What Does Your Vaginal Discharge Mean?

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Vaginal discharge is fluid produced by the vagina and cervix. Your body starts to produce discharge—which contains a mix of mucus, bacteria, and water—during puberty. Discharge helps the vagina stay clean, moist, and free of infection. 

The appearance and texture of vaginal discharge—also known as cervical mucus—varies throughout the course of your menstrual cycle. It may also look, smell, and feel different if you’re pregnant, taking certain medications, or experiencing an underlying medical condition.

Here are the different types of vaginal discharge and what they could mean.

What Does Normal Vaginal Discharge Look Like?

Normal vaginal discharge, or leukorrhea, is clear, off-white, or white and relatively odor-free. It may be either thick or thin. Some people have stretchy, sticky discharge. It can also be gooey, slippery, creamy, or watery. 

You may notice either a lot of vaginal discharge in your underwear or very little. Both can be healthy. Some people produce more vaginal discharge around the time of ovulation, about halfway through the menstrual cycle.

Brown Discharge

Brown vaginal discharge is usually caused by old blood being shed from the uterus. Reasons for brown vaginal discharge may include:

Yellow Discharge

Pale yellow vaginal discharge can be normal and healthy. Sometimes, discharge turns yellow if it’s been exposed to the air or left in your underwear for a long time. 

However, if your discharge is dark yellow or has a strong smell, it could be caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia or gonorrhea.

Red Discharge

Bright red, rust-colored, or brown-red vaginal discharge is typically related to menstrual bleeding. You may notice some spotting or light red discharge just before or after your period. Blood-tinged discharge may also appear during the early stages of pregnancy. In some cases, red discharge can also be a sign of other medical conditions such as polyps or fibroids.

In rare cases, red vaginal discharge can be caused by certain cancers, such as:

White Discharge

White, odorless discharge is typically normal. Creamy, milky-white discharge can be an early sign of pregnancy. You may also notice a lot of white discharge in the second half of your menstrual cycle leading up to your period. 

If you have a yeast infection, your vaginal discharge could be white, thick, and lumpy. Some people describe it as having the texture of cottage cheese.

Clear Discharge

The vaginal discharge produced just before and during ovulation—the time of your menstrual cycle when the ovary releases an egg—is sometimes called egg white cervical mucus (EWCM).

It is clear, wet, and slippery, and you can usually stretch it between your fingers. You might also notice an increased amount of clear vaginal discharge when you’re aroused.

Green Discharge

Green vaginal discharge is always a sign of an underlying problem. This is especially true if you have additional symptoms, such as pain or itching.

Potential causes of green discharge include:

Pink Discharge

Vaginal discharge may be pink because it’s tinged with a small amount of blood. This can be due to your period, ovulation, implantation bleeding, hormonal changes, or cervical irritation after having sex.

Another possibility is irregular menstruation. Some light periods that last fewer than two days can sometimes seem more like spotting than a full flow.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is yeast infection discharge?

    Having a yeast infection may cause your vaginal discharge to become thick, lumpy, and white. You might also notice other symptoms like itching and burning.

  • What type of discharge indicates pregnancy?

    During the first trimester of pregnancy, you may notice an increase in vaginal discharge. Vaginal discharge in pregnancy is typically milky-white and thin. It can be either odorless or mild-smelling.

  • What type of discharge indicates ovulation?

    During ovulation, vaginal discharge is clear, thin, slippery, and stretchy. This kind of discharge is sometimes called egg white cervical mucus (EWCM) because it resembles raw egg whites.

A Quick Review

Vaginal discharge changes throughout your menstrual cycle, varying in color, texture, odor, and amount. Normal discharge is usually clear or white and doesn’t have a strong smell. It’s typically clear and slippery during ovulation and milky-white at the beginning of pregnancy. 

Talk to a healthcare provider if you notice any unusual changes in your vaginal discharge, such as a foul odor or different texture. You could have a yeast infection, bacterial infection, or inflammatory condition.

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16 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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