You’ve noticed a change in your vaginal discharge, but how do you know if it’s normal or a cause for concern? Vaginal discharge is a clear or white fluid that comes out of your vagina. Typical vaginal discharge consists of about a teaspoon (4 ml) of fluid a day that is white or clear, thick to thin and odorless. This is formed by the normal bacteria and fluids your vaginal cells create. Your body discharges this liquid to keep your vagina and reproductive tract clean and healthy. Vaginal discharge varies during your menstrual cycle and can be more noticeable at different times of the month depending on ovulation, menstrual flow, sexual activity and birth control.
Different Types of Discharge
While vaginal discharge changes during your cycle, extreme changes in color or consistency can be a sign of infection.
- White — Thicker vaginal discharge is common at the end of your cycle. Normal white discharge is not accompanied by itching. If itching is present, thick white discharge may indicate a yeast infection.
- Clear and stretchy — This is “fertile” mucous and means you’re ovulating.
- Clear and watery — This occurs at different times of your cycle and can be particularly heavy after exercise.
- Yellow or green — May indicate an infection, especially if it’s thick or clumpy like cottage cheese or has a foul odor.
- Brown — May happen right after your period as your body is “cleaning out” your vagina. Old blood looks brown.
- Spotting blood — This may occur mid-cycle or when ovulating. Sometimes early in pregnancy you may have spotting or a brownish discharge at the time your period would normally come. If you’ve recently had sex and have spotting instead of your period, take a pregnancy test.
Is Vaginal Discharge Normal?
Vaginal discharge is perfectly normal, and there are several factors that can affect your vaginal discharge. In addition to the natural fluctuations caused by your menstrual cycle, vaginal discharge can also be affected by the number and kind of sexual partners you’ve had, what kind of birth control you use (or don’t use), the kind of sex you’re having, or if you’ve recently experienced abuse.
However, in some cases, changes in discharge can mean you have an infection, such as a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, or a trichomoniasis infection. If you have any of the following symptoms, see a healthcare provider.
- Discharge that is yellow, green or clumpy.
- Discharge that has a bad odor.
- Vulvar pain, itching or discomfort.
- Rash or sores.
Your doctor can give you a better answer than a simple web search by gathering additional information, such as:
- Are you taking any medications? Do you take herbs or vitamins?
- Are you pregnant?
- Do you have any other health problems, such as diabetes?
Your doctor can also perform a pelvic exam to help you determine what is causing your symptoms and how best to treat them.