From completely clear to PINK: What your vaginal discharge means

What your vaginal discharge says about your health: How clear, white and sticky or even PINK could be a sign of cancer, a yeast infection or even pregnancy

  • The vagina’s fluid can be an indication of what’s going on inside the body
  • Anything different to usual could signal an infection or worse, a doctor says
  • Dr Kathryn Basford reveals the colour, thickness and smells that are abnormal
  • Sometimes it can be treated quickly, but rarely it could be a cancer, she said 

Vaginal discharge is nothing to be embarrassed about, no matter how out of the ordinary it may seem.

From pink to yellow, green and white, the vagina’s fluid can be a signal for what’s going on inside. 

Most of the time, a clear or white substance is harmless. But other consistencies, colours and smells can order a trip to the GP.

An unusual discharge could be an easily treatable and common infection, such as bacterial vaginosis or thrush, a doctor has revealed.

But in other cases, unusual discharge may be an underlying sign of cervical cancer or even pregnancy. 

Vaginal discharge is nothing to be embarrassed about, no matter how out of the ordinary it may seem. From pink to yellow, green and white, the vagina’s fluid can be a signal for what’s going on inside

Dr Kathryn Basford, a GP in London from online pharmacy Zava, has commented on what different vaginal discharge colours say about your health. 

She told MailOnline: ‘Every woman and their body is different.

‘So a lighter but not unpleasant smelling discharge could be normal for some women at different times in their menstrual cycle.

‘However, if the discharge becomes foul or fishy smelling then something may be amiss.

‘A fishy smell can be one of the biggest indicators of infection, specifically bacterial vaginosis or sexually transmitted infections including gonorrhea and chlamydia.

‘It’s important for women to listen when their body is talking to them, so if there is a noticeable difference in the smell of their vaginal discharge, the next step would be to seek medical attention.’

A change in the colour of discharge is often the first sign of a of infection or similar.


Vaginal discharge is normal – most women and girls get it. It’s a fluid or mucus that keeps the vagina clean and moist, and protects it from infection.

The amount of discharge varies. You usually get heavier discharge during pregnancy, if you’re sexually active or if you’re using birth control. It’s often slippery and wet for a few days between your periods (when you ovulate).

You can’t prevent vaginal discharge.

Panty liners can help with heavy or excessive discharge or if you’re worried about any smell. 

Vaginal discharge serves an important housekeeping function in the female reproductive system. 

Fluid made by glands inside the vagina and cervix carries away dead cells and bacteria. This keeps the vagina clean and helps prevent infection.

Most of the time, vaginal discharge is perfectly normal.

Source: NHS and WebMD 

But there are other symptoms to look out for which may help understand the severity of the change.

While a white discharge is healthy in most cases, if it is cloudy and thick it could be a yeast infection, usually paired with swelling, itching, and painful sex if it is thrush.

Yeast infections, which also include bacterial vaginosis, characterised by a grey, fishy smelling discharge, are very common in women.

They can be treated with over-the-counter medication or antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. 

A green or yellow discharge with either a fishy or bad odour are often the first signs of STIs gonorrhea, trichomaniasis and chlamydia, which can have complications if they are not treated quickly.   

Red discharge, although predominately blood from menstruation, can be a sign of infections or even cancer when other symptoms are present, too.

Pelvic pain, inflammation, bleeding inbetween periods or after sex could indicate cervical infection, polyps or an STI.

That goes the same for reddish or light brown discharge, although this may be spotting between periods.

In the worst case scenario, a diagnosis of endometrial or cervical cancer could follow the discovery of red or brown discharge. 

The most common symptom of womb cancer, including endometrial or uterine, and cervical cancer is vaginal bleeding that is unusual for the woman.  

It’s important to attend cervical screening, previously known as a smear test, when invited by the NHS if you live in the UK.


A smear test detects abnormal cells on the cervix, which is the entrance to the uterus from the vagina.

Removing these cells can prevent cervical cancer.

Most test results come back clear, however, one in 20 women show abnormal changes to the cells of their cervix.

In some cases, these need to be removed or can become cancerous.

Being screened regularly means any abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix can be identified at an early stage and, if necessary, treated to stop cancer developing (stock)

Cervical cancer most commonly affects sexually-active women aged between 30 and 45. 

In the UK, the NHS Cervical Screening Programme invites women aged 25-to-49 for a smear every three years, those aged 50 to 60 every five years, and women over 65 if they have not been screened since 50 or have previously had abnormal results.

Women must be registered with a GP to be invited for a test. 

In the US, tests start when women turn 21 and are carried out every three years until they reach 65.

Changes in cervical cells are often caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can be transmitted during sex. 

In January 2018, women shared selfies with smeared lipstick on social media to raise awareness of the importance of getting tested for cervical cancer in a campaign started by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.

Celebrities including model and socialite Tamara Ecclestone, former I’m A Celebrity! star Rebekah Vardy and ex-Emmerdale actress Gaynor Faye joined in to support the #SmearForSmear campaign.

Socialite Tamara Ecclestone supported the Jo’s Trust’s #SmearForSmear campaign

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