Vaginal discharge is a regular, normal occurrence. During the course of a standard menstrual cycle, it’s not
unusual for there to be slight changes in color, smell, and consistency. However, certain types of vaginal
odor and discharge may point to an infection or another medical issue. It’s important to address unusual or
foul-smelling vaginal discharge odor and color in a timely fashion for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Vaginal discharge color
Typically, vaginal discharge is categorized by color and consistency. The following details the most common
types of vaginal discharge and what the varying odor and consistency that accompanies each discharge may indicate.
Clear and watery or stretchy
A clear vaginal discharge color is perfectly normal. You may experience clear, watery discharge during any part
of your cycle. When you’re ovulating, the clear discharge often takes on a stretchy, mucous-like consistency.
It is completely normal to experience white discharge throughout a menstrual cycle, particularly at the beginning
or the end of the cycle. However, if you experience itching alongside the discharge and it has a thick consistency,
much like cottage cheese, it’s likely you have a yeast infection.
Yellow or green
Typically, yellow or green dischargei points to Trichomoniasis, an infection most frequently spread through sexual intercourse.
Brown or bloody
It’s not uncommon to experience brown or bloody discharge, particularly during or immediately following the start
of a new menstrual cycle. Toward the end of your period, the discharge may appear more brown than red. Bloody
discharge that occurs in between periods is referred to as spotting. Spotting during the normal time frame for
a period may be an early indication of pregnancy. During early pregnancy, it can also indicate a miscarriage.
If you experience spotting, discuss it with your gynecologist right away.
Vaginal discharge odor
A healthy vagina almost always has some sort of smell. The smell may vary depending on where you are in your
menstrual cycle and your activity for a given day. For example, if you’ve just finished an intense exercise
class, most likely your vagina will have a stronger smell, due to the surrounding sweat glands. Carefree Acti-Fresh Panty Liners are a great option for keeping dry and helping control feminine odors for up to 8 hours.
There are a couple of unusual vaginal discharge odors that don’t indicate serious issues. The foods you eat
may affect your vaginal discharge odor. Citrus fruits tend to sweeten the smell while broccoli, asparagus,
garlic, and onions often make the smell more unpleasant. Some women also experience a bleachy or chlorine-like
vaginal odor after using a condom or sexual lubricant.
Certain types of vaginal discharge odor may point to medical issues.
Generally, the vagina has a small amount of yeast. However, an infection occurs when there’s a yeast overgrowth.
A yeast infection is often accompanied by a faint, bread-like smell and cottage cheese consistency discharge.
Typically, a fishy vaginal odor points to bacterial vaginosisii an overgrowth of bacteria, which upsets the
vagina’s sensitive PH balance. Bacterial vaginosis causes an increase in vaginal discharge and a strong fishy
odor, which tends to get stronger following sexual intercourse.
If you observe an unusual vaginal discharge color or odor or notice anything else unusual about your vaginal
discharge, make an appointment with your gynecologist or another reputable health care provider.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.
i. Information provided by Womenshealth.gov, 2017.
ii. Content distributed by Patient © 2017 - Harding, M. Gronow, H. (2014, September 230) Bacterial Vaginosis [Blog Post]. Retrieved from: