New snacks on sale now for a limited time! Use code NEW for 15% off.

Why do I have vaginal discharge?

Your body produces discharge to clear, lubricate and fight bad bacteria in your reproductive tract.

Its color, amount, texture, and odor can give you essential information about where you are in your menstrual cycle, or whether you have an infection or other type of condition.

Find out more about how and why your body produces discharge so you understand its role in your health.

Discharge: The Quick Take

  • Vaginal discharge can tell you about your reproductive health.
  • This secretion is the body's way of balancing and clearing the reproductive tract.
  • It’s a mixture of your body’s water, bacteria, yeast and dead cells.
  • Discharge often starts around the time of your first period, but it can begin up to six months, or even a year, before that.
  • Hormones affect how your body produces discharge.
  • You can experience changes to the color, amount, texture or smell when your body undergoes hormonal or other changes.
  • If you notice sudden changes to your discharge, see your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does vaginal discharge do?

Our body has different ways of balancing and taking care of itself. That’s precisely what vaginal discharge does.

The tiny glands in your vagina and cervix produce this secretion to remove old cells and unwanted bacteria (1) from your reproductive tract. It’s a combination of water from your body, some bacteria, yeast and dead cells.

This cleansing process helps maintain a balance of acids and bases in your vagina.

When does vaginal discharge start?

It’s common to start producing discharge around your first period, but it can start up to six months, or even a year, before that.

During your menstrual cycle–and until menopause, when discharge ends–the amount of vaginal discharge your body produces can change. It may be lighter at some times and heavier at others.

Since hormone levels affect vaginal discharge, you may produce different amounts of it at other times. For example, you may notice that your body produces more when you breastfeed, are ovulating, are sexually aroused or take birth control pills (2).

What is a “normal” amount of discharge?

Studies show that the average amount of vaginal discharge ranges from 1 to 4 ml daily (6). But a higher amount is not necessarily a cause for concern.

You may experience more or less vaginal discharge depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle because changes in your hormones determine how much your body will produce. Your body knows how often to clean your reproductive tract.

Why does vaginal discharge change?

Discharge can tell us when the balance in the reproductive tract is disrupted. That can happen from:

  • bacteria
  • infections (for example, yeast infections or sexually transmitted infections)
  • douching or other types of unnecessary cleansing
  • a foreign object lodged in the vaginal canal.

These factors may affect the amount of discharge or a change in color, texture or odor. Check with your doctor if you notice a sudden change, especially if you also feel itching, swelling, burning or pain.

Why is my discharge a different texture?

Sometimes the texture of vaginal discharge can vary. It may be thin and watery or thicker and sticky.

When discharge is mucus-like, it’s usually a sign you are ovulating. If it’s the texture of cottage cheese, it can indicate an infection.

Pay attention to how you’re feeling and what your body might be telling you. Contact your doctor if you experience sudden changes or feel uncomfortable.

Why has the color of my discharge changed?

This is a really important question because vaginal discharge can be a range of colors for a range of reasons! Not all are cause for concern, but it’s a good idea to pay attention to changes.

Clear discharge is typically considered to be healthy and normal. But sometimes, a different color can indicate an irritation, infection or other change in your health that needs to be checked out.

Vaginal discharge can be:

  • clear
  • white
  • brown
  • gray
  • yellow-green
  • pink
  • red

If you notice a change in the color of your discharge, check with your doctor.

Why does vaginal discharge smell?

An odor doesn’t necessarily indicate a health problem. It’s expected that the area around the vulva can smell. (Douching and other types of “cleansing” can be harmful.)

Discharge itself, however, is usually odorless. Sometimes changes in your body can lead to an unusual or strong smell described as fishy, pungent, yeasty or metallic.

Those smells can be the sign of an infection or a more serious health condition. Please check with your doctor If you notice a significant change in the odor of your discharge.

Does vaginal discharge mean I'm pregnant?

Not necessarily. More discharge can be an early sign that you’re pregnant, and it’s common to experience more discharge during pregnancy, but: not all discharge is a sign of pregnancy.

Pregnant or not, you can experience vaginal discharge throughout your menstrual cycle, especially during ovulation. If you think you might be pregnant, take a pregnancy test and see your doctor.

  1. Galan, Nicole. A color-coded guide to vaginal discharge. Medical News Today. [Internet]. January 2020. [Cited 2022 November 28]. Accessed from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322232#outlook

  2. English National Health Services. Vaginal discharge in pregnancy. NHS UK. [Internet]. March 2021. [Cited 2022 November 28]. Accessed from: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/vaginal-discharge/

  3. Sharkey, Lauren. Everything You Need to Know About Vaginal Discharge. Healthline. [Internet]. June 2022. [Cited 2022 November 28]. Accessed from: https://www.healthline.com/health/vaginal-discharge#what-it-is

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Vaginal Discharge. Cleveland Clinic. [Internet]. July 2022. [Cited 2022 November 28]. Accessed from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/4719-vaginal-discharge

  5. The Hologic Team. Understanding Vaginitis in Women. The American Association for Clinical Chemistry. [Internet]. December 2019. [Cited 2022 November 28]. Accessed from: https://www.aacc.org/cln/cln-industry-insights/2019/understanding-vaginitis-in-women

  6. Thomason, Khristine. Is Vaginal Discharge Is Normal? And How Much Is Too Much? Health. [Internet]. May 2017. [Cited 2022 November 28]. Accessed from: https://www.health.com/condition/sexual-health/vaginal-discharge

Interested in sharing your story? Submit your proposal here.

Search our shop