Vaginal discharge color and smell can reveal a lot about your overall health! Do you know why?

This is because, vaginal discharge is an important marker of your fertility, hormone balance and that of the health of your reproductive system.

Now, you might have heard a lot on varying vaginal discharge color and smells. Or even experienced enough for yourself!

You may have wondered why the color and smell of the discharge coming out of your vagina keeps on changing? And why your energy levels and mood often goes up and down with this strange discharge?

The questions, doubts, and confusion around the vaginal discharge are plenty! It is so common for women to be surrounded with all kinds of worries when they start feeling untimely smelly discharge.

With this post, we will clear up the mystery around what is a normal vaginal discharge and what is not.

Firstly, we will look into types of vaginal discharge color and smells.

Then, we will go through Ayurvedic health tips to prevent and manage abnormal vaginal discharge. Let’s dive in!

What is Vaginal Discharge?

Vaginal discharge is the fluid coming out of the vaginal canal. It can be produced anywhere in the reproductive system organs such as ovaries, fallopain tubes, uterus, cervix and the vaginal canal.

For healthy women, vaginal discharge is normally produced by the cervix (a female reproductive system organ) under the action of hormones.

That’s why a healthy and normal vaginal discharge is often called as cervical fluid or cervical mucus.

However, there is no one size fits all. What is normal for one woman might not be the same definition of normal for another woman.

Each woman experiences discharge that is unique in the volume, consistency, color and smell etc.

Normal Vaginal Discharge

Yes it is! A healthy vaginal discharge is crucial part of the healthy menstrual cycle and of the female reproductive system.

Normal vaginal discharge is whitish, not smelly, thick and sticky or slippery and stretchy. It usually varies over the menstrual cycle as you will soon find out.

Female Reproductive System

Also, the vagina has its own way of taking care of itself. Vaginal discharge is a medium for the vagina to flush out any microbes and dead cells and maintain health.

It also helps to maintain the necessary lubrication, flexibility of the muscles and right chemical balance in the vagina.

That’s why you might see some discharge coming out of the vaginal canal when there is an internal change or external exposure to chemicals as soaps.

Here’s How Normal Vaginal Discharge Changes

Furthermore, for each woman, the volume of vaginal discharge may increase or change:

  • before menstruation: Thick, white, cloudy, creamy
  • at the time of ovulation: Wet, Stretchy, Thin and Slippery in nature
  • Early Sign of pregnancy: Vaginal discharge before period could also happen in first trimester. This type of discharge is generally bulky, without smell, thicker and creamier compared to regular discharge.
  • During Pregnancy: Thick, milky, white discharge that is velvety in texture happens during third trimester of pregnancy, when the body starts to prepare for the delivery.
  • due to sexual arousal: thick, white, creamy and bulky discharge with no smell
  • and when you are on hormone replacement therapy (HRT): Bulky and creamy discharge
  • or on contraceptives: Birth control pills are hormone based and affect our natural hormone balance. They often lead to an increase in the level of white discharge.
  • during menopause the discharge decreases in volume due to a natural drop in estrogen levels.

These changes in the discharge are all normal and vary from woman to woman.

Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

However, in a large number of cases women struggle with excessive vaginal discharge or with colored discharge that is smelly, itchy and painful.

This is not the healthy type of vaginal discharge. It indicates health imbalances and often infections that need to be addressed in time. You should consult your doctor in case you experience it.

Abnormal vaginal discharge can be produced in different parts of the vaginal canal as well by the vagina. This is often under the action of our immune system to push the pathogens (bacteria and fungi etc) out of the body.

Health Symptoms of abnormal Vaginal Discharge

Abnormal vaginal discharge may also present with the following health symptoms:

  • Soreness of the private parts
  • Pain in lower abdomen
  • Painful intercourse
  • Breathlessness
  • Pelvic pain
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue and Weakness
  • Giddiness and Headache
  • Painful urination
  • Itchiness of the private parts
  • Foul smelling discharge
  • Digestive problems such as constipation, indigestion and heaviness

We will look into this in more detail further on.

Normal Vaginal Discharge | Cervical Mucus

Also known as cervical fluid or cervical mucus, normal vaginal discharge happens due physiological changes during the menstrual cycle.

It is an important marker of your fertility and an ovulation sign that many women look at for pregnancy planning. This change in vaginal discharge color and consistency takes place due to the cycle of hormones during your menstrual cycle.

Here is how normal vaginal discharge changes during your menstrual cycle:

1. Right before and during ovulation

During this time, vaginal discharge becomes wetter, more fluid and watery, stretchy, and kind of creamier in color and texture.

If you hold it between your thumb and index fingers for example, it stretches out. This is indicative of a fertile period in the cycle.

2. Shortly after ovulation

That is to say, the release of an egg from the ovary, the vaginal discharge becomes thicker, kind of slightly rubbery, and less stretchy.

Cervical Mucus Vaginal Discharge Fertility Ovulation Signs-min

However, women on the pill and those struggling with hormone imbalances such as PCOS, one may not experience these changes, due to absence of ovulation.

Chart of Vaginal Discharge Color and Smell

Vaginal Discharge ColorSmell | SymptomsNormal Or Abnormal
Blood Red, Brown to RustyMetallic Smella.     Normal Menstrual Flow
b.     Spotting (Normal/Abnormal)
c.     Irregular Periods
d.     Health Issues | Cancer
e. Hormonal Imbalances
f. Cervicitis
Thin White GreyFishy Smell
Itchiness
Inflammation of vagina
Bacterial Vaginitis
White Curdy (lumpy)No smell
Heat in the body
Water Retention
Vaginal Candidasis
Yellow Green FrothyFishy Smell
Inflammation of vagina
Trichomoniasis (STI)
Thick Yellow or Whitish with pusFoul metallic smellCervicitis, PID
Thick white dischargeSweet Earthy Smell or No smell
Itchiness
Heaviness and water retention
Yeast Infection
Clear or WhitishNo smell, no symptomsa.     Normal Discharge
b.     Ovulation
c.      Pregnancy
d.     Sexual Arousal
PinkNo smell or light metallic smell
Fatigue
a.     Light Bleeding
b.     Early Pregnancy
c.      Ovulation
d.     Tears or Irritation of Vagina
Pale YellowSmell may varya. Change in diet
b. Supplements
Types of Vaginal Discharge and What do they mean

Why am I experiencing an abnormal vaginal discharge?

Abnormal discharge from the vagina can be due to various reasons, either infectious or non-infectious.

What causes abnormal vaginal discharge varies. It could be either due to hormone imbalances, fungal infections, bacterial infections, sexually transmitted infections or simply poor hygiene habits.

Let’s see these in detail:

Infectious Causes:

These include:

  • Bacterial Vaginitis: It is characterized by a thin, white/grey, homogeneous coating of the vaginal walls. This is accompanied by a fishy smell. It doesn’t however involve soreness.
  • Vaginal Candidasis: This causes a white, curdy discharge, which is without smell. It might come with erythema (redness with heat), edema, etc. You can learn more about vaginal candidasis here.
  • Trichomoniasis: Here, the discharge is yellow-green, frothy, and has a fishy odour. It also causes inflammation of the vagina.
  • Cervicitis: Cervicitis is an inflammation of the cervix. It is caused by chlamydia, or by gonorrhoea (though that is rare). There’s bleeding in this case.
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): is also caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea. It results in pain in the lower abdomen, etc.

Non-Infectious Causes:

  • Poor hygiene of the vagina
  • Hormone Imbalances
  • Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Stress or Anxiety
  • Displacement or Injuries to any of the reproductive organs such as vagina, uterus or cervix

Understanding Vaginal Discharge Color

Vaginal Discharge color and smell guide-min
Vaginal Discharge Color and Smell Guide

1. Red Discharge

The shade can range from blood red to a dark rust color. It is mostly due to bleeding during a menstrual period, in which case, it is normal.

However, it can also be due to irregular periods/spotting, using birth control, or other hormonal changes.

If you find yourself bleeding between periods, you should see your doctor, as it may signal underlying conditions. Also, bleeding after one year in menopause is not normal.

See your doctor as soon as you can, because that could signal endometrial cancer.

2. White Discharge

A white discharge can range from white to milky/creamy in color. This is a natural lubrication method of the vagina, and as such, is no cause for alarm. Here’s a detailed post for you to learn more about white discharge.

However, if it is textured like cottage cheese or smells, then it could be a sign of an infection, such as a yeast infection.

It might also have other symptoms like itching or irritation.

3. Yellow Green Discharge

Vaginal discharge can also have colors ranging from pale yellow to a neon green. It is not necessarily a problem if it is a light color.

It might be because of a change in diet or some supplements you have been taking.

However, if it is dark yellow or approaching green, thick or smells bad, it could be an infection. See your doctor.

4. Pink Discharge

A pink coloration in your discharge indicates some light bleeding. It occurs when you are spotting at the onset of your period. It can also indicate implantation in early pregnancy, or ovulation.

Also, pink discharge might be due to light bleeding after rough intercourse or something that causes tears or irritation in the vagina.

5. Clear Discharge

This type of vaginal discharge has an egg-white like consistency. It is the most normal type.

It can be for self-cleansing, seen during ovulation (the cervical mucus), experienced in pregnancy due to hormone changes, or seen during sexual arousal, when it comes to lubricate the vagina.

6. White or Grey Discharge

As earlier said, the infection Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) can cause white or grey color discharge.

Thus, it is not healthy, and you should see your doctor.

7. Brown Discharge

A rusty red or dark brown discharge after period is normal as often happens due to leftover menstrual blood getting mixed with the vaginal fluid.

Similarly, brownish discharge before period indicates left over blood from previous period getting cleared up along with the vaginal discharge.

Also, during early pregnancy one may observe pinkish brown discharge. This happens due to light spotting under the action of hormones. And when it mixes with vaginal discharge, it leads to colored discharge instead of period and may indicate successful conception.

Understanding Vaginal Discharge Smell | What it Indicates?

As there is a variation in vaginal discharge color, so also is there a variation in the smell of vaginal discharge.

1. Fishy smell

When your vaginal discharge has a fishy smell, then something fishy must be going on. Some microbes are invading you, or they are overpopulating.

As a result, a fishy smell is usually indicative of an infection. The chemical that causes the odor is also present in fishes. It is called trimethylamine.

A fishy smell can be indicative of:

  • bacterial vaginosis (BV);
  • Trichomoniasis, a common sexually transmitted infection, which has a stronger fishy smell than BV.

2. Tinny/metallic smell

You can experience this during your period. The metallic smell is due to the blood flowing. This blood actually does contain iron in it, hence, the metallic smell.

Aside your period, you can also experience metallic smell after vigorous sex that results in light bleeding. Also, if the vagina is dry, there can be tears and scrapes.

3. Rotten Smell

A rotten smell is usually indicative of an object in the vaginal canal, like a forgotten tampon for example.

4. Foul smell

A foul smell can be indicative of a abnormal growth or serious infections. You should immediately consult your doctor in case you experience it.

It may be caused by an abnormal growth of cells in the cervix, i.e., cervical cancer. Take a pap smear regularly as appropriate.

5. Body-Odor like smell

This may happen due to stress, which induces excessive sweating in the groin area. Hence, it makes your vaginal discharge smell like your body or sweat.

You should be concerned though if the smell is foul or extremely pungent. It can indicate bacterial infection.

6. Earthy smell

This sort of sweet and earthy smell is indicative of a bacterial infection.

Ayurvedic Perspective of Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

An abnormal vaginal discharge indicates an imbalance in the pitta and kapha doshas.

With a kapha aggravation, there is a thick, dense and excessive white discharge. It is also called as Leucorrhea. This may also be accompanied by yeast overgrowth, leading to yeast infection of the vagina.

High estrogen levels may also cause thick white discharge.

If it is a pitta aggravation though, vaginal discharge becomes rusty, yellowish or greenish in color. It also carries foul smell that is hard to bear. Pitta vaginal discharge is often an indication of vaginitis or bacterial infections.

When to see your doctor for vaginal discharge?

By now, you have a better understanding of what is normal and what isn’t. In furtherance of this, you should not hesitate to see your doctor if you notice such signs and symptoms as:

  • Itching or burning;
  • Pain, or pain during sex;
  • Thick, cottage cheese discharge;
  • Vaginal bleeding in between periods.

Natural Remedies and Prevention Tips for Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

Vaginal discharge can be due to infections or poor hygiene habits, that is if they are not the normal, expected ones. Here is a list of natural remedies, diet and lifestyle tips that you can get started with to restore your health and hormone balance.

It will help you to prevent and heal abnormal vaginal discharge.

1. Keep your Vagina Clean

Keep your outer vaginal area clean by regular washing. You should wash gently only the outer parts with a mild soap.

There is no need to put soap into the vagina, as it has its own natural sanitary processes. If you do, you might just end up disturbing the natural flora that keeps it healthy.

2. Avoid Fragrances and Chemicals

  • Do not use scented soaps to mask odor. For one, the chemicals can contain irritants.
  • Stay clear from scented wipes, fragrant deodorants and chemicals for the vagina.
  • Do not Douche

3. Use Natural Fabric for Undergarments

Synthetic fabrics can cause irritation and redness of the vagina due to excessive sweating and friction. Always prefer natural fabric such as cotton for your underpants.

It will allow proper circulation of air and prevent the conditions that can cause infections and inflammation of private parts.

4. Natural Oils and Herbs for Cleaning Vagina

Apply natural and pure oils such as virgin coconut oil or sesame oil on the vaginal area. It will help to heal any wounds and also restore the health of the vaginal canal.

Some of the essential oils and herbs that can be used in diluted form for application or cleaning of vaginal canal are:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Lavendar oil
  • Mint oil
  • Rose Water
  • Turmeric

5. Right way to clean up after bowel movement

When cleaning up, maybe after using the restroom, wipe from front to back, and not the other way round. This helps prevent drawing in microbes from the anus to the vaginal section.

6. Improve your Diet

  • Get rid of excess sugars, processed foods and spicy foods in your diet.
  • Consume whole natural foods that will provide you with right nutrition to maintain your hormone balance.
  • Take in lots of antioxidants rich foods which will support your immune system to prevent any infections.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Sip on herbal teas and natural drinks such as plain water and coconut water for hydration.
  • Remove stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and smoking.
  • Avoid poor fats, fried foods, heavy to digest and stale foods.
  • Reduce the amount of dairy and animal products from your diet.

7. Probiotics

Regular intake of probiotic foods in your diet will help to maintain the vaginal flora. Thus, it will prevent infections and support the natural functioning of your vaginal canal.

Also, you can dip a tampon in natural curd (yogurt) and insert it inside the vaginal canal for few hours to protect and prevent the vaginal flora.

This can be repeated once or twice in a week for best results.

8. Regular Physical Activity

Get active if you are not! And slow down if you are exercising too much. Right amount of physical activity can help to promote mental, physical and hormonal balance.

It affects your overall health. So, engage in calming and relaxing activities to bust the stress. And if you are struggling with high Estrogen symptoms, then exercises where you can sweat it out will be helpful.

Before you Go!

We hope that now you have a better understanding of what goes on with vaginal discharge color and smell. And why you have vaginal discharge in the first place.

You should be able to tell when it is normal or not, and when you need to see an healthcare provider.

Do write to us for any queries, comments, and feedback. We will try to get back the soonest we can!

References

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About the Author

Nidhi Bansal

Nidhi is the Founder of Medhya Herbals, a wellness venture that offers natural health solutions for Women. She has set on a mission to solve & simplify women's health care problems with all natural and holistic Ayurveda. Medhya Herbals offers Ayurvedic treatment through 1:1 Doctor consultations, Personalised Diet, Lifestyle and Exercise plans and online learning programmes. Start healing today!

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