What Does Yellow Discharge Mean?

Vaginal discharge is just a part of the vagina’s self-cleaning process. The vagina uses discharge to flush out bacteria and make sure that the vagina stays clean and at a healthy pH level. While most vaginal discharge is beneficial and healthy for the body, there are times when vaginal discharge is a sign of a problem. Yellow discharge could be a normal part of the menstrual cycle, but it can be a problem if there are other symptoms as well. An extremely thick consistency, redness, swelling, itching or a foul odor are all signs that the yellow discharge is not a part of the normal self-cleaning process.

While it can be a part of a healthy cycle, a yellow mucus discharge could also be an indication of a sexually transmitted disease. Trichomoniasis or chlamydia could both cause a yellow discharge. To gain a better understanding of the causes behind a yellow discharge, we have a compiled a list of the different reasons for this gynecological complaint.

What Is the Purpose of Vaginal Discharge?

In the female body, the vagina is a passageway that connects the reproductive organs on the inside of the body to the outside world. Normally, the vagina maintains a slightly acidic pH to prevent infections from happening. Discharge is released to regulate the pH, cleanse the vagina and flush out bacteria and dead cells. In its function, this discharge is similar to the way that saliva regulates the mouth’s environment and cleanses the mouth.

On the interior of the body, vaginal discharge is created by glands that exist in the cervix and the vagina. Most of the time, the discharge will be odor-free and be white or clear in color. Throughout the menstrual cycle, it can range from a thick to a sticky consistency. Right after and right before your menstrual cycle, the discharge will tend to be thick and white in color. During the middle of your menstrual cycle, the discharge will normally be watery and clear in color. The amount of vaginal mucus and the color of the mucus can depend on the woman’s personal body chemistry. At the middle of the menstrual cycle, the discharge can be 30 times more than at other times of the month.

What Does Yellow Discharge Mean?

There are many reasons why someone may experience yellow discharge. This symptom is common during the third trimester of pregnancy. It can also happen right after or right before the menstrual cycle starts because of the presence of a very slight amount of blood in the discharge. Other than these reasons, yellow vaginal discharge could be an indication of vaginitis, a sexually transmitted disease or bacterial vaginosis.

1. Bacterial Vaginosis

When certain bacteria become overgrown in the vagina, they can cause bacterial vaginosis. This condition is most often caused by an overgrowth of the gardnerella bacteria. Lifestyle factors like douching, taking bubble baths or using scented body soaps can cause or contribute to bacterial vaginosis. Anything that changes your body’s natural pH can cause this condition to happen.



If you have bacterial vaginosis, you may notice a pale yellow or a yellowish white discharge. It is most often accompanied by a fishy odor, itching and pain during sexual intercourse. You could also experience burning during urination. Once your doctor diagnoses you with bacterial vaginosis, they may prescribe an antibiotic to alleviate the condition. Topical creams or suppositories may also be given to help with any discomfort or itching that you are experiencing.

2. Chlamydia

As the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, chlamydia is a major cause of yellow discharge. Caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria, this condition is extremely contagious. Once you get chlamydia, you are unlikely to experience many symptoms. An estimated 75 percent of women do not have any symptoms of the infection.

If you do have symptoms, you may notice that your vaginal discharge looks pale yellow or dark yellow. It may appear like a neon color right after your period or slightly orange during your menstrual cycle. Other symptoms of this condition include pain during intercourse, burning sensations, painful periods, discomfort during urination, itching around the vagina, bleeding between periods or abdominal pain with a fever.

While chlamydia is not life-threatening, it can cause complications if it is left untreated. When chlamydia is not diagnosed, it can cause infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease. Women who are trying to become pregnant are also more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy. If you are pregnant and believe that you could have chlamydia, it is important to immediately schedule a visit to your doctor. Otherwise, you are at a higher risk of having a premature delivery. In addition, untreated chlamydia can be passed to the child during childbirth and cause blindness, an eye infection or pneumonia.

3. Trichomoniasis



This sexually transmitted disease is caused by a bacteria known as Trichomonas vagnalis. This is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases and is extremely easy to cure. Among sexually active women, there are nearly 7.4 million cases in the United States every year. With trichomoniasis, you may experience a greenish or yellowish vaginal discharge. It will have a strong, sour odor and may appear thick or frothy.

With this condition, you may also experience irritation or itching around the vulva. Many women experience discomfort during sexual intercourse, lower abdominal pain or burning during urination. Normally, symptoms of this disease will appear within 5 to 28 days after you contract it. If you are pregnant, you should seek immediate medical care since your changes of an early delivery are increased. In addition, all women who have trichomoniasis are more susceptible to getting HIV.

4. A Forgotten Tampon

While it may seem impossible, it is not actually that rare for women to forget that they have a tampon inside their vagina on the last day of their period. If this happens, the forgotten tampon can cause bacteria to multiply rapidly within the body. This can cause a bad odor, a brownish color, a pus-like discharge and a thick consistency. If the woman does not realize what the problem is and continues to leave the tampon in, they may begin experiencing pain in their lower abdomen and spotting after sex. They may also experience bleeding between their menstrual cycles.

Before long, the infection can spread. If it reaches the bloodstream, it can cause a fever and even be life-threatening. If you have left a tampon inside of your body, try removing it immediately. If your vaginal discharge does not return to normal, go to your doctor right away. Antibiotics can help end the infection, but they are more effective if you catch the infection right away.

5. Gonorrhea

Caused by the bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae, gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection. Once the bacteria are spread to the body, they begin to divide rapidly within the mucus membranes. This bacteria is typically spread by sexual intercourse with someone who is infected, but it can also be caused by contact with infected bodily fluids. The most common symptoms of gonorrhea are a yellowish-brown or greenish-yellow discharge. Women may also notice spotting after sex, a foul odor, burning during urination, a swollen vulva, pelvic pain or bleeding between their periods.

6. Yeast Infection

A yeast infection is one of the most common causes of a yellow discharge. This condition is very common, and many women will have at least one yeast infection in their lives. In the vagina, the bacteria known as Candida albicans is normally present in small amounts. When this bacteria starts to increase significantly, it causes a yeast infection to happen. While unprotected sex can spread the bacteria, it also happens for non-sexual reasons because the bacteria is already present in the vagina. You are more likely to have a yeast infection if you have used antibiotics or steroids. Pregnancy, lack of sleep, douching, a weakened immune system, stress and a hormonal imbalance can all cause a yeast infection to happen.

When a yeast infection occurs, it will typically cause a white-ish yellow discharge that has a cottage cheese-like consistency or a foul odor. Other possible symptoms include burning, soreness, itching, pain during urination or pain during intercourse.

While this condition is common, it is important to treat the yeast infection right away. A simple, quickly treated yeast infection is relatively harmless, but an untreated yeast infection can cause the infection to enter your bloodstream and cause massive problems. For most women, the yeast infection will heal naturally on its own.

A yeast infection is a common cause of white-yellow vaginal discharge with a foul odor and cheese-like consistency, and it may also result in itching, burning and soreness of the vulva, painful intercourse, and pain at urination. Treating vaginal yeast infection is important, otherwise it may enter your bloodstream and cause massive problems. Some women have recurring yeast infections every few weeks. If this is your case, then your doctor will most likely give you an anti-fungal medicine for 10 to 14 days. Afterward, they may prescribe the same medication on a once a week basis for six months.

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