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Is My Vaginal Discharge Normal?

Medically reviewed by: Joy Friedman, MD

What Is Discharge and Is It Normal to Have It?

Vaginal discharge (or just “discharge”) is a fluid that comes from the vagina. It might be in your underwear or on toilet paper when you wipe. You may start to notice it about 6 months to 1 year before you get your first period. It’s perfectly normal to have discharge.

Vaginal discharge keeps the vagina clean and moist, and helps prevent and fight infections. The color, texture, and amount of discharge can change during your menstrual cycle (the time from one period to the next). But some changes may mean there’s a problem.

What Is Normal Vaginal Discharge?

Normal vaginal discharge can be somewhat thin, sticky, and elastic — or thick and gooey. It’s clear, white, or off-white. When discharge dries on underwear or a pantiliner, it may look yellow. Discharge often has a slight odor but it isn’t a bad smell.

Vaginal discharge can vary. You could have a lot of vaginal discharge and want to wear a pantiliner to keep your underwear dry. Or you may not have much discharge at all.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of a Vaginal Discharge Problem?

These signs can mean there's a problem with your vaginal discharge:

  • a change in:
    • smell: mainly a “fishy” odor
    • color: like green or gray
    • texture: like foam, cottage cheese, or pus
  • itching, burning, swelling, or redness in the vagina
  • vaginal bleeding or spotting that’s not a period

What Can Cause Changes in Vaginal Discharge?

Changes in vaginal discharge can mean that there’s an infection. Yeast infections can happen in females whether or not they’ve had sex. Other infections, like bacterial vaginosis and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are more common in those who've been sexually active.

Discharge can also change when certain products touch the vagina. These include scented pads and tampons, scented soaps, bubble baths and bath bombs, and clothing washed in scented detergent. The discharge might return to normal after someone stops using the products.

What Should I Do if My Vaginal Discharge Changes?

If your vaginal discharge changes and it doesn’t seem like it’s due to your menstrual cycle, talk with your doctor right away. The changes could be signs of an STD if you’ve had sex. (Sometimes STDs have no symptoms though, so that’s why regular STD testing is important.)

When the cause of your discharge change is figured out, you can get a treatment that should help.

Medically reviewed by: Joy Friedman, MD
Date reviewed: May 2024