Your Guide To Every Kind Of Vaginal Discharge And What It Means

Ah, vaginal discharge – the best part of having a vagina. Just kidding, discharge is easily the worst thing about having a vagina. Unfortunately, discharge is also a part of our every day lives, whether it’s normal or something a little bit more serious. It’s just something we have to learn to live with, and that means it’s something we need to be informed about.

If I had a dollar for every time I read a question about discharge from one of you guys, I would actually be a millionaire. I’m serious. I totally get it – discharge is confusing and can be scary if you don’t know what’s going on. Unfortunately, most sexual education classes don’t teach enough about what’s coming out of your vay-jay-jay, and it’s a subject no one really wants to talk about over coffee, so we’re left kind of clueless.

That’s why Gurl is here! We talk about discharge like it’s no big deal, and we’re more than happy to help you guys get more comfortable with your bodies and figure out what’s going on. Here is your guide to every kind of vaginal discharge you might experience, and what it means along with what you should do. Did we forget something? Tell us in the comments!

What If It's Grayish and Smells Fishy?

Type Of Discharge/Other Symptoms: Grayish, off-white, or maybe even a bit yellow, with a strong fishy odor that is noticeably worse after having sex. It might be a little bit itchy down there as well, and the discharge might be foamy.

What It Means: It's most likely a vaginal infection like bacterial vaginosis. BV is a very common infection that usually happens when your pH balance is thrown off, or there is too much "bad" bacteria down there. There are a lot of things that can cause it, from having sex with a new person to not keeping things clean enough down there to inconsistent condom use.

What You Should Do: Bacterial Vaginosis is typically not serious and usually ends up going away on it's own. However, it can end up leading to other complications, so it's always a good idea to see a doctor about it. They can prescribe medication to make it go away faster, and they can investigate to see if anything else is going on.

Illustration Credit: Sarah Wintner

What If It Looks Like Cottage Cheese?

Type Of Discharge/Other Symptoms: Creamy white, chunky, and clumpy, with no odor that stands out. Symptoms that accompany this are usually a whole lot of itchiness and discomfort, pain during urination, and redness and swelling.

What It Means: You have a yeast infection. Yeast infections are very common and come from an influx of bacteria. You can prevent them by ingesting healthy bacteria on a regular basis - things like yogurt and acidophilus can help. Yeast infections are very noticable and really itchy and uncomfortable.

What You Should Do: Go to your doctor right away. Yeast infections are totally curable and very normal, but they need to be treated. Your doctor can give you medication or you can pick something up over-the-counter.

Illustration Credit: Sarah Wintner

What If It's Clear But Not Smelly?

Type Of Discharge/Other Symptoms: Clear, elastic, maybe resembles raw egg whites. No smell, no itchiness, no burning.

What It Means: Clear discharge with no smell and no other symptoms is completely normal. Every girl has discharge - it's a sign of a healthy vagina. In the beginning of your ovulation cycle, you'll notice that your discharge is like this - clear like egg whites. It's meant to trap sperm to bring into your uterus so you can have a baby, which is kind of cool when you think about it.

What You Should Do: Nothing! Like we said, this kind of discharge is normal. Some girls only have a little and some have a lot - if it's really too much and it's bothering you, you can wear panty liners. But don't wear them every day, because panty liners suffocate your vagina and can actually cause an infection.

Illustration Credit: Sarah Wintner

What If It's White and Creamy?

Type Of Discharge/Other Symptoms: Milky white, slightly creamier than before, but no smell and no itchiness or burning.

What It Means: You might start to freak if you notice your discharge has gone from clear to milky white. Don't. This is also completely normal. As you get towards the middle or end of your ovulation cycle, your discharge gets more like this because of a release of progesterone.

What You Should Do: Again, nothing. This is totally normal and nothing to stress over.

Illustration Credit: Sarah Wintner

What If It's Yellow-ish Green and Smelly?

Type Of Discharge/Other Symptoms: Frothy, yellow-green discharge that smells like fish or rotten eggs (the smell is similar to BV). Other symptoms that accompany this could be spotting, bleeding, itching, swelling, pain, burning urination, and more frequent urination.

What It Means: It could very possibly be Trichomoniosis, AKA trick. Trick is a very common STI that isn't talked about very often. It's actually one of the more common forms of vaginal infections. You can get it from having sex, but condoms should lower your risk.

What You Should Do: Go to the doctor right away. Trick is curable and treatable, but it's VERY contagious and you can spread it easily. Leaving it untreated could lead to further complications. Also, don't have sex until it's gone!

Illustration Credit: Sarah Wintner

What If It's Reddish-Brown or Bloody?

Type Of Discharge/Other Symptoms: A rusty reddish-brown discharge that almost looks like blood and usually happens right before or after your period. No odor or itchiness.

What It Means: You're spotting. Spotting like this typically happens at the end of your period, and is kind of just whatever is left over. If you're spotting in the middle of your cycle, it could be because of the birth control pill.

What You Should Do: If it's happening at the end of your period, wear a tampon or light pad until you're sure it's all gone. If you're spotting in the middle of your cycle and you're not on the Pill, see a doctor. Spotting should not happen all the time.

Illustration Credit: Sarah Wintner

What If It's A Weird Yellowish Color and It Smells?

Type Of Discharge/Other Symptoms: Unusual discharge that can be yellowish or other colors, very smelly odor, genital irritation, swelling, burning when peeing, itchiness, vaginal bleeding, pain during sex, and even a fever.

What It Means: It's probably a sexually transmitted disease or infection like gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, or herpes. These are usually curable, or at least treatable and manageable.

What You Should Do: Go to your doctor right away. An STD or STI won't go away on it's own, and if left untreated, it can lead to serious medical issues. Don't be embarrassed - it happens to the best of us! - just get it treated ASAP.

Illustration Credit: Sarah Wintner

What If It's Very Watery?

Type Of Discharge/Other Symptoms: Very watery discharge that has more liquid than normal. Other symptoms that may accompany this include heavier discharge than normal and discomfort down there.

What It Means: It could be a sign of herpes. Herpes causes open sores in the vagina, and they can ooze out, resulting in a heavier amount of liquidy discharge. Herpes is extremely common.

What You Should Do: Go to your doctor right away. Although there is no cure for herpes, it is treatable with medication. And always, always wear a condom so you don't spread it further.

Illustration Credit: Sarah Wintner

What is your question about discharge we didn’t answer here? What did we forget? Tell me in the comments.

You can follow the author, Jessica Booth, on Twitter or Instagram.


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  • Taryn Wade

    I am 15 and I’ve never gotten my period, even though my mom got hers at 13. I have discharge everyday and It is thick, smooth, white and smells really bad. Are any and all of these things normal? No period, always discharge, bad odor?

  • Ashley

    I feel like I’m bleeding on myself and when I check its clear thick stretchy viginal discharge that leaves my panties wet like I peed myself. Not supposed to start my period for about 2 more weeks what does it mean?

  • Angel therese

    I have the exact discharge its brown rusty color. No pain at all. My period has been late for a month now and ive been having this discharge got a couple of days, about 4 days now. And fir the past few months now, my period cycle has been off, irregular. One month late. Is this due to stress? What does it mean?

  • Angel therese

    I have this exact discharge for 3 days now, my period is late one month now. i have been irregular for the past months, it always comes a month late. i usually get my period by the middle of the month. what does this mean?

  • Samantha

    For the watery no smell discharge;
    What if you’ve never had any type of sex and it still comes out that way?

  • kerrington

    What if I have white discharge but I haven’t even sta started my period it is normally white or clear no smells or nothing

  • kiki

    My discharge is grayish-white and it stains my panities. My panities are purple and when I discharge it turn spots of it sea foam green. What do I do?

    • Panty Sniffer