Is Yellow Vaginal Discharge Normal?

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Question: Is Yellow Vaginal Discharge Normal?

Answer: It depends.

All menstruating women will have some degree of vaginal discharge during their cycle and this is very normal. This normal vaginal discharge is made up of vaginal secretions and cells that are shed from the lining of the vagina mixed with the vagina’s normal healthy bacteria. This discharge “cleans”, protects and lubricates a healthy vagina.

Typically this vaginal discharge will be clear to whitish in color. The discharge may have a slightly yellowish hue especially when it has tried on your underwear. It may be thin and a little watery or it may be a bit thicker and sticky. Perhaps most importantly a normal healthy vaginal discharge will be relatively odorless and will not cause any burning, itching, or irritation.

In women with a regular 28- day cycle, ovulation happens right around day 14 of the cycle. During these couple of days, a women’s vaginal discharge will change. It will be stretchy, stringy and very sticky. It is usually clear to opaque in color. This type of discharge is actually an increase in cervical mucous and is called Spinnbarkeit. Understanding and watching for this normal change in your monthly discharge is an important part of using Natural Family Planning (NFP) to prevent unplanned pregnancies or achieve pregnancy when desired.

Normal vaginal discharge increases during ovulation but it also increases during sexual activity. Increased vaginal discharge is often one of the first signs of sexual arousal. The amount of vaginal discharge can also increase at times of emotional stress. As long as there is no change in the color or odor of the discharge or any vaginal symptoms, an increase in the amount of discharge in these situations is usually quite normal.

On the other hand, if you experience a vaginal discharge that suddenly and randomly increases in amount it may be a sign of a vaginal problem. Another change that may indicate a problem is a discharge that is bright yellow or greenish in color. A thick clumped or chunky discharge or a very watery discharge can also indicate a vaginal problem.

A vaginal discharge that has a foul odor is very likely associated with a vaginal problem since most normal vaginal discharge is relatively odorless. And of course, any vaginal discharge that is associated with vaginal or vulvar itching, burning, irritation or pain with intercourse is very likely a sign of a vaginal problem.

For example, if your discharge is whitish to pale yellow and thick and clumped and you have vaginal itching or burning you likely have a vaginal yeast infection.

But if you have a discharge that is heavier than usual, that is watery and grayish in color with a foul fishy odor, you likely have bacterial vaginosis.

If you are having a vaginal discharge that suddenly increases in amount, that is green or yellowish that has a bad odor, or is causing vaginal symptoms you should see your doctor to determine the cause and to get treatment.

Causes of abnormal vaginal discharges include:

Edited by Andrea Chisholm MD

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