Is Vaginal Discharge Normal?

Some women may freak out when they notice vaginal discharge or a change in their vaginal discharge. They may think it means they have an STD or that something is wrong down there. We’re here to answer the question “Is vaginal discharge normal?”

The short answer, it depends.

Vaginal discharge is fluid that is released by glands inside the vaginal and cervix. It serves the purpose of clearing the vagina of bad bacteria and/or dead cells, and also acts as a lubricant.

“Normal” vaginal discharge is typically described are clear or somewhat cloudy. It is odorless and should not cause irritation. Normal discharge can vary depending on the menstrual cycle. It may become thin and watery or thicker at different times of the month.

When is vaginal discharge abnormal?
Vaginal discharge is abnormal when it causing irritation and/or when it contains an unpleasant odor. Unusual vaginal discharge can cause itching and might appear somewhat green, yellow or brown or reddish if mixed with blood.

Abnormal vaginal discharge can be caused by infections, including sexually transmitted infections or diseases (STDs).

Conditions that are NOT sexually transmitted diseases that can cause abnormal vaginal discharge include:

  • The use of antibiotics or steroids
  • Pelvic infection following surgery
  • Having pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV) – bacterial infection that commonly occurs in pregnant women or women with multiple sex partners
  • Taking birth control pills
  • Having cervical cancer
  • Being diabetic
  • Douching, using scented soaps, lotions or feminine hygiene products, and/or taking bubble baths
  • Women experiencing vaginal atrophy – condition in which the vaginal walls become thinner and dry out during menopause
  • Women experiencing vaginitis – irritation in or around the vagina
  • Yeast infections/Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

STDs that can cause abnormal vaginal discharge include:

  • Chlamydia – Chlamydia may result in abnormal vaginal discharge that may be accompanied by an odor.
  • Gonorrhea – Sometimes gonorrhea is accompanied by unusual vaginal discharge.
  • Trichomoniasis (Trich) – Trichomoniasis is caused by parasitic protozoa that is transmitted sexually. It often causes abnormal vaginal discharge that contains a strong and unpleasant odor.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are bacterial infections, and trichomoniasis is a parasitic protozoa. These three infections can be treated and cured with antibiotics. However, when left untreated, they can cause serious and damaging health problems.

If you are experiencing abnormal vaginal discharge it is important to get tested to rule out whether or not it is being caused by an STD or other infection. Get tested today to get peace of mind and to know your status.

Medically Reviewed by on August 7, 2023

Secure and Confidential
STD testing services

The fastest results possbile - available in 1 to 2 days

Cartoon of person with laptop at the STDcheck website
Categorized As
Author: Nick Corlis

Nick Corlis is a writer, marketer, and designer. He graduated from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, with a degree in Digital Communications. Nick is proud to be able to help eliminate the stigma of STD testing through his writing and is always trying to advocate the importance of your sexual health. Before STDcheck, his favorite way to develop his writing skills was by accepting various writing jobs in college and maintaining multiple blogs. Nick wears many hats here at STDcheck, but specifically enjoys writing accurate, well-researched content that is not only informative and relatable but sometimes also contains memes. When not writing, Nick likes to race cars and go-karts, eat Japanese food, and play games on his computer.