With women’s health topics trending on the internet more than ever before, have you ever wondered if your vaginal discharge is healthy and whether you should be concerned when it changes? 

The good news is that you can expect the color and consistency of your vaginal discharge to change during each phase of your menstrual cycle. However, there are ways to know what type of vaginal discharge is “normal” depending on the time of the month, and where to turn if things don’t seem right

woman drinking tea on a sofa

What is vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge, also known as leukorrhea, is a clear, white, or off-white fluid or mucus that is released from your vagina. Your uterus, cervix, and vagina all produce discharge and can release between one-half to one teaspoon of it each day. The purpose of vaginal discharge, which comprises cells and bacteria, is to cleanse your vagina and protect it from harmful bacteria and infection. 

Although it seems taboo, vaginal discharge is normal and a part of the natural processes of the female reproductive system. However, if your vaginal discharge causes itching, burning, physical pain, or discomfort, it could be a sign that you should see your primary care physician. 

According to John Hopkins Medicine, some factors that can change your vaginal discharge include pregnancy, menopause, STIs, certain health conditions, and birth control. 

Different types of vaginal discharge

It’s important to note that your vaginal discharge won’t always have the same consistency or color; rather, it ebbs and flows throughout your menstrual cycle. Since your vaginal discharge can be an indicator of your overall reproductive health and fertility, here’s a helpful breakdown of 5 types of vaginal discharge, what they may mean, and when to seek medical attention.  

woman pulling up her underwear

1. White or off-white

White or off-white odorless discharge is typically a sign of a normal, functioning reproductive system and can appear before your period starts. This discharge is within the menstrual cycle's luteal phase when progesterone levels increase within your body. 

According to the CDC, if your discharge is white but is also thick and clumpy, you may have a yeast infection. Discharge with a yeast infection, also known as vaginitis, is commonly described as having a cottage cheese consistency and can cause itching and redness around the vulva and vagina. 

2. Clear and stretchy

Clear and stretchy discharge appears between menstrual cycles and can indicate that you’re ovulating, explains Planned Parenthood. Your discharge may be white, off-white, or have a yellowish tint and be slippery to the touch, like the consistency of egg whites. If you’re trying to conceive, this cervical discharge can help sperm cells thrive, potentially leading to pregnancy, so keep an eye out for clear and stretchy discharge if you’re trying to conceive! 

3. Clear and watery

Transparent discharge usually has a watery consistency. Your body may produce this discharge when you become sexually aroused or during ovulation. 

Typically, translucent discharge is harmless, but if you’re experiencing pain or are releasing more fluid than usual, it may be a sign of a health issue, according to Planned Parenthood

Be the expert in you.

Take the Quiz

4. Brown or bloody

As your period begins or ends, you may have vaginal discharge that is either red or brown in color because of fresh or old blood. In addition to period-related discharge, menopause, mid-cycle spotting, or implantation bleeding can also have the same color. 

smiling woman againsts a natural green background

5. Yellow, green, or gray

Yellow, green, or gray-tinted discharge can, unfortunately, be a sign of a vaginal infection or an STI, according to Planned Parenthood. Additional symptoms can include “fishy” or foul-smelling discharge, itching, or a burning sensation when urinating. 

If you’re experiencing discomfort “down there,” or have abnormal discharge, it’s important to talk to your medical provider and seek treatment. While it may not be openly talked about, understanding your vaginal discharge can make you feel more confident as you track your menstrual cycle. It can also be key to identifying vaginal infections and helping you understand your body better, which is a win-win for us!

Taneia Surles is an Alabama-based freelance health and wellness writer and the founder of Content By Taneia, LLC. She holds a Master's degree in Public Health with a Health Behavior concentration and specializes in health and wellness, productivity, education, entrepreneurship, and true crime content.