Vaginal discharge (medically referred to as leukorrhea) plays a crucial role in keeping the vagina clean, lubricated, healthy, and free from infections. Discharge is literally proof that vaginas are self-cleaning organs! Moreover, discharge can also be a reliable indicator of your overall vaginal health — and the color of your discharge can often tell you what’s going on down there.

Vaginal discharge, also known as cervical mucus (or CM for short), is mainly composed of mucus produced by cells of the cervix (the opening of the uterus). What's considered "normal" can vary from person to person, but in general, healthy vaginal discharge is usually clear, off-white, or white and doesn't have a strong odor. It may be thick, thin, stretchy, sticky, gooey, slippery, creamy, or watery. The consistency and color of discharge changes depending on many factors, like where you are in your menstrual cycle and whether you have an infection or are pregnant

The amount of vaginal discharge can vary from person to person, too. Some people produce a lot of discharge, while others ​​may notice very little. Both are normal and healthy. Additionally, some people may make more vaginal discharge around the time of ovulation, which typically occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle.

What your discharge color means

​​It's good to keep in mind that everyone's vaginal discharge is different, so it might take a little while to figure out what's normal for you. You might not pay much attention to how your discharge looks unless you notice an unusual color.

While a funky-colored discharge might freak you out, it's probably nothing to worry about. However, in some cases, a different color could be a sign that something isn't quite right. Keep reading for a color-coded guide to discharge and what to do if you notice abnormal vaginal discharge. 

In general, if your discharge is different than it usually is, or if you have any other symptoms that are new or different from you, it’s best to see a healthcare provider.

Clear discharge 

Healthy discharge is clear (or clearish white) and can be thick or thin. Clear, gooey, and stretchy discharge (like raw egg whites) is also perfectly healthy and usually a sign that you’re ovulating. You might notice ovulation discharge a few days before ovulating, about halfway through your cycle. 

During this phase of your cycle, your cervix starts producing more mucus to help sperm travel up the vagina to the fallopian tube to fertilize an egg and result in a pregnancy. Some people track their vaginal discharge to know when they’re fertile to either aid pregnancy (known as the cervical mucus method) or prevent pregnancy (known as natural family planning).

That said, some types of hormonal birth control prevent ovulation — so you won’t notice any ovulation discharge. 

Aside from ovulation, you might notice larger amounts of clear discharge when you’re turned on or just after having sex. This is called “arousal fluid,” AKA your body’s natural lube. It’s a fluid secreted by the Bartholin glands, two pea-sized glands at the base of your vaginal opening that are responsible for keeping your vaginal canal moist and lubricated during sexual arousal. Arousal fluid is a little different from leukorrhea but healthy and normal nonetheless.

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Yellow discharge

Having pale yellow vaginal discharge is perfectly normal and healthy. Discharge can sometimes turn yellow if exposed to the air or left in your underwear for a while. So don't worry if you notice yellow discharge on your underwear after a long day. 

However, if you ever notice that your discharge is dark yellow or has a strong smell, it could be an indication of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) like chlamydia or gonorrhea. Although these STIs can cause additional symptoms like a strong vaginal odor, itching, and burning, sometimes they cause no symptoms at all. The best thing to do is to speak with your healthcare provider or take an STI test to know for sure if yellow discharge is a sign of an STI.

Green discharge 

Green discharge is never a good sign, especially if you have additional symptoms, such as pain or itching. There are a few things that can cause green discharge, such as an STI, pelvic inflammatory disease, or a forgotten object in your vagina (like an old tampon). Call your healthcare provider if you notice green-colored discharge. 

White discharge 

White, odorless discharge is usually normal and no big deal. You might notice some white discharge in your underwear in the second half of your cycle, leading up to your period.  

Creamy, milky white discharge can also be a sign of early pregnancy. As hormone levels rise at the start of a pregnancy, they can affect the quantity and consistency of your discharge. 

Meanwhile, a clumpy white discharge resembling cottage cheese is a telltale sign of a yeast infection — especially when accompanied by other symptoms, like itching and burning. 

Gray discharge 

Gray vaginal discharge that has a fishy odor is a sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV), a common bacterial infection caused by the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in your vaginal microbiome. BV is the most common vaginal condition in women ages 15-44, and around 30% of people with vaginas get BV each year. 

Gray discharge with a fishy or foul odor can also be a symptom of trichomoniasis (or trich), a very common STI. Like most STIs, trichomoniasis is often asymptomatic, making it tricky to spot. Around 70% of those with trichomoniasis don't have any signs or symptoms at all, and when they do, it’s easy to mistake it for BV. 

If you notice gray vaginal discharge that has a strong or fishy smell, don’t ignore it. Trich and BV are often nothing more than a nuisance, but if left untreated for too long, they can lead to serious long-term reproductive health complications. 

Pink or brown discharge 

Brown discharge is usually not a cause for concern, especially if you’re not experiencing any other symptoms. The color is caused by old blood that has oxidized and turned brown. You might notice brown vaginal discharge just before or right after your period. 

Sometimes, you might even notice some brown discharge around the time of ovulation. Ovulation spotting happens when the change in hormones causes some of your uterine lining to shed, and although uncommon, it’s nothing to worry about. 

Similarly, pink discharge also indicated some amount of vaginal bleeding. Fresh blood mixed with cervical mucus can give your discharge a pink hue. You might notice some pinkish discharge before your period, during ovulation, when you start a new form of hormonal birth control (known as breakthrough bleeding), or in the early stages of pregnancy (implantation bleeding).

​In very rare cases, pink or bloody discharge can be a sign of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer often causes abnormal bleeding in between periods or after sex, so if you experience unexplained pink vaginal discharge in between periods or after having penetrative sex, see your healthcare provider.

When to see your healthcare provider 

The general rule of thumb is to see your healthcare provider anytime you notice a drastic change in your vaginal discharge that is unusual for you. Tracking the color and consistency of your discharge can be incredibly helpful and makes it that much easier to spot when something isn’t quite right. 

You should see your healthcare provider if you ever notice a strange color or smell in your vaginal discharge that is unusual for you or if you experience any vaginal itching, burning, or pain. Also, if you have changes in bleeding, it’s also wise to get checked out.

Your doctor will probably perform a pelvic exam and look at your vagina and vulva. They might also take a sample of your discharge with a swab and test it in a lab to check for a bacterial infection. If you prefer, you can request to do a self-swab or urine test, depending on your healthcare provider. 

If you’ve noticed any symptoms like odor or a change in the color of your vaginal discharge, you can also take Evvy’s Vaginal Health Test. Our at-home vaginal microbiome test uncovers 700+ infection-causing bacteria and fungi with a single swab and tests for STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, Mycoplasma genitalium, and trichomoniasis. You’ll receive results in only 1-3 days, and eligible users can also get treatment with Evvy’s Clinical Care.

FAQs on Vaginal Discharge Colors

What color is UTI discharge?

Since a urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra), it doesn't affect your vaginal discharge (which is produced by the cervix and vagina). A UTI can, however, cause cloudy or dark pee — along with other trademark symptoms like a burning sensation and the need to pee frequently. 

What does yeast infection discharge look like?

A yeast infection can look like:

  • Thick, vaginal discharge that is paste-like in consistency and looks like curdled milk or cottage cheese
  • A red, scaly rash that can spread beyond the vulva and onto the buttocks
  • A red, swollen vulva and vagina

For more on what a yeast infection looks like, check out our comprehensive guide (with pictures!

What does BV discharge look like?

BV discharge is usually cloudy or gray, thin or watery, and has a foul or fishy smell. You might notice the discharge more, especially after having sex.

Is light yellow discharge normal?

Yes, yellow discharge can be perfectly normal. It’s usually healthy and often turns pale yellow after exposure to oxygen. You should only be concerned about yellow discharge if it’s unusual for you or if it has a strong and unpleasant smell accompanied by other symptoms like itching, burning, or pelvic pain. 

What does thin milky white discharge mean?

Milky white discharge that doesn’t have a strong or unpleasant smell is perfectly normal. You might notice it at the end of your cycle, leading up to your period. That said, milky white discharge can also be an early symptom of pregnancy — so if you notice a lot of milky white discharge that is unusual for your body, it’s better to be safe than sorry and call your healthcare provider.