What is a yellow discharge?Cause and Treatment

Vaginal discharge is normal and helps the vagina clean itself. Yellow discharge occurs when healthy, normal secretions (originally clear mucus) come into contact with the air and turn white or yellow.

Discharge may also be yellow as it passes through the vaginal wall, microbes that normally live in the vagina (vaginal flora), vaginal fluid, or a small amount of blood that remains after menstruation. But a dark yellow discharge can be a sign of an infection that requires medical attention.

Learn more about the causes of yellow vaginal discharge and how to treat it.

what is yellow discharge

Vaginal discharge is normal and it can occur at any time throughout the menstrual cycle.

Normal discharges that are not to worry about are:

  • white
  • Transparent
  • tasteless
  • thick to thin

Clear discharge may turn yellow on contact with air or other interactions with the vaginal environment. This is normal. But yellow discharge can also be a sign of infection.

Causes of yellow discharge

Yellow discharge can be a sign of a normal, healthy vagina. But it can also be a sign of an infection or an underlying disease.


Discharge that turns yellow on contact with air can occur at any time during the menstrual cycle. In the middle of a menstrual cycle, some people may notice an increase in the amount of vaginal discharge they experience. This is due to elevated estrogen levels.

During this time, the discharge may change color and may be:

  • whitish
  • cream
  • cloudy
  • yellow

early pregnancy

An increase in discharges may be a sign of pregnancy. During pregnancy, the body prepares for labor by softening the cervix (the lower neck of the uterus that connects the vagina) and vaginal walls. To stop the infection from reaching the uterus (uterus), the body produces more secretions.

This discharge is normal and usually clear or white. However, it may turn yellow when it comes in contact with air, such as by leaving it in your underwear for a while​​​.


“Vaginitis” is a term used to describe a variety of conditions that can lead to vaginal infection and inflammation. These can include infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or yeast, as well as vaginal irritation due to the use of sprays or chemicals near the vagina.

Vaginitis may cause the following symptoms:

  • pain or discomfort during sex
  • burning sensation when urinating
  • itching outside the vagina
  • Abnormal discharge, may be yellow or green
  • Unusual discharge with an unpleasant smell

Sexually transmitted infections, such as trichomoniasis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause vaginal discharge to be yellow.

Trichomoniasis is caused by parasites. It is the most common non-viral form of sexually transmitted infection in the world. It is possible to have it without realizing it because it does not always cause symptoms. However, it may cause vaginal discharge:

  • Thin
  • sometimes blistering
  • yellow
  • green
  • white
  • stench

Chlamydia and gonorrhea It is caused by bacteria and is a common sexually transmitted infection. They may cause vaginal discharge:

  • yellow
  • white
  • grey
  • Bad odor (chlamydia)

You may also encounter:

  • lower abdominal pain
  • pain or burning when urinating

pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection that affects the reproductive organs (uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries).

Not everyone will experience symptoms. But those who do may have:

  • fever
  • lower abdominal pain
  • Unusual discharge with a smell
  • bleeding during menstruation
  • burning when urinating
  • bleeding during sex
  • pain during sex


Cervicitis Inflammation of the cervix. It has infectious and non-infectious causes. Usually, this condition causes no symptoms at all. But those who do have symptoms may experience:

  • vaginal stimulation
  • Vulvar irritation (external genitalia)
  • painful sex
  • Vaginal bleeding during or after vaginal sex

Likewise, cervicitis may cause abnormal vaginal discharge that persists and may be:

  • yellow
  • grey
  • white
  • stench

bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) occurs when the balance of microorganisms normally found in the vagina is disturbed, resulting in irritation. There may be no symptoms.

When symptoms appear, a strong fishy odor is usually present. The discharge may be thin and watery and is usually described as off-white or grey, but it may also be yellow or green.

yellow discharge during pregnancy

During pregnancy, a person may experience increased discharge. This is normal and nothing to worry about. Healthy discharge during pregnancy is clear, white, and has no odor. If this secretion remains in the underwear for a while, it may turn yellow from contact with the air.

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However, if the pregnant woman is discharged from the hospital:

  • green
  • brownish
  • Smelly
  • accompanied by itching or pain

This could be a sign of an infection that requires the attention of a healthcare provider.

prevent yellow discharge

While yellowing clear discharge on your underwear is nothing to worry about, there are ways to prevent yellow discharge caused by infection or irritation.

use protection

Using protective measures (barrier methods, such as condoms during sex) can prevent the risk of STIs and pregnancy. Condoms can prevent STIs and pregnancy, but they must be worn correctly to be effective.

Also, condoms do not completely prevent syphilis, herpes, or the human papillomavirus (HPV, which can cause genital warts and cervical cancer).

meet a sexual partner

If you are having sex, it is important to be honest with your partner about your own sexual history and to ask questions about their past sexual history.

Before sex:

  • Talk about the last time you were tested for an STI and plan to be tested together.
  • Ask your partner if they have any STIs and disclose if you have any.
  • Discuss whether you only have sex with each other.
  • Agree to use condoms throughout sex. This includes vaginal, anal and oral sex.

avoid rinsing

Douching is the flushing of the vagina by forcing water or other solution into the vagina. The vagina is naturally self-cleaning and does not require doubling.

The chemicals found in douches can irritate the vagina and disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina. Douching can cause the infection to spread to the uterus, increasing the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease.

The smell you notice in the genital area usually comes from the vulva outside the vagina. You can keep your vulva clean by washing it with water and mild soap.

avoid perfume

Fragrances in some products can irritate the vagina and also alter the levels of healthy bacteria in the vagina.

It’s best to avoid finding spices in:

  • Feminine Hygiene Spray
  • Soap
  • bubble bath
  • rinse

When to see a healthcare provider for treatment

You should consult your healthcare professional any time you are concerned about your health.

Contact your provider immediately if you:

  • abnormal discharge
  • fever
  • abdominal pain
  • contact sexually transmitted infection

Treatment will depend on the cause of discharge and other symptoms. The underlying cause may require a prescription drug. For some bacterial infections, this will include antibiotics.


A yellow discharge may be normal, just a sign of periodic transparent discharges that change color after contact with air. But it can also be a sign of infections, including sexually transmitted infections and pelvic inflammatory disease. A yellow discharge may also appear in early pregnancy. Consult your healthcare professional if you are concerned about discharge or your health.

VigorTip words

It is a good health habit to be aware of normal and abnormal changes in vaginal discharge. Your discharge will change throughout your menstrual cycle. Knowing this can help you spot signs that could indicate a problem and diagnose complications before they cause complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does yellow discharge mean?

    Yellow discharge may be healthy and may just be regular clear discharge that turns yellow on contact with the air. It can also be a sign of early pregnancy or infection.

  • Is yellow discharge normal?

    Vaginal discharge is normal. It may be clear and then turn yellow on contact with air. However, yellow discharge can also be a sign of infections such as sexually transmitted infections and pelvic inflammatory disease.

  • Is yellow discharge safe?

    A yellow discharge may be a sign of a normal discharge, turning yellow when air touches it. However, it can also be a sign of an infection that requires treatment by a healthcare provider.

  • How do you treat yellow discharge?

    Treatment options for yellow discharge depend on the cause. Many infections can be cured with prescription drugs. Certain types of STIs can be more difficult to treat, or serious complications can occur if left untreated. It is important to seek advice from a healthcare provider.