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    Yellow discharge: Possible causes and how to treat it

    Updated 09 September 2023 |
    Published 22 January 2019
    Fact Checked
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Ruth Arumala, Obstetrician and gynecologist, gynecologic and cosmetic surgeon, Texas, US
    Written by Olivia Cassano
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    Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

    From hormone fluctuations to infection, here’s the lowdown on yellow discharge.

    Key takeaways 

    What is yellow vaginal discharge? 

    You might have noticed discharge in your underwear before. The fluid, which can sometimes appear sticky, creamy, or watery and be translucent or white, is totally natural and one of the ways your vagina stays clean, lubricated, and protected from harmful bacteria. But what if you notice a change in the color of your discharge? 

    Although whitish or clear discharge is typical, you might also experience a creamy yellow discharge. If this light yellow discharge is your usual color and you have no other symptoms — such as a foul or fishy smell, itching, or pain — then there’s no need for concern. But if you do have symptoms, then read on to find out what they might signal and when to speak to a doctor. 

    What does your discharge mean?

    Learn more about different types of discharge in the Flo app

    Is yellow discharge normal? 

    It’s normal to notice some yellow discharge in certain situations and at certain points in your cycle. You might see a sticky or creamy, pale yellow discharge during the middle of your cycle, just after ovulation. As your period gets closer, it may turn pink or brownish as a little bit of blood mixes in. As your period winds down, the color may change from red to brown again and eventually to a brownish-yellow or pink. This type of discharge typically lasts a few days and is just the last of your period leaving your uterus. If you’d like to learn more about your discharge and what it means then track your cycle using an app like Flo

    Slight changes in the color and texture of your discharge throughout your cycle can be normal. However, if you experience yellow discharge with odor, itching, tenderness, pelvic pain, or pain while peeing, then you should get it checked out by your health care professional.

    What are the types of yellow discharge? 

    So, if some types of yellow discharge are typical, and some might mean you have an infection, how do you know what is normal? 

    It’s crucial to look out for the amount, color, and texture of your discharge and whether it has an odor or other accompanying symptoms. If your discharge has an unpleasant odor or you’re experiencing pain, then it may be a sign that you have an infection. You know your body best (and what’s normal for you) so if something feels off then book in for a check-up with your doctor.

    What causes yellow discharge? 

    If you have yellow discharge, and you don’t think it is the slightly yellow discharge that you have typically during ovulation, several other things could be causing it, including infections or health conditions.

    Infections

    Yeast infection 

    A yeast infection, also called candidiasis, is a common and treatable condition that occurs when the vagina’s normal yeast multiply out of control.The most common symptoms of a yeast infection are thick, white vaginal discharge with the consistency of cottage cheese, itching and irritation of the vulva and vagina, pain during sex, and swelling and redness around the opening of your vagina. Generally, yeast infections can be treated with antifungal medication

    Bacterial vaginosis

    Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria that is normally found in your vagina. While BV can cause yellowish discharge, the most common symptoms include discharge that smells strongly of fish, is grayish-white in color, and is thin and watery. The most common way to treat BV is with a course of antibiotics. 

    STIs 

    Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including trichomoniasis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea, can cause yellow vaginal discharge.  

    If you have any of the above symptoms then your healthcare provider should be your first port of call.

    Health conditions

    If left untreated, infections such as BV, STIs, and yeast infections can cause further health complications, such as: 

    • Vaginitis or vulvovaginitis: This is the medical term to describe lots of different conditions that may cause inflammation and irritation in your vulva and vagina. They could be caused by an imbalance in the bacteria in your vagina or an infection, and one of the symptoms may be yellow discharge. 
    • Cervicitis: This is a condition where the cervix becomes inflamed. Symptoms of cervicitis may include abnormal discharge, bleeding between periods or after sex, and a burning sensation when you’re peeing.
    • Urethritis: This is when the urethra, which is the tube that carries the pee out of your body, gets inflamed. Urethritis can cause abnormal or yellow discharge from both the vagina and urethra, pain in your lower tummy or pelvis, and a burning sensation when you pee. 
    • Pelvic inflammatory disease: PID is a condition that can cause pain in the lower abdomen and pelvis, abnormal bleeding outside of your period, green or yellow discharge that has a foul smell, and pain when you pee. 

    Again, see your doctor if you’re at all worried about your discharge.

    Period

    It’s totally normal to notice some yellowish discharge at different points in your menstrual cycle. This can happen because your body produces more cervical fluid in preparation for ovulation (when the ovary releases an egg). This can appear clear and stretchy. Sometimes, before or after your period, a little blood mixes in and causes the yellow tint. But don’t worry — this type of discharge is totally normal and usually goes away after a few days.

    Log your discharge in the Flo app

    So you can spot when something isn't quite right

    Medication 

    You may have heard that taking certain medications can impact your vaginal flora, which may mean you’re more vulnerable to developing an infection. Antibiotics may alter your vaginal flora, and you may develop a condition like a yeast infection which can lead to a yellowish discharge. It’s nothing to worry about, though, as these side effects may only apply to short-term use of the medication. Contact your doctor for help and advice.

    What does yellow discharge mean during pregnancy?

    During pregnancy, your hormones fluctuate dramatically, and many pregnant people will experience an increase in vaginal discharge because estrogen and progesterone levels, which affect vaginal discharge, are at an all-time high. Normally, vaginal discharge during pregnancy — also called leukorrhea — is thin, white, and mild-smelling. Slightly yellow discharge without odor may also be perfectly normal.

    However, if you notice a change in the smell, color, and texture of your discharge, if it appears to be green, yellow, or white with a lumpy texture, then it might signal a vaginal infection. You should speak to your health care provider right away, especially if it is accompanied by itching, swelling, or pain in or outside the vagina.

    How is yellow discharge diagnosed? 

    If you notice any changes to the look or feel of your discharge, you should contact your health care provider to rule out any underlying infections. You know your body (and discharge) better than anyone, so tracking your discharge in an app like Flo is the best way to spot any changes or unusual signs that could indicate you have an infection. 

    How is yellow discharge treated? 

    The good news is that most vaginal infections are easily treated.

    For your health care provider to treat yellow discharge, they need to first diagnose you. If you have a yeast infection, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal cream, ointment, tablet, or vaginal suppository. Your treatment plan will also vary based on the severity of your symptoms.

    Bacterial infections such as BV and STIs are treated with antibiotics. Starting treatment as soon as possible can stop the infection from spreading and causing a more serious condition such as PID.

    Can I prevent it?

    You can’t always prevent yellow discharge because sometimes it is a normal part of your cycle. That being said, it can be useful to track what normal discharge looks like for you, practice safe sex, and stay up to date with routine STI checkups and Pap smears so you can identify any unusual symptoms or changes. 

    When should I speak to a health care provider? 

    It’s perfectly normal to have vaginal discharge, but it’s important to know how to identify when it doesn’t look or smell quite right. Clear, white, or slightly yellow discharge that does not have an odor and accompanying symptoms is typically harmless. However, if your discharge is green or yellow and has a foul smell or is accompanied by pain or itching, you might have an infection and should see a health care provider. 

    FAQs

    What is a healthy color for discharge?

    Typically, healthy vaginal discharge appears as clear, milky white, off-white, or light yellow. However, what is considered “normal” varies from person to person.

    How much discharge is unhealthy?

    On average, a woman’s body produces around one teaspoon or two to five milliliters of vaginal discharge every day. However, that volume can vary from person to person — so no set amount of discharge is considered “normal” for everyone. If you consistently experience more discharge than usual, it could be a sign of infection, particularly when paired with a foul odor, pain, and/or itching.

    Does bacterial vaginosis go away?

    BV is easily treatable with antibiotics. This can come in the form of a vaginal gel, cream, or vaginal suppository. Sometimes, your doctor might prescribe an oral antibiotic tablet. In some cases, BV can go away on its own, but it’s best to speak to your health care provider.

    References

    “Bacterial Vaginosis.” Mayo Clinic, 10 June 2023, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bacterial-vaginosis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352285

    “Bacterial Vaginosis.” NHS, www.nhs.uk/conditions/bacterial-vaginosis/. Accessed 29 Aug. 2023.

    “Cervical Mucus.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21957-cervical-mucus. Accessed 29 Aug. 2023.

    “Cervicitis.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15360-cervicitis. Accessed 29 Aug. 2023.

    “Cervicitis.” Mayo Clinic, 31 Jan. 2023, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cervicitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20370814

    “Chlamydia.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4023-chlamydia. Accessed 29 Aug. 2023.

    Discharge in Pregnancy.” Tommy’s,  www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/pregnancy-symptom-checker/discharge-pregnancy. Accessed 29 Aug. 2023.

    “Vaginal Discharge Color: What’s Normal and What Isn’t.” Cleveland Clinic, 29 July 2022, health.clevelandclinic.org/vaginal-discharge-mean/

    “Hormones during Pregnancy.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/staying-healthy-during-pregnancy/hormones-during-pregnancy. Accessed 29 Aug. 2023.

    “Is It Normal to Have Vaginal Discharge?” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Oct. 2020, www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/ask-acog/is-it-normal-to-have-vaginal-discharge

    Huppert, Jill S., and Linda M. Kollar. “Chapter 25: Vaginitis, Urinary Tract Infection, and Vulvar Lesions.” Adolescent Medicine, edited by Gail B. Slap, Mosby, 2008, pp. 184–93.

    “What Color Is Your Blood?” Cleveland Clinic, 5 May 2022, health.clevelandclinic.org/what-color-is-blood/

    “Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).” Mayo Clinic, 30 Apr. 2022, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pelvic-inflammatory-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20352594

    “Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Symptoms.” Mayo Clinic, 5 May 2022, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/in-depth/std-symptoms/art-20047081

    Sobel, Jack D. “Patient Education: Vaginal Discharge in Adult Women (Beyond the Basics).” UpToDate, 13 Mar. 2023, www.uptodate.com/contents/vaginal-discharge-in-adult-women-beyond-the-basics

    “Trichomoniasis: CDC Basic Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stdfact-trichomoniasis.htm. Accessed 29 Aug. 2023.

    “Trichomoniasis.” Mayo Clinic, 17 May 2022, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/trichomoniasis/symptoms-causes/syc-20378609.

    “Trichomoniasis: CDC Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Nov. 2014, stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/30965

    “Urethritis.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22858-urethritis. Accessed 29 Aug. 2023.

    “Urethritis.” NHS, www.nhs.uk/conditions/urethritis/. Accessed 29 Aug. 2023.

    “Vaginal Discharge.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/4719-vaginal-discharge. Accessed 29 Aug. 2023.

    “Vaginal Discharge.” NHS, www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginal-discharge/. Accessed 29 Aug. 2023.

    “Vaginal Itching and Discharge: Adult and Adolescent.” MedlinePlus, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003158.htm. Accessed 29 Aug. 2023.

    “Vaginitis.” Mayo Clinic, 22 Dec. 2021, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vaginitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354707

    “Yeast Infection (Vaginal).” Mayo Clinic, 11 Jan. 2023, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/yeast-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20378999

    History of updates

    Current version (09 September 2023)

    Medically reviewed by Dr. Ruth Arumala, Obstetrician and gynecologist, gyn