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Is the color of my discharge normal?

Discharge: a sticky fact of life when you have a vagina. 

Everyone has discharge. It’s completely normal and actually works to keep your vagina clean, protect against infection and provide lubrication during sex.  Another way it’s helpful is that discharge of a normal color, odor and consistency is a sign of a healthy vagina.

Wondering if your discharge is irregular and it’s time to see a doctor? Here’s a handy color guide.

Clear:

A fairly thick, clear discharge is standard operating procedure for your vagina. Nothing out of the ordinary here. You may also see this type of discharge when you are ovulating or are sexually aroused.

White or light yellow: 

White/light yellow is also a no-cause-for-concern discharge color. This color appears for the same reasons as clear discharge - to clean and moisturize your vagina. 

Bright yellow or green:

A bright color is not typical for discharge. If you are seeing bright yellow or green discharge, you should see your doctor as it may be a sign of a sexually-transmitted infection. 

Gray: 

This is another abnormal discharge color. It could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, a common infection caused by an overgrowth of bacteria. 

Pink or brown: 

If you notice a pink or brown hue to your discharge, it may be a sign that your period is coming (pink) or your period has ended (brown). If you have these colors other than surrounding your period, it’s worth discussing with your doctor. 

Other factors to consider when it comes to discharge are odor and consistency. Discharge usually has a slight odor – sometimes described as earthy, ripe, sour or even pungent - but it shouldn’t smell bad. If you notice a fishy or otherwise unpleasant smell, it might be a sign of an infection.  Consistency can change throughout your menstrual cycle, but if your discharge is unusually thin, foamy, chunky or anything else you haven’t seen before, it’s probably a good idea to see your doctor as well.

The amount of discharge you have varies from person to person and fluctuates depending on your phase of the menstrual cycle. If your discharge is sometimes bothersome, you can wear a cotton pantyliner to absorb it and avoid staining your underwear. Remember, never use douches or other “feminine hygiene products” marketed for freshness as they can upset the balance of bacteria in your vagina.

If you notice a distinct change in your discharge or are experiencing pain, burning or itching in your vagina, be sure to get checked out by your gynecologist right away.