Vaginal Discharge Provides Clues to Your Health and Fertility

Medically reviewed by Melody Nolan, M.D.

Infographic Vaginal discharge provides clues to your health and fertility. Click the image to open the PDF

It’s normal for women to have different types of vaginal discharge at various times. Your discharge provides clues about your health.

What is vaginal discharge?

It’s a combination of fluid and cells made by the cervix that is shed through the vagina.

Normal discharge lubricates and protects your vaginal tissue from irritation or infection.

Abnormal discharge that itches, burns or has an odor or an unusual color can signal a medical problem.

Yes, it’s normal for vaginal discharge to change!

Your discharge changes throughout your monthly cycle, providing clues to your fertile days (the days when you are most likely to get pregnant).

Observe discharge on a clean/flat tissue after wiping or use your fingers to note textur e

During your period

Mostly blood cells from the uterus shedding its inner lining

After your period

Dry or damp; no observable discharge for a few days

Before fertile days

Cloudy or white, and feels thick, pasty or creamy

Fertile days

Clear, stretchy and slippery (like egg whites) for several days before and after ovulation ; helps sperm survive and fertilize the egg

Post-fertile days

Dry or thick; minimal discharge until period begins again

Hormones affect your vaginal discharge

Estrogen levels affect mucus, so women with lower estrogen (during menopause or while taking birth control) typically have less discharge or drier patches of sticky mucus.

What color should vaginal discharge be?

Clear

Healthy, indicates days of peak fertility

White

Healthy, common during non-fertile days and throughout pregnancy

(Lumpy, white “cottage cheese” style mucus can mean a yeast infection)

Pink

Common right before period (or if pregnant, shortly before labor begins)

Red

Usually indicates a period, but can also mean miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy (report clots, heavy bleeding or abdominal pain to your healthcare provider)

Brown

Typically old blood leaving the body, not a concern

Yellow

Can be normal after your period, but may indicate infection if there is pain or unusual odor

Green

Not healthy; may indicate a sexually transmitted infection (STI) like chlamydia

Does vaginal discharge have a smell?

Normal, healthy discharge has only a slight odor.

After sex, it’s normal to smell semen and other fluids, but these disappear after a shower.

A foul, fishy odor can indicate bacterial vaginosis — an infection that needs to be treated.

Contact your healthcare provider if you notice any discharge or vaginal odors that concern you.

Medically reviewed by Melody Nolan, M.D.

Infographic Vaginal discharge provides clues to your health and fertility. Click the image to open the PDF

It’s normal for women to have different types of vaginal discharge at various times. Your discharge provides clues about your health.

What is vaginal discharge?

It’s a combination of fluid and cells made by the cervix that is shed through the vagina.

Normal discharge lubricates and protects your vaginal tissue from irritation or infection.

Abnormal discharge that itches, burns or has an odor or an unusual color can signal a medical problem.

Yes, it’s normal for vaginal discharge to change!

Your discharge changes throughout your monthly cycle, providing clues to your fertile days (the days when you are most likely to get pregnant).

Observe discharge on a clean/flat tissue after wiping or use your fingers to note textur e

During your period

Mostly blood cells from the uterus shedding its inner lining

After your period

Dry or damp; no observable discharge for a few days

Before fertile days

Cloudy or white, and feels thick, pasty or creamy

Fertile days

Clear, stretchy and slippery (like egg whites) for several days before and after ovulation ; helps sperm survive and fertilize the egg

Post-fertile days

Dry or thick; minimal discharge until period begins again

Hormones affect your vaginal discharge

Estrogen levels affect mucus, so women with lower estrogen (during menopause or while taking birth control) typically have less discharge or drier patches of sticky mucus.

What color should vaginal discharge be?

Clear

Healthy, indicates days of peak fertility

White

Healthy, common during non-fertile days and throughout pregnancy

(Lumpy, white “cottage cheese” style mucus can mean a yeast infection)

Pink

Common right before period (or if pregnant, shortly before labor begins)

Red

Usually indicates a period, but can also mean miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy (report clots, heavy bleeding or abdominal pain to your healthcare provider)

Brown

Typically old blood leaving the body, not a concern

Yellow

Can be normal after your period, but may indicate infection if there is pain or unusual odor

Green

Not healthy; may indicate a sexually transmitted infection (STI) like chlamydia

Does vaginal discharge have a smell?

Normal, healthy discharge has only a slight odor.

After sex, it’s normal to smell semen and other fluids, but these disappear after a shower.

A foul, fishy odor can indicate bacterial vaginosis — an infection that needs to be treated.

Contact your healthcare provider if you notice any discharge or vaginal odors that concern you.