If you’re like most women, you’ve noticed your vaginal discharge changes with your cycle — sometimes day by day! Along with these differences may come questions about what’s normal, what’s not, and when you should be concerned.
Dr. Yakov Levy and the care team at Yakov Levy MD PC, with offices in Midtown East, Manhattan, and Forest Hills, Queens, New York, can answer these questions to give you peace of mind. We’ve put together this guide to help you understand female vaginal discharge and when it might be time to visit your provider.
What is vaginal discharge?
Female vaginal discharge describes the fluids released by the glands in your cervix and vagina. These fluids serve an important purpose, carrying away bacteria and waste materials to keep your vagina clean and infection-free.
Healthy vaginal discharge comes in different colors and textures, from clear and thick to white and milky. Healthy discharge can also have different odors, but a fishy or foul odor usually means you have an infection.
Women going through perimenopause and menopause often notice a drop in their production of discharge. This happens because of the lower estrogen levels your body experiences at these times. Other factors that affect your estrogen production can also reduce vaginal discharge, including chemotherapy, chronic stress, certain medications, and intense exercise.
What about the color?
The color of vaginal discharge can change, and it may make you wonder: “Is this normal?” Here’s a look at some of the most common colors and types of discharge, including when it’s time to schedule a visit with Dr. Levy.
Clear or light white discharge
Clear discharge is almost always normal. It’s a sign that your self-cleaning vagina is doing its job to maintain balance and keep you healthy. It can mean you’re ovulating and producing extra cervical mucus, you’re sexually aroused, or you’re pregnant.
Thick, white discharge
Thick, white discharge is usually normal and may increase just before and after your period. If it accompanies itching, burning, or irritation, it could be a sign of a yeast infection.
Very light yellow discharge isn’t usually cause for concern. But deeper yellow discharge may be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection or bacterial infection, especially if there’s an odor associated with the yellow discharge.
Brown discharge is usually linked to bleeding. Just before, during, or after your period, this is normal. However, if you experience brown discharge at other times, it could be caused by irregular periods or spotting linked to hormone changes or birth control.
If you keep seeing brown discharge, schedule an appointment with Dr. Levy for an evaluation, as it’s sometimes a sign of uterine or cervical cancer — especially if you’re menopausal.
Green discharge is usually a sign of some kind of infection or disease, like trichomoniasis. If you’re experiencing green discharge, see your provider for early treatment of the underlying cause. For example, if you’re diagnosed with trichomoniasis, antibiotics can be prescribed.
When should I see my provider?
Anytime you’re worried about the color, quantity, odor, or other issues with your discharge, it’s a good time to talk to Dr. Levy. Symptoms that are a cause of concern include:
- Pain or burning
- Strong, foul odor
- Frothy or foaming texture
- Cottage-cheese like texture
- Gray discharge
You should also talk to your provider if you experience any bleeding not related to your period.
For questions about vaginal discharge, contact the Yakov Levy MD PC office nearest you. You can also schedule an appointment online or book a telehealth consultation.