Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Young woman looking concerned

Young woman looking concerned
beginning of content

Vaginal discharge

Every woman has some vaginal discharge. It is completely normal and serves a good purpose. Not only does it act as a lubricant for sexual intercourse, it also acts as a protective shield to keep infections away. This is because normal vaginal discharge is slightly acidic, which germs don’t like.

The normal discharge you get is mainly a combination of dead cells and vaginal bacteria. Normal discharge will change in appearance throughout your cycle.

What’s normal?

Typical vaginal discharge does not have an offensive smell and does not cause any irritation. It’s quite likely that you won’t even know you have any discharge until you see some in your underwear.

It is usually clear or creamy in colour. Sometimes there may be a slight yellow tint to it.

Discharge also increases during pregnancy and when you’re sexually aroused.

What’s not normal?

Unusual discharge is often a sign of infection or inflammation, such as thrush or vaginosis. The signs of an abnormal vaginal discharge are:

  • if it's thick and white, like cottage cheese
  • if it smells fishy
  • if it's greenish and smells very bad
  • if it’s pink or brown
  • if it’s irritating or causes your vaginal area to itch
  • if you notice any genital sores or ulcers as well
  • if you start having pain in your abdomen or sex becomes painful
  • if you have had unprotected sex with someone who may have a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Discharge and your menstrual cycle

Vaginal discharge changes throughout your menstrual cycle. Everyone will experience different amounts of discharge.

In the first week after your period a discharge is not usually present; although if some is visible will probably be quite thick.

In the middle of your cycle discharge is normally thin and clear around this time. It may look slightly yellow or brownish if it has been in your underwear for a length of time.

Discharge after menopause

The vagina tends to lose its moisture after the menopause. This is caused by the lower oestrogen levels. You will still produce small amounts of discharge after menopause though.

However, if you are experiencing yellow-white discharge, it is possible you have an infection. Infection after menopause is common, as the vagina doesn’t produce so much anti-bacterial mucus.

If you are concerned about your vaginal discharge please consult your doctor.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your vaginal discharge, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: October 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 294 results

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy

Trusted information on vaginal discharge during pregnancy including is it normal, when to see your midwife or doctor, plus links to trusted resources.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Common vaginal and vulval conditions | Family Planning NSW

All women have a vaginal discharge. Find out the difference between normal vaginal discharge and an infection.

Read more on Family Planning NSW website

Bacterial vaginosis - Better Health Channel

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is caused by an imbalance of the bacteria normally present in the vagina

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Vaginal thrush - Better Health Channel

Vaginal thrush is a common infection caused by an overgrowth of yeasts in the vagina.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Vulva and vaginal health: getting the right advice | Jean Hailes

As women, we are generally not used to talking about our vulvas and vaginas. So much so, that many women don't know what the vulva actually is, or the difference between it and a vagina.

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Vaginal bleeding - irregular - Better Health Channel

If you suffer from ongoing vaginal bleeding problems, see your doctor

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Vaginal thrush -

Itching around the vagina is commonly caused by infection with a yeast called Candida albicans and is known as vaginal thrush.

Read more on myDr website

Thrush and other vaginal infections fact sheet | Women's Health Queensland Wide

Three common vaginal infections in women are bacterial vaginosis, candidiasis (also known as thrush), chlamydia and trichomoniasis

Read more on Women's Health Queensland Wide website

Chlamydia - Lab Tests Online AU

Why and when to get tested for chlamydia

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Trichomonas - Lab Tests Online AU

Why and when to get tested for Trichomonas

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo