Is my vaginal discharge normal?

Vaginal discharge is normal and has several important purposes, including cleaning and lubricating the vagina and helping to prevent and fight microbial problems and infections. Checking your vaginal discharge can help you spot problems early and help you maintain good vaginal health.

What’s normal?

Normal vaginal discharge is usually clear to cloudy white, smells slightly acidic (like vinegar) and may be thick or thin. Normal vaginal fluids can vary in texture. They can be thin, sticky and elastic, or thick and gooey. You may notice small changes in the texture and quantity of your discharge when you are sexually aroused, before your period, during ovulation, during breastfeeding and menopause.

While it's normal for your vaginal fluids to vary slightly, it is important to understand the differences between normal and abnormal vaginal discharge. This will help you to recognise whether any changes in your discharge indicate a problem or need further investigation.

"If you think you may have an STD, it is important to see your physician quickly. Also see your doctor right away if you have discharge with fever or pain in the belly/abdominal or pelvic area."

Check your discharge regularly and look out for any changes

It's important to check your vaginal discharge and keep an eye on any changes. The following changes may indicate a problem:

  • Change in odour (especially an unpleasant or ‘fishy’ odour)
  • Change in colour (to greenish, greyish, or anything looking like pus)
  • Change in texture (such as foamy or lumpy and thick, like cottage cheese)
  • Vaginal itching, burning, swelling, or redness
  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting that is not your period

Vaginal infections, such as bacterial vaginosis or candida (yeast) are common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge. Some infections that can cause changes in vaginal discharge are sexually transmitted (STDs), such as gonorrhoea. Other infections can occur with or without sex, such as bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection.

The symptoms of these infections can be very similar, but there are some differences to look for:

  • Yeast infections may cause your discharge to become opaque, white and thick, resembling cottage cheese. A yeast infection does not usually have a strong odour, but it may cause severe itching and burning.
  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV) may cause your discharge to have an unpleasant, fishy odour. The fluids may be thin and greyish in colour.
  • Trichomoniasis, a common sexually transmitted disease (STD), may cause strong odour. Discharge is often yellow to green in colour and may become frothy.