Clear discharge can be a normal part of the menstrual cycle.
It helps to clear old cells and bacteria, preventing infection. It can also be a sign of fertility and ovulation.
In this article, I’ll explore what clear discharge is, how to know what is normal, and when you should see a doctor.
Vaginal Discharge Color Code: What They Mean
Vaginal discharge may be many different colors.
Some are normal, while others may be a sign of infection.
Learn how to distinguish between vaginal discharge colors with this color code guide.
- Clear: Normal vaginal secretions are often clear and happen almost every day throughout the menstrual cycle. It serves to lubricate the vagina during sexual arousal and also clears old cells and bacteria. Before ovulation, clear discharge gets thinner and increases in volume to help facilitate a pregnancy if someone is trying to conceive.
- White: There are many normal shades of white vaginal discharge. When vaginal secretions are exposed to oxygen as they exit the vagina, they typically take on a white appearance. White vaginal discharge may appear pale white or creamy white. It may be seen at the end of a period, before or during ovulation, and before a period. If white discharge does not have a foul odor and does not occur with other symptoms or pain, it is likely a normal part of the menstrual cycle.
- Thick white: Discharge thickness and texture may change throughout the menstrual cycle. Around and during ovulation, discharge is at its thinnest. At other times, discharge may be thick. If white discharge appears to be thick with a cottage cheese texture and associated with itchiness, this may be a sign of a yeast infection. If ithas a fishy or foul smell, it could be a sign of an STI. If you notice an increase in thick white discharge with any symptoms, let a healthcare provider know.
- Yellow: Yellow discharge can be a normal part of a menstrual cycle. If it is pale yellow, it may commonly be seen at the end of a period or several days before ovulation. If it’s darker yellow or greenish-yellow, it may be a sign of infection from bacteria, like a sexually transmitted infection. If yellow discharge has a foul smell to it, you should let your healthcare provider know. Normal yellow discharge should not have a foul odor and should not appear chunky or textured.
- Brown: Brown discharge may normally appear before or after normal period flow. It may also be a sign of irregular periods, perimenopause, early pregnancy, or recent vaginal irritation. If you notice a lot of brown discharge or it appears outside of your normal period flow, let your healthcare provider know. Less commonly, brown discharge may indicate a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, infection, or uterine cancer.
- Pink: Pink discharge that happens right before or after a period is likely a normal part of menstrual flow. Pink discharge that occurs at different times of the cycle can be normal, or it can be a sign of a problem. Pink discharge in early pregnancy can be a sign of implantation bleeding, when the fertilized embryo attaches to the lining of the uterus. You may also experience pink discharge if your body is adjusting to a new hormonal contraceptive or you have used emergency contraception. People who are in perimenopause may also experience irregular periods, which can mean pink discharge occurs at unexpected times instead of a full period flow. Any pink discharge outside of normal period flow should be discussed with your healthcare provider. Vaginal irritation and inflammation can also cause pink discharge, especially seen with wiping. In rare cases, pink discharge can signal uterine or cervical cancer, a miscarriage, or an ectopic pregnancy.
- Green: Green discharge is never normal and should be reported to a healthcare provider as soon as you notice it. In most cases, green discharge is a sign of bacterial vaginosis or trichomonas (a common STI)Sexually transmitted infections are often caused by bacteria or parasites and require medication to properly treat them. If left untreated, sexually transmitted infections can lead to complications, like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Other signs to be wary of are pain with sex and spotting or bleeding with sex. These are indications that an STI is a high likelihood.
- Gray: Gray discharge is never normal. It is commonly a sign of a bacterial infection (like bacterial vaginosis) or STI. Gray vaginal discharge typically happens with other symptoms like a foul smell to the discharge, vaginal pain or itching, burning during urination, and more. If you see gray discharge, you should see a healthcare provider immediately.
What Causes Clear Discharge
Clear discharge is produced by glands in the cervix and vagina.
It helps to lubricate reproductive organs and clear out old cells and bacteria to help prevent infection.
Clear discharge changes throughout the menstrual cycle, both in volume and appearance.
Normally, vaginal secretions have a low pH that is not friendly to sperm or bacteria, preventing anything from entering the uterus.
During ovulation, the pH of vaginal discharge changes to be sperm-friendly, helping to facilitate conception for those who are trying to get pregnant.
Clear discharge is generally normal, but if you notice a sudden increase in how much discharge you have or you notice other symptoms, let a healthcare provider know.
How Much Discharge is too Much
There is no set normal amount of discharge. Some people with vaginas produce a lot throughout a menstrual cycle or during ovulation, while others do not notice it at all.
Even if you don’t see it, that doesn’t mean it is not there.
What matters most is what is normal for you.
If you notice that your discharge changes from what you would expect, it is a good idea to check in with a healthcare provider.
Whether you notice a lot more discharge or it changes color, texture, or smell, your healthcare provider can help you understand what is normal for your particular health circumstances.
What is normal for one person may not be normal for someone else.
When to See a Doctor
Vaginal discharge is a normal and healthy part of the menstrual cycle.
Unless there is a noticeable change in color, smell, or volume, there is likely no cause for concern.
If you notice that your discharge changes color or smells bad, you should speak to a healthcare provider.
If your discharge is dark yellow, green, or gray, you should see a healthcare provider as these almost always indicate signs of infection.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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Bacterial vaginosis. (2019).