What Does Your Vaginal Discharge Mean?

Most women begin to produce discharge around the time they begin to menstruate. The amount, consistency, and appearance vary among women. Vaginal discharge is how your vagina expels excess fluids, cells, and bacteria and is typically a sign of a healthy, clean vagina. However, if you have abnormal discharge, it could be a sign of a health issue. 

Here at Apple Hill Gynecology, in York, Pennsylvania, Marsha D. Bornt, MD, Donna Lamson, CRNP, MSN, WHNP-BC, and their all-women team can provide personalized advice and information about what healthy discharge should look like as well as the warning signs of a problem. 

Some of the critical details we want you to know about vaginal discharge include: 

What is vaginal discharge?

Vaginas are self-cleaning. They produce liquids that help flush out bacteria and stray cells. This secretion is vaginal discharge. Your vaginal discharge can change in consistency, color, and even odor throughout the month. For example, you might produce thicker discharge around ovulation, indicating peak fertility. 

Most women produce some vaginal discharge, although this tapers off after menopause as lower estrogen levels decrease vaginal lubrication. 

Types of vaginal discharge and what they mean

There are four standard vaginal discharge colors that all indicate different states of vaginal health. 


Healthy vaginal discharge is white in color. You might notice that the amount or thickness of your discharge varies throughout the month. If your discharge is thick, white, and lumpy, it usually indicates a yeast infection. Itching, burning, or irritated skin are additional yeast infection symptoms. 


Yellow vaginal discharge is abnormal. It’s usually a sign of bacterial vaginosis, another bacterial infection, or an STD


Many women have spotty brown discharge at the beginning or end of their periods. Brown discharge at other points during the month could indicate irregular periods. However, persistent brown discharge could be a sign of uterine or cervical cancer. 


Green or grey vaginal discharge isn’t normal. It warns of a bacterial infection or an STD. For example, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and pelvic inflammatory disease all cause changes in vaginal discharge. 

Other characteristics of abnormal discharge include a strong, fishy odor or a foamy or frothy texture. 

When should I talk to a doctor about vaginal discharge?

Let’s be honest, you know what your vaginal discharge looks like at various times during the month. You should talk to your provider at Apple Hill Gynecology if your discharge changes in unexpected ways. An abnormal color, smell, or texture, especially if you have other symptoms such as pain, itching, or burning, are signs of an infection or another health problem.

We offer thorough exams and testing to identify the cause of your abnormal discharge and other symptoms. Once we diagnose the problem, we can usually treat the problem with oral or suppository medication. We can also prescribe topical ointments or creams to soothe any discomfort.  

If you have abnormal vaginal discharge, contact us as soon as possible. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the more quickly you can get the treatment you need. Call our office, or make an appointment online today. 

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