A guide to vaginal discharge colours & what they mean
If you’ve ever wondered why your vaginal discharge is a certain colour then you’re in the right place. In our vaginal discharge colour guide, we’ll explain why you might be seeing a colour you weren’t expecting and what you can do about it…
What is vaginal discharge?
Vaginal discharge is an essential function in maintaining vaginal health. Your vagina contains natural fluids that help to clean & lubricate the vaginal canal which are produced by glands in the cervix & vaginal walls and are made up of mucus, dead cells & bacteria.
Vaginal discharge can vary greatly person to person and can depend on where you are in your menstrual cycle, if you’re on birth control or if you’re sexually active. Lifestyle factors like stress, diet & overall health can also affect vaginal discharge.
One thing is for certain when it comes to vaginal discharge: it’s completely normal. Everyone will experience it at some point during their life, anyone at any age can get vaginal discharge. There’s absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about.
Vaginal discharge colours
The colour of your vaginal discharge can indicate whether you have an infection or underlying condition, so it’s important to note if there’s anything out of the ordinary. We’ve even got a handy blog all about “normal” vaginal discharge and what it looks like throughout your menstrual cycle & lifestage. Here’s our guide to vaginal discharge colours…
Clear vaginal discharge
If you’re seeing clear vaginal discharge then all signs point to everything being healthy & balanced. It may appear slippery or have the consistency of egg whites, you’re more likely to have clear or watery vaginal discharge just before ovulation, during sexual arousal or pregnancy.
White vaginal discharge
Thick & white vaginal discharge is quite common at the beginning or end of your cycle. The colour can range from pure white and cream to a light yellow. If you’re experiencing no other symptoms like itching or soreness, white vaginal discharge is usually a sign of healthy lubrication.
If you’re experiencing any itching or you're seeing a cottage cheese consistency alongside a strong or unpleasant odour, you may have a yeast infection - also known as thrush. Always checked out by a doctor who can prescribe medication to treat a yeast infection.
Pink vaginal discharge
Discharge can often be accompanied by a little blood and appear to vary between light and deep pink. Pink vaginal discharge can happen for a number of reasons:
- Implantation bleeding in early pregnancy.
- Light spotting after ovulation.
- After sexual interaction if sex has caused a small tear or irritation in the vagina or cervix.
Red/bloody vaginal discharge
Bloody vaginal discharge is most common during menstruation as blood can easily combine with vaginal discharge, the red shade can vary from bright to a rusty shade.
Although there are many benign causes of bleeding between periods or even during menopause, it’s always best to get checked out as this can be an indicator of a cervical infection, cervical polyps or in some cases endometrial or cervical cancers. So, if you do spot blood in your discharge outside of your period make sure you get checked out by a healthcare professional.
Brown vaginal discharge
Brown or dark red vaginal discharge can often be spotted at the end of your period as your vagina flushes out any old blood or cervical tissue. If you’re seeing blood in your discharge when you’re not on your period, make sure you get checked out by a doctor or gynaecologist.
Green vaginal discharge & yellow vaginal discharge
A slight yellow tinge to your vaginal discharge is usually nothing to worry about, especially if you’re not experiencing any itching, soreness or odour. However, if you notice shades of bright or deep yellow or green in your vaginal discharge, you may be dealing with a sexually transmitted disease or bacterial infection.
Make sure you get an appointment with a doctor if your vaginal discharge is thick & clumpy or has a foul odour.
Orange vaginal discharge
There’s a few reasons why you might have orange vaginal discharge:
- It’s just part of your period - sometimes when blood mixes with vaginal discharge, it may appear orange. If you’re spotting this during your period then it’s probably nothing to worry about.
- If you’re taking birth control, you may be experiencing breakthrough bleeding and can cause your vaginal discharge to appear orange.
- Orange vaginal discharge is also a sign of an infection, especially if it’s a bright shade and has a strong fishy odour. The most common infections with orange discharge are Trichomoniasis & BV.
If you’re pregnant, orange vaginal discharge can mean something completely different.
As you’ve got higher levels of estrogen in your body, chances are you’ll also have more vaginal discharge. You should always seek a doctor’s advice if you experience bleeding or anything out of the ordinary when pregnant.
Here’s a few reasons why you might be experiencing orange discharge during pregnancy:
- Implantation bleeding - this is the light spotting that occurs when a fertilised egg implants itself in the lining of the uterus. When blood mixes with vaginal discharge, it may appear orange. This occurs around 6-12 days after fertilisation. The bleeding is typically very light and may be mistaken for a light period or spotting. Not everyone will experience implantation bleeding, and it is not a reliable sign of pregnancy.
- Pregnancy loss - whilst orange discharge during the first trimester of pregnancy is common, if your discharge appears a deep red then see a doctor as soon as possible.
- Post natal - orange vaginal discharge is also common after giving birth, especially after a C-section procedure. The Lochia (bleeding after giving birth) is a mix of blood and other membranes from the uterus and can start as bright red, then brown, orange or pink and then return to a creamy-white colour as your hormones return to their natural rhythm after giving birth.
Black vaginal discharge
Seeing black vaginal discharge can be alarming, but there’s a few reasons why you might be experiencing it - and they’re not all causes for concern.
Most commonly, it’s old blood and you’ll spot it around the time of your regular menstrual period. When blood takes longer to exit the uterus, it oxidises and can cause it to appear a dark shade of brown or even black. This can happen because at the beginning or end of your period, blood flow may be slower and cause the colour change. If you spot black vaginal discharge at the beginning of your period, this may just be blood left over from your last period, so this is just your vagina cleaning itself out!
However, there’s some occasions when black vaginal discharge needs to be looked into:
You may have something stuck inside your vagina, this is commonly a second or forgotten tampon. Other common objects can include condoms, contraceptive caps or sponge & sex toys. If left for too long, this object may irritate the lining of your vagina and cause an infection. You may experience itching & discomfort around the vagina, swelling or a rash, pain when urinating, a fever and a foul-smelling discharge. Remember: objects can’t get “lost” or travel to the uterus or abdomen as your cervix has only a tiny opening.
If you’re experiencing black vaginal discharge and you suspect there’s something stuck inside your vagina, get an appointment to see a doctor as soon as possible. In rare cases, you may develop toxic shock syndrome, a potentially life-threatening infection and will require immediate medical attention.
Other reasons for black vaginal discharge include:
- Retained menses (hematocolpos) - this occurs when menstrual blood is blocked from leaving the uterus, cervix or vagina. This can be caused by many factors such as congenital conditions of the vaginal septum or hymen.
- Lochia - the bleeding that occurs four to six weeks after giving birth can cause black vaginal discharge, especially if blood flow is slow.
- Missed miscarriage.
- Implantation bleeding.
Grey vaginal discharge
Seeing grey vaginal discharge is a sign that things aren’t as they should be. It’s also a common symptom of bacterial vaginosis alongside itching, irritation, a strong odour and redness around the vulva. This grey colour occurs because of a collection of bacteria, white blood cells & cellular waste products.
Remember, BV symptoms are very similar to those of a yeast infection, we’ve got a blog all about knowing the difference between thrush & BV that has everything you need to know.
Other conditions that can cause grey vaginal discharge include STIs such as chlamydia & gonorrhoea (although both can be symptomless) and in rare cases vaginal cancer. Always seek medical advice if you ever see grey vaginal discharge.
In most cases, infections or hormonal imbalances are the reason for any changes in vaginal discharge. Our advice is to always seek medical advice and start suitable treatment as soon as possible. If you have any more questions about vaginal discharge, get in touch! You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org