Vaginal Discharge: What is Normal and What is Not?


Vaginal fluid is secreted by glands inside the vagina. Such discharge is normal. In fact, it is essential to keep the area clean and moist so that infections and be prevented and the sperm can float easily inside the reproductive system. The discharge sweeps away dead cells and bacteria from the vagina and cervix. Normal vaginal discharge in a woman may vary in colour, texture and odour. It depends on the stage of your menstrual periods. Even the amount of discharge may vary in a woman depending on situations.

Vaginal discharge is likely to increase if you are ovulating or breastfeeding or are feeling sexually aroused. Even the smell may be different, depending on whether you are pregnant or not. If you are not good at upkeep of your vaginal area hygiene, the discharge may have a foul smell too. But, some vaginal discharges may be abnormal too. If you notice abnormalities in your discharge, you should contact your doctor. This may prevent some problems. However, to notice abnormalities you need to be aware of normal and abnormal vaginal discharges.

Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

abnormal vaginal discharge

There are distinguishing features of various kinds of vaginal discharges which can help you to distinguish between normal and abnormal vaginal discharges. The distinguishing features cover aspects such as texture, colour, and odour.


Normal vaginal discharge can vary widely in texture. It can be thick and sticky, thin and elastic. It is difficult for you to identity abnormal discharges solely on the strength of texture. However, some abnormal discharge may have a frothy appearance. You will not see such texture in normal vaginal fluid.


Normal discharge is normally colourless, white or off white in colour. If there is a change in colour it may strongly indicate some abnormality. If the colour is greenish or grayish or has a pus-like appearance, it strongly indicates an abnormal discharge.



Odours may be strong indicators of abnormality in discharge. If you find an unpleasant odour in the vaginal fluid you need to contact the doctor. This may indicate some abnormality. Some infections may give rise to foul smelling discharge from your vagina.

Read more: Home Remedies for Getting Rid of Vaginal Odour

Effect of Infections on Vaginal Discharge

Different infections may have different effects on the odour, texture and colour of your vaginal fluid.

Yeast infection

If you have an Yeast infection in the vagina, you may have a white and thick discharge. This discharge often resembles the appearance of cottage cheese. Though it may not have a strong odor, it may cause an itching and burning sensation.

Read more:  Yeast Infection During Pregnancy

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection of the vagina. This is generally seen in women with multiple sexual partners as well as in few pregnant women. If you are suffering from bacterial vaginosis, the discharge may have an unpleasant odor resembling that of a fish. Moreover, the fluid may be somewhat thin and grayish in appearance.



Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted parasitic infection caused by unprotected sex. If you are suffering from Trichomoniasis, the fluid may have a strong odor. Moreover, the discharge may appear to be yellowish-green in colour and may have a frothy texture. You may also have itching in the area and pain during urination.

Read more: Tips to Treat Vaginal Itching During Pregnancy

Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea

Some other sexually transmitted bacterial infections of the cervix, like Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea, can also cause abnormal vaginal discharge. These discharges may not even have any foul odour or difference in colour or texture. The only notable feature may be an increase in vaginal discharge.

Other Conditions That May Precipitate Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

In general, an imbalance in the bacterial habitation in and around the vagina can cause abnormal vaginal discharge too. This can be precipitated by –

  • Antibiotic use or steroid abuse
  • Use of birth control pills
  • Cervical cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Use of scented soaps or lotions
  • Pelvic infection
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease 
  • Thinning and drying of vaginal walls in post-menopausal women

Some Tips to Avoid Vaginal Infections

Always wipe the vaginal area from front to back. This is helpful in preventing swiping of bacteria from the rectal area to vaginal area.

Cotton allows the genital area to breathe. So it is always better to wear cotton underpants. Moreover, you should avoid wearing underpants at night.


Wearing swimming suits, tight pants, biking shorts etc for a long time may bring about abnormal discharges. It is better to avoid wearing such dresses for long time.

Some laundry detergent may irritate the genital area and give rise to abnormal discharge. So, change the laundry detergent or fabric softener, if needed.