge is normal. But for the times when it isn’t—you need to know what you’re looking for.

Luckily, we’re here to help you know what is normal and what you might want to call your doc about.

What Is Vaginal Discharge?

As you may have figured out by now, your vagina and cervix need lubrication to stay moist and healthy. Fluids that move out of your vagina help clear out dead cells, bacteria, and anything else that shouldn’t be there. This discharge is simply the evidence that your body is doing what it’s supposed to. Really, we should be grateful it’s happening.

The average woman has around a teaspoon of white or clear discharge every day. It can change based on where you are in your menstrual cycle, what medications you’re taking, your sexual activity, and how old you are.

But ugh, sometimes it can look gross and smell bad, too. And often that is your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right.

The 5 Types of Vaginal Discharge

Most doctors classify vaginal discharge by color. More often than not, the color is the first indicator of what might be going on up inside your lady parts. Here’s what to look out for:

  • White vaginal discharge

    This is your normal discharge. It is probably thick and white, but not usually very stinky. But thick white, almost cottage cheese-like discharge is an indication of a yeast infection. Especially if you’re struggling with itching, redness, irritation, and/or burning. We know you’re tough—but girl, call your doctor and get this taken care of right away. No need to suffer!

  • Clear vaginal discharge

    For some women it’s white, for some it’s clear. This is typical, so don’t worry.

  • Yellow vaginal discharge

    This is leaning into the realm of abnormal. It’s often a sign of a bacterial infection or sexually transmitted infection (not disease, infection). Trichomoniasis is an infection commonly spread through sex. Yellow discharge can also smell awful. Again—call your doctor, and she can do a quick urine test to see if you do indeed have an infection.

  • Brown vaginal discharge

    Brown is usually an indication of an irregular period cycle. But if it keeps coming back on a regular basis, call your doctor and let her know. It can also be a sign of uterine or cervical cancer.

  • Green vaginal discharge

    Definitely not normal. Call your physician right away, as green is a sign of infection.

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Is Discharge Normal During Pregnancy?

For many women, spotting or discharge is normal at the beginning of pregnancy. In fact, some women say it is their first indication they are pregnant, and that’s when they pee on a stick to confirm. So yes—some discharge is normal.

But if it’s dark or bloody, you might want to check with your physician: it can also be a sign of miscarriage, so be careful and get it checked out.

What Can Cause Abnormal Discharge?

There’s actually quite a list of things that can cause abnormal discharge. Some are easily remedied, others will take an antibiotic, and others can lead to more concerns. We want to give you the big list, so if it’s something small, you can take care of it at home and prevent more infections.

  • Antibiotic or steroid use—right? You might be on an antibiotic to get rid of a yeast infection, and it can cause discharge. Annoying.
  • Bacterial infection or yeast infection
  • Ovulation—your body will increase the amount of fluids when you’re ovulation,as if preparing for that baby to start growing.
  • Arousal—if you’re aroused, your blood vessels in your lady parts will start to dilate. It’s natural lubrication.
  • Birth control—if you notice it frequently, it could be as easy as switching what type of pill you’re taking.
  • Cervical cancer
  • Stress or hormone imbalance—especially as you get older, your body will react differently to stress.
  • Chlamydia, gonorrhea, or other STDs
  • Diabetes
  • Scented soap, lotions, or bubble baths—if you notice lots of discharge, try switching from scented lotions and potions. That might be all you need to do.
  • Pelvic infection after surgery
  • Giving birth—the weeks after you have a baby are full of all kinds of weirdness. Lochia is a type of vaginal discharge that happens right after this miracle of life, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Trichomoniasis—as mentioned before, this is an infection that is often transmitted through unprotected sex
  • Vaginal atrophy—your vaginal walls will dry out and thin during menopause. Your body reacts to keep you safe by increasing fluids.
  • Vaginitis—irritation around your vagina

Is It Normal To Have Discharge Every Day?

Great question—hard answer. It really depends on the woman. So, if you’ve never had it before and suddenly, you’re experiencing it every day, there’s nothing wrong with asking your doctor next time you’re there. If it’s white or clear, chances are that it’s probably nothing to worry about.

But hey—why do we have doctors anyway if we can’t ask them about our bodies?

Can I Stop Vaginal Discharge?

Well, you don’t really want to stop it completely. It’s a normal, healthy function of your body. But if you’re dealing with a lot of discharge or it’s smelly or acting a little funky—there might be a reason to stop it. First and foremost—speak to your OBGYN or your regular physician.

Otherwise, here are five tips for managing and maybe even decreasing the amount in your underwear:

  • Stick with breathable cotton underwear. Cotton can actually help prevent yeast infections, since it allows your body to breathe. It doesn’t trap heat or moisture, which encourages yeast to grow.

  • Wipe front to back, girlfriend. I know—no one wants to talk about wiping. But seriously—keep that poo where it belongs. If you wipe back to front, you’re likely to get stuff where you don’t want it.

  • Wear panty liners if there’s a lot. This will protect your knickers and also help you feel dry throughout the day.

  • Choose unscented soaps and cleansers. Yes, this includes soaps that go directly on your body, but your laundry soap and/or dryer sheets can also affect you. If your underwear is soaked in scent every time it goes in the washer, it could cause irritation in your very delicate parts.

  • Wash with water. Similar to above—only wash your vulva with warm water. You don’t need soap down there, really.

For the most part, vaginal discharge is just your body’s way of saying, “Hey, I’m down here!” Other times, it’s your body’s cry for help. Pay attention to what is normal for you, and take care of yourself. Be gentle with your body, especially “down there,” and give your reproductive parts their best chance at staying healthy and clean.


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