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Common Causes of Yellow Mucus Vaginal Discharge: How to Treat Abnormal Discharge

Written by Elizabeth Buescher, Gynecologist

Vaginal discharge serves an important housekeeping function in the female reproductive system. Vaginal discharge is the fluid made by glands inside the vagina and cervix, which usually carries away bacteria and dead cells, keeping the vagina clean and preventing infections.

Most of the time, vaginal discharge is absolutely normal and should not be a reason of concern. The amount, odor and hue can vary depending on the time in your menstrual cycle, so you should not get alarmed if it has a different consistency a few days before your menstruation starts then one week after it ends. However, when vaginal mucus is yellow or greenish in color and has a foul odor, then you could be noticing an infection, usually known as vaginitis.

What Causes Yellow Mucus Discharge?

When your vaginal discharge turns from whitish or clear to yellow or greenish, this means that your vagina’s balance of normal bacteria has been affected. There are many factors that can cause changes in your vagina’s balance, and these include:

  • birth control pills;
  • sexually transmitted diseases (STDs);
  • pelvic infection after surgery;
  • pelvic inflammatory disease;
  • diabetes;
  • cervical cancer;
  • douches, scented lotions and soaps;
  • antibiotics (common cause of yeast infection);
  • vaginal atrophy (occurs at menopause).

Yellow mucus discharge from vagina is usually accompanied by itching and burning, as well as swelling of the affected area. A foul or fishy odor can also be noticed, especially if you are dealing with a yeast infection, sexually transmitted disease (STD) or bacterial vaginosis. In some cases, the mucus might also be accompanied by blood, which is a common symptom of irregular menstrual cycles, or less often, cervical or endometrial cancer.

Yellow mucus vaginal discharge during pregnancy is absolutely normal and should not be a cause of the alarm.

What to Do If You Have Yellow Mucus Vaginal Discharge?

While a change in the odor, color and consistency of your vaginal mucus discharge is a symptom of early pregnancy, you should still consult a doctor immediately anyway. To identify the underlying cause, your doctor will likely ask you:

  • when did the yellow mucus discharge begin?
  • what color is the discharge?
  • does it have any smell?
  • do you experience itching, burning or swelling around the vagina?
  • have you had sexual contact with a different partner before the abnormal discharge began?
  • do you douche?
  • have you used scented soap for your personal hygiene?
  • have you taken antibiotics lately?

Your doctor may also take samples of the discharge to accurately identify what’s causing it. In some cases, your doctor may also do a Pap test to collect cells from your cervix and see whether cervical cancer may be the cause of abnormal discharge.

The type of treatment usually depends on the underlying cause. If you have yellow mucus discharge while pregnant, then no treatment will be required.

How to prevent Yellow Mucus Vaginal Discharge?

In order to prevent abnormal discharge, you should make a few lifestyle changes first. These usually include wiping from front to back when using the bathroom, never using scented soap, bubble baths or feminine sprays, wearing only 100% cotton underpants, washing regularly with gentle mild soap and water, and avoiding sexual contact with more than one partner. If taking antibiotics, then make sure to take probiotic supplements in order to counteract the overgrowth of Candida albicans organisms.