Vaginal discharge is, in many instances, completely normal and harmless. Regular vaginal discharge actually helps expel dead cells and bacteria from inside the cervix and vagina. However, there’s a difference between the discharge of normal vaginal fluids and discharge that indicates a bigger issue. Here, we’ll explain the many different types of vaginal discharge, what each means, and what you can do if you’re concerned about your well-being:
Stages of Vaginal Discharge
Not all vaginal discharge is the same. Indeed, discharge emanating from the vagina can come in a variety of forms, colors, consistencies, and smells. While it can be difficult to ascertain the source of a medical issue based solely on observing discharge, these descriptors should help you determine your next course of action.
Thick, Jelly-Like Vaginal Discharge: sometimes described as having the consistency of “cottage cheese.” While unpleasant and potentially painful, this type of discharge is associated most often with yeast infections.
Light Pink Vaginal Discharge: the presence of a little blood or pinkish hue in vaginal discharge can result from a number of conditions, including irregular menstrual cycles, the shedding of the uterine lining after childbirth, or the presence of certain STDs.
Green Vaginal Discharge: Yellowish-green discharge, more often than not, stems from the STD trichomoniasis. What’s more, this discharge tends to have a distinctive smell also.
Brown Vaginal Discharge: As opposed to a little blood within discharge, lots of blood, brown discharge, or bleeding in between menstrual cycles are indications of some type of infection –– possibly an STD. Rarely, brown discharge could denote cervical cancer.
Gray Vaginal Discharge: Cloudy, clear, or white discharge is typically considered “normal” for most women. However, discharge of this color but of a strange consistency or bad smell may indicate the presence of an STD –– normally gonorrhea, chlamydia, or both.
(Note: It’s unwise to attempt to self-diagnose based solely on the color, smell, or consistency of vaginal discharge.)
Vaginal Discharge STDs
Many STDs cause some form of vaginal discharge, the most common of which are trichomoniasis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. As explained above, discharge from trichomoniasis usually has a greenish hue and unpleasant odor. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are slightly different, though.
Discharge from chlamydia and/or gonorrhea usually has a gray, cloudy, or yellowish color, along with a rank smell. In addition, these STDs can cause irregular menstrual bleeding, and, if left untreated, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which can lead to infertility. Fortunately, both chlamydia and gonorrhea are bacterial STDs and treatment is almost always straightforward.
How to Deal with Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
Again, discharge from the vagina is not necessarily alarming. However, if you notice a strange smell, consistency, color, or frequency with which the discharge occurs, then it’s best to visit a local facility and get tested. Trying to self-diagnose is next to impossible, and it’s easy to confuse one type of discharge for another. Instead of worrying about it or trying to ignore it, make it a point to get tested.