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Complete Guide to Yellow Vaginal Discharge: What Do You Need to Know?

Written by Elizabeth Buescher, Gynecologist

Although mostly a gynecological complaint, vaginal discharge is an important part of the vagina’s self-cleansing system, helping flush out bacteria and ensuring that your vaginal environment always stays clean. While normal vaginal discharge is healthy and beneficial, many women report yellow vaginal discharge instead, which is oftentimes accompanied by a thick consistency, foul odor, itching, redness and swelling.


In some cases, yellow mucus vaginal discharge can be caused by sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia or trichomoniasis, but there are also other potential causes, some more frequent than others.
We have put together an in-depth guide on yellow vaginal discharge to help you understand the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and other such factors concerning your health.

We have put together an in-depth guide on yellow vaginal discharge to help you understand the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and other such factors concerning your health.

What Is Vaginal Discharge?

The vagina serves as a passageway between the inner reproductive organs and outside of the body. The vagina has a slightly acidic pH that discourages infections from occurring. The vagina produces secretions to cleanse and regulate itself, flushing out dead cells and bacteria, similar to how saliva cleanses and regulates the environment of the mouth.
Vaginal discharge is produced by glands inside the vagina and cervix. Usually, vaginal discharge is clear or whitish, does not have any smell, and its consistency ranges from thin, watery to thick and sticky depending on the time in your menstrual cycle. Vaginal discharge tends to be thick and whitish after period, clear and watery during the middle of your menstrual cycle, and again thick and white before period. The amount of vaginal mucus varies from woman to woman and tends to be 30 times larger during the middle of the menstrual cycle.

What Does Yellow Vaginal Discharge Mean?

Light yellow vaginal discharge can have several underlying causes, usually bacterial vaginosis or vaginitis resulted from unprotected intercourse. However, many women experience yellow vaginal discharge during pregnancy, typically after the 37th week, or after sex as a result of bodily fluids exchange. Keep reading to see the most common causes of yellow vaginal discharge no odor below.

1. Trichomoniasis: Yellow Green Vaginal Discharge

Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by an infection with a small organism called Trichomonas vaginalis. Trichomoniasis is one of the most common curable STDs in young, sexually active women, with over 7.4 million new cases occurring each year in the United States.Women with trichomoniasis exhibit specific symptoms that include green yellow vaginal discharge that is frothy, thick, and has a strong sour smelling odor. Itching and irritation of the vulva are also present, and women may also experience pain or burning at urination. Moreover, intercourse can become extremely uncomfortable, and you may also notice lower abdominal pain.Symptoms of trichomoniasis appear within five to 28 days of exposure to the infection. Women who contract the infection during pregnancy should seek immediate medical assistance to successfully avoid the premature rupture of the membranes that protect the baby, which leads to early delivery. Non-pregnant women with trichomoniasis are more susceptible to contracting HIV.

2. Gonorrhea: Yellow Mucus Vaginal Discharge

Gonorrhea is a contagious sexually transmitted disease that is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterium that grows and easily multiplies in the mucus membranes of the body. The bacterium is usually contracted during intercourse with an infected person, although it can also spread by contact with infected bodily fluids.Common symptoms of gonorrhea include greenish yellow or yellow brown vaginal discharge with odor, pelvic pain, burning at urination, spotting after sex, swelling of the vulva, and bleeding between periods. Gonorrhea may pass unnoticed due to being asymptomatic in women, so you should perform regular checkups to ensure that you have not contracted the disease.
Treating gonorrhea as early as possible is of utmost importance to preventing pelvic inflammatory disease, which can damage the fallopian tubes (the tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus), possibly leading to infertility. What’s more, untreated gonorrhea may also result in ectopic pregnancy, a condition that involves the fertilized egg developing outside the uterus.

3. Chlamydia: Light Yellow Discharge

Caused by an infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the US. Due to being extremely contagious, Chlamydia is very easily spread and usually causes no symptoms. As a matter of fact, as much as 75% of infections in women are without symptoms.Abnormal vaginal discharge is a common symptom of Chlamydia. The hue of the discharge ranges from pale yellow to dark yellow, and it may also be slightly orange during period, or neon yellow when the period ends. Other symptoms are burning or itching in or around the vagina, bleeding between periods, painful periods, painful intercourse, increased discomfort at urination, and abdominal pain with fever. If left untreated, Chlamydia may also cause pelvic inflammatory disease and possibly infertility. Ectopic pregnancy is oftentimes a consequence of not treating the infection on time. If you are pregnant and exhibit Chlamydia symptoms, call your doctor immediately, otherwise the risk of early birth is increased. The infection can be spread from the mother to her child during childbirth, which may cause an eye infection, pneumonia or blindness in the newborn.

4. Yeast Infection: Pale Yellow Discharge

Yeast infection, also referred to as Candidiasis or vaginitis, is caused by the overgrowth of Candida albicans, a type of yeast that is normally found in small amounts in your body. While yeast infection may be contracted during unprotected sex, it is not considered a sexually transmitted disease due to the wide range of non-sexual factors that may cause it. These include antibiotic or steroid use, douching, specific diseases (i.e. diabetes), hormonal imbalance, lack of sleep, stress, pregnancy, and weak immune system.
Yeast infection is a common cause of white yellow vaginal discharge with foul odor and cheese-like consistency, and 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 an invasive infection instead, which might also cause complications. Many women report the infection returning after two or three weeks, usually because of constant exposure to factors that may trigger it, or due to your body not responding to the treatment. If this is your case as well, your doctor may prescribe you anti-fungal medicine every 10 to 14 days, and then once a week for six months.

5. Forgotten Tampon: Brown Grayish Discharge

It is not uncommon for a woman to forget a tampon inside the vagina on the last day of her period. A forgotten tampon can facilitate the multiplication of the bacteria inside your vagina, hence resulting in brownish, pus-like discharge with a bad odor and thick consistency. If not removed immediately, you may start experiencing pain in the lower abdomen, as well as spotting after sex and bleeding between periods. The infection may spread and enter the bloodstream, causing fever and a range of other undesirable complications. If you have forgotten a tampon inside your vagina, try removing it yourself if you can reach it. If the discharge does not return to normal, consider seeing your doctor to receive further medical assistance. Antibiotic treatment may be needed to successfully stave off the bacteria and prevent further consequences.|

6. Bacterial Vaginosis: Brownish Discharge

Bacterial vaginosis is usually caused by an overgrowth of certain vaginal bacteria, most commonly gardnerella. Specific lifestyle choices can result in the overgrowth, many of which are related to changing the vagina’s pH level. Douching, using scented body soaps or deodorants, as well as bubble baths can mess with your vagina’s pH value, causing vaginal bacteria to multiply excessively.
Pale yellow or yellow white discharge with a strong fishy odor is the most common symptom of BV, and it is generally accompanied by itching, burning at urination, and pain during intercourse. Women with bacterial vaginosis need to take prescription antibiotics to alleviate symptoms and treat the condition. Depending on the severity of the BV, suppositories or topical creams may be required to relieve itching and discomfort.

Preventive Measures to Avoid Yellow Vaginal Discharge

Now that we have identified the main causes of yellow vaginal mucus, we should turn heads to preventive measures. On top of specific female hygiene rules, there are some other important factors to keep in mind to keep your intimate area clean, and avoid a host of embarrassing situations. Outlined below are the top preventive measures that you should carefully consider.

1. Rely on Water and Mild Soaps for Cleaning

While normal vaginal discharge may keep the vagina clean and flush out bacteria as well as dead cells, you should still be diligent about your personal hygiene. Avoid scented soaps, body milk, perfumes and deodorants, and rely mostly on plain water to remove dirt and refresh your intimate area. If using any soap, try to choose a very mild one with a neutral pH to avoid messing with your vagina’s pH. Also, do not clean your genital area too often, otherwise you may cause imbalances in your vaginal flora, causing a potential bacterial vaginosis.


2. Take Showers, Not Baths

Nothing helps you relax and soothe your mind and body after a busy day more than a hot bath with essential oils and bubble bath. But as desirable as they may be, these baths can actually result in light yellow vaginal discharge. After spending a few minutes in the bath, the water will become full of bacteria from your skin, which can reach your intimate area and cause urinary tract infection. Take showers instead of baths to avoid this, and also to efficiently clean your genital region.


3. Wear Only Cotton Underwear

While sexy lingerie can make you look very desirable, it can also lead to changes in the color, consistency and smell of your discharge. Experts recommend wearing specifically undergarments that are 100% cotton, as they will be more breathable, allowing your skin to breathe and discourage infections as well. If possible, change your underwear two times a day to avoid getting any bacteria in direct contact with your intimate parts.

4. Avoid Dampness in the Genital Area

Dampness can create the perfect environment for the bacteria to thrive in, which can possibly lead to bacterial vaginosis and vaginitis. As such, you should avoid dampness in the genital area at all costs. Change your underwear after exercising, and remove your bath suit as soon as possible to prevent overgrowth of bacteria.


5. Always Wipe from Front to Back

Many women fail to understand the importance of wiping correctly when using the toilet. Always wipe from front to back to prevent getting bacteria and dirt from your anal area to the vaginal area, which can result in urinary tract infection. Washing your hand before and after using the toilet will help eliminate bacteria from your skin, so that it will not come into contact with your genital area. Ultimately, make sure to use unscented toilet paper and baby wipes with a neutral pH to avoid changing your vagina’s pH.


6. Maintain a Healthy Diet

Very few women actually associate their eating habits with how healthy their genital area is. A balanced, nutritious diet and drinking plenty of water are both essential to reproductive health. Cranberry juice and yoghurt may actually help treat yeast infections, preventing the overgrowth of Candida albicans. Probiotics and prebiotics supplements will also keep the growth of specific types of yeast under control to prevent infections. Eat as many vegetables and fruits as possible, and try to avoid foods that are very rich in fats, carbohydrates, and other such harmful compounds.


7. Practice Safe Sex

The key to reproductive health is never engaging in unprotected intercourse. Avoid having multiple sexual partners, which can increase the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease and experiencing yellow vaginal discharge with odor. Always use condoms, and make sure to perform regular checkups to ensure that you have not been infected with a STD.


Final Word

Unfortunately for many women, even the smallest lifestyle change can cause their discharge to become thick, smelly and have a different hue. If you are currently dealing with abnormal vaginal mucus, consult a specialist as soon as possible, and be sure to follow his indications as closely as possible to treat the underlying cause. Consider taking a Pap test every 6-8 months to rule out the possibility of cervical cancer, and also to identify serious health concerns on time.
Lastly, be diligent about your personal hygiene, but do not be too diligent. You may ask your doctor for the best practices to keep your intimate area clean and healthy, and also to avoid yellow vaginal discharge and its associated symptoms.