If you have a vagina, it’s normal to have some kind of discharge on the reg. From creamy to sticky, it’s just a combo of mucus and secretions that indicates where you are in your cycle.
Most healthy discharge is white or clear and doesn’t have a strong odor, so pay attention to funky colors and smells. A bit of yellow discharge before your period could be no big deal — or it could be a sign of infection.
As with clear or white discharge, the texture and smell of yellow discharge can change depending on the day or week of your cycle. Let’s break it down.
1. Your period’s about to start
Watch for: Pale yellow fluid
It’s super common to have watery yellow discharge right before the red tide rolls. The yellow tint comes from a teensy bit of blood mixing with milky mucus.
If your monthly visitor is set to arrive any day, you don’t need to be concerned unless the pale yellow ooze is paired with a bad smell or strange texture.
2. You have shorter-than-usual cycles
Watch for: Dark yellow or brownish-yellow discharge
If you have a short cycle or an unusually timed flow, you might see brownish-yellow discharge just before your period or at the very end of your flow. The brown tint comes from period blood.
Sometimes hormone changes during menopause also cause brownish-yellow discharge during your cycle.
3. You’ve got an infection
Watch for: Yellow gunk that stinks
Healthy vaginal fluids don’t actually have much of an odor. Sure, sometimes your bits get sweaty or give off a whiff of last night’s garlicky snack, but those are smells you can trace to everyday activities.
If your vag is oozing something stinky, you’ve probably got an infection.
4. It could be trichomoniasis
Watch for: Frothy, yellowish-green fluid with a strong smell
It’s possible to have trich without showing symptoms, but the condition can cause a smelly yellowish discharge, a burning sensation when you pee, and itching or pain during sex.
5. Possibly chlamydia or gonorrhea?
Watch for: Discharge that looks like yellow pus
6. Maybe it’s pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Watch for: Smelly yellow or greenish discharge
When gonorrhea or chlamydia is left unchecked, it can lead to PID. This disease can cause some serious damage to your reproductive system — uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes — so be sure to see a doc if you think you have it.
PID has several symptoms in addition to smelly yellow or green discharge:
- pain during sex
- blood spotting throughout your cycle
- irregular periods
- dull stomach pain
7. Could it be BV (bacterial vaginosis)?
Watch for: Gray- or yellow-tinted discharge that smells like fish
Most months, your bits maintain a delicate balance of bacteria and hormones. When that balance is thrown off by douching, sex partners, or even pregnancy, you might experience BV.
Symptoms of BV:
- vaginal itching or burning
- a thin gray, white, or yellow discharge
- pain while peeing
- period-like cramps
- a strong fishy smell
Since BV increases your chances of getting an STI, it’s best to get it taken care of stat.
8. You could have cervicitis
Watch for: Smelly, pus-like ooze in a range of yellows, greens, or browns
Cervicitis causes an inflamed, swollen cervix as a result of:
- bacterial overgrowth
- an STI
- an allergic reaction (to latex condoms, for instance)
It’s possible to have cervicitis without knowing it. When symptoms develop, they include:
- excessive discharge that smells foul
- colorful discharge — brown, green, or yellow
- a frequent urge to pee
- painful urination
- pain during sex
- post-sex spotting
9. Maybe it’s something you ate
Once in a while, funky discharge is just a fluke. A new vitamin, supplement, or even food could temporarily change the color of your vaginal discharge.
Remember, it’s much more likely that deep or bright yellow discharge indicates an infection or another health issue. If your vag smells, oozes, or still has yellow discharge after a few days, it’s time to see a doc.
Sort of. You can reduce your odds of yellow discharge by preventing some of the reasons it happens in the first place.
For instance, you can protect yourself against STIs by:
- getting tested regularly
- asking your partners how often they get tested
- always using a barrier — condoms or dental dams, for instance
Some folks are more prone to infections than others, but you can do your part by practicing good vaginal hygiene. Follow these tips:
- Avoid douching. Your vag already has a self-cleaning mode!
- Don’t put harsh soaps near your bits. Keep it simple with your fingers and warm water.
- Just say no to fragrance. What do scented tampons, condoms, and lubes have in common? They’re full of stuff that could mess up your vagina’s delicate balance of bacteria.
More often than not, yellow discharge = infection, but infections often come with other telltale signs too. If you have any of these symptoms, it’s time to call the doctor:
- strong vaginal odor
- smelly discharge
- chunky or frothy discharge
- itching or pain when peeing
Seeing a medical professional about your symptoms will put your mind at ease and help you identify and treat any underlying health issues.
- Healthy vaginal discharge can be creamy, sticky, or watery. It can even be a pale yellow. But deep or bright yellow discharge usually indicates an infection.
- If you’re oozing chunky, frothy, or smelly fluids, it’s time to see a doctor.
- The causes of yellow discharge are usually easy to treat. Leaving them untreated can lead to more serious complications.
- When in doubt, talk to your doctor about any changes in your period, discharge, or reproductive health.