What normal discharge looks like and when to be concerned about brown, yellow, or white discharge

Discharge is an important part of your vaginal health - it carries out old cells and helps prevent infection. Tetra Images / Getty Images
The normal discharge is usually clear or white with no strong odor and with a sticky, slippery texture.
If you experience pain while peeing, the yellow discharge can be a sign of certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including gonorrhea and trichomoniasis.
Brown discharge is normal if it occurs right after your period, but it can also be a symptom of early miscarriage or cervical cancer.
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Discharge is fluid, or mucus, produced by your cervix that helps cleanse your vagina and keep it moist. In most cases, the discharge is normal, but in some cases it may indicate an underlying medical problem.
If your discharge smells strong or looks different than usual, it could cause health problems such as bacterial overgrowth or a sexually transmitted infection.
Learn if your discharge is normal or if you need to see your doctor.
What does a normal discharge look like?
Discharge can feel annoying, but it plays an important role in your vaginal health. When the discharge flows through your vagina, it carries out old cells and prevents infection. Discharge also helps keep your vagina moist.
"Vaginal discharge can change depending on where a woman is during her menstrual cycle," says Dr. Christine Greves, gynecologist at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. Around the time you ovulate, your discharge might be clear and slippery, while after your period it might be whiter and cloudy.
Your discharge is likely normal if:
It is clear or white.
It's sticky and a little thick, but not clunky.
It feels wet or slippery.
It doesn't have a strong odor.
It's brown for a few days after your period.
The amount of discharge you have can change from day to day, but about a teaspoon of fluid is normal. This can also vary from person to person - some people can only be discharged a few times a month while others can be discharged every day.
White discharge
"White discharge can be normal," says Greves. However, in some cases, this can be a sign of a medical problem. Some possible conditions that cause a white discharge are:
Yeast Infection: If your discharge is thick and chunky like cottage cheese, it could be a sign of a yeast infection. Some other symptoms of a yeast infection include itching, burning, or redness of your vulva. Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of the candida fungus and can be caused by showering or taking antibiotics.
Bacterial Vaginosis: "If the discharge is white, gray, or yellow and has a fishy odor, it could indicate bacterial vaginosis as a possible cause," says Greves. Bacterial vaginosis can also cause pain and itching in your vagina and a burning sensation when you pee. Bacterial vaginosis occurs when certain bacteria overgrow in your vagina, but experts don't know exactly what is causing it.
Yellow discharge
Yellow discharge can be a sign of certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including:
Gonorrhea: "If the discharge is yellow or cloudy, gonorrhea could be a possible cause," Greves says. Some other symptoms of gonorrhea include bleeding after sex, pain when peeing, or pain in your stomach. Gonorrhea is caused by bacteria and can be passed on to you when you have sex with someone who is infected.
Trichomoniasis: If you have foamy yellow or green discharge, you may have trichomoniasis. It can also cause other symptoms such as itching in the vagina and pain when peeing. Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite and can be passed on to you during sex, even if your partner doesn't have symptoms.
Brown discharge
Brown discharge can be normal, especially if it occurs right after your period. However, in some cases, this may also indicate an underlying problem, such as:
Early Miscarriage: If you have brown discharge that looks like coffee grounds, you may have a miscarriage early in your pregnancy. Other signs of early miscarriage include cramping, drowsiness, and bleeding. Miscarriages are common and are often caused by medical factors that are beyond your control.
Cervical cancer: If you have watery, brown discharge that has a foul smell, it could be a sign of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer also causes symptoms such as heavier, longer periods of time, pain during sex, and pain in the lower abdomen or lower back. Cervical cancer is commonly caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), but it can also be caused by other sexually transmitted diseases or by smoking.
Insider to take away
Vaginal discharge is common and usually not a cause for concern. However, if you notice a major change in your discharge, it may be a sign of a problem. You should look out for the following changes:
You have a lot more discharge than usual.
Your discharge is thicker than normal.
Their discharge is an unusual color.
Their discharge has a strong, unpleasant odor.
You have other symptoms such as itching or a rash.
"If you notice a change in your body that isn't your normal type of change, see your doctor," says Greves.
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