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Vaginal Discharge: What's Normal, What's Not

What Is Vaginal Discharge?

Vaginal discharge is fluid that comes from the vagina. You might see this on the toilet paper when you wipe, or in your underwear.

Normal vaginal discharge has several purposes: cleaning and moistening the vagina, and helping to prevent and fight infections. It's normal for the color, texture, and amount of vaginal discharge to change at different times of the month during a girl's menstrual cycle. But some changes in discharge may mean there is a problem.

What Is Normal Vaginal Discharge?

Normal vaginal fluids can be somewhat thin, sticky, and elastic, or thick and gooey. Vaginal fluids should be clear, white, or off-white in color.

What Is Abnormal Vaginal Discharge?

It's important to keep an eye out for changes in vaginal discharge. There may be a problem if you notice:

  • a change in odor (especially an unpleasant odor)
  • a change in color (especially greenish, grayish, or anything looking like pus)
  • a change in texture (such as foamy or looking like cottage cheese)
  • vaginal itching, burning, swelling, or redness
  • vaginal bleeding or spotting that is not a menstrual period

What Can Cause Abnormal Vaginal Discharge?

Vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis, candidiasis (yeast infection), and trichomoniasis are common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge. Some infections that can cause changes in vaginal discharge spread through sex, such as gonorrhea. Others can happen with or without having sex, such as bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection.

If you notice any changes in your vaginal discharge or think you may have a problem, see a doctor or go to a health clinic (like Planned Parenthood) as soon as possible.

This is really important for girls who have had sex, especially those who have had sex without using a condom. That's because many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) cause changes in vaginal discharge.

If you think you might have an STD or that you've been exposed to an STD, let the doctor know. Also see the doctor right away if you have discharge along with fever or pain in the belly or pelvic area.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date Reviewed: 01-05-2018