Vaginal discharge is the mix of fluid and cells that comes out of the vagina. A healthy vaginal discharge may be clear or whitish in color, but there are times when the color of a person’s vaginal discharge may change.
Some of the changes in the color of a person’s discharge are normal, but others may indicate a health problem. The following are some of the most common colors of vaginal discharge as well as an explanation of what they might mean:
Red or brown
An individual’s vaginal discharge will turn red or brown each month during menstruation (i.e., their period). This is normal because it is the shedding of the lining of the uterus, including blood and tissues, that has built up over the course of each month.
Nevertheless, there are times when this color of discharge may indicate a health issue. If you see red or brown vaginal discharge at other times throughout the month, it may be a sign of infection, cervical bleeding, vaginal bleeding or irritation (especially after penetration), bleeding from an intrauterine device (IUD), miscarriage, or in serious cases, cervical or endometrial cancer. Therefore, if you are spotting or seeing red or brown vaginal discharge at multiple points throughout a month, it is a good idea to consult with your medical provider about possible causes.
Yellow or green
A pale yellow vaginal discharge can be completely normal, especially if it is not accompanied by any other symptoms or odors. However, bright yellow or green vaginal discharge may be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, or trichomoniasis. Other symptoms that can be associated with STIs are burning or discomfort with urination; itching, burning, or soreness of the genitals; and bleeding in between periods. A health care professional can diagnose and treat these STIs with antibiotics, so it is important to get tested if you experience any of these symptoms.
Gray vaginal discharge can also be a sign of infection, though this color of discharge is more often associated with bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. It can cause a foul “fishy” odor, itchiness, and pain or discomfort during sex and/or urination. Antibiotics (whether taken orally or intravaginally) can be used to cure BV.
White (with a chunky texture)
While a white vaginal discharge is normal, a white discharge that is chunky in texture may be a sign of a yeast infection. A vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection that causes intense itchiness and irritation of the vulva and vagina. Oral or vaginal antifungal medications can be used to clear up a yeast infection.
This article is intended to be used as a guide for some of the most common meanings of different vaginal discharge colors. However, people with vaginas are the true experts on what is “normal” for their bodies. If you are experiencing a new type of vagina discharge that you are unfamiliar with, it is always worthwhile to talk to your health care provider about it.
Cleveland Clinic. (2022, July 22). Vaginal Discharge. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/4719-vaginal-discharge
Galan, N. Medically reviewed by Holly Ernst, P.A. (2023, March 31). A color-coded guide to vaginal discharge. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322232