What Are Causes of Yellow Discharge and What Does It Mean?

Reviewed on 3/16/2021

What is yellow discharge?

The causes of yellow vaginal discharge may or may not be a sign of infection. You'll need to check to see if you have any other symptoms in addition to the discharge.
The causes of yellow vaginal discharge may or may not be a sign of infection. You'll need to check to see if you have any other symptoms in addition to the discharge.

All women have vaginal discharge during their normal monthly cycle. It’s the body’s natural way to keep clean and flush out bacteria

Discharge is vital to keeping your vagina moist. It creates the right balance between the naturally occurring bacteria and yeast that are always present in your vagina.

Healthy discharge is generally clear, watery, pale yellow, or white. It doesn’t have an intense smell or strong color. 

The amount and color of discharge will typically vary depending on where you are in your cycle. It’s the heaviest close to ovulation and increases with sexual arousal.

Vaginal discharge is affected by many different factors, such as:

If you notice a yellow discharge, you’ll want to pay attention to your body and check for other symptoms.

Signs of yellow discharge

Yellow discharge can be anywhere from light yellow to a darker yellow-greenish. It’s noticeable in your underwear or on toilet paper after using the bathroom. 

A pale yellow without any odor is considered normal.


Causes of yellow discharge

The causes of yellow discharge may or may not be a sign of infection. 

You’ll need to check to see if you have any other symptoms in addition to the discharge. The amount, smell, and timing of the discharge can help you determine the cause. There are several possible causes, including: 


Thin yellow discharge near the time you start your period is common. The yellow is due to early menstrual blood mixed with regular mucus discharge.


Thick yellow discharge can be an early sign of pregnancy


Vaginitis is another cause of yellow discharge. 

Vaginitis is an irritation or inflammation in the lining of your vagina. This can produce redness, odor, and pain.

Vaginal infection

Poor hygiene that allows fecal bacteria to spread to the vulva is another major source of infections.

Infections that cause vaginitis are not always sexually transmitted. However, all sexually transmitted diseases can cause vaginitis.

The most common infections that cause vaginitis are yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis

It’s important to be aware of your body and what’s normal for you in order to evaluate any new symptoms.

Yeast infection symptoms include:

  • Pain in the vulva
  • Intense itching
  • Thick white to yellowish discharge

Bacterial vaginosis symptoms include:

  • White, gray, or yellow discharge
  • Burning and itching
  • Redness 
  • Fishy odor

Sexually transmitted disease

The two most common sexually transmitted diseases that cause vaginitis and yellow discharge are gonorrhea and chlamydia

These STDs don’t always have symptoms. It’s possible to have them and be asymptomatic or to have only some of the symptoms but not all of them.

Gonorrhea symptoms include:

  • Yellowish to green, slightly creamy discharge
  • Sharp pain in the stomach
  • Burning during intercourse and while urinating
  • Fever

Chlamydia symptoms include:

  • Abnormal yellow to green discharge
  • Burning during intercourse and while urinating

Symptoms of trichomoniasis, another STD, include:

  • Yellowish to greenish watery discharge
  • Unpleasant smell 
  • Mild discomfort or pain while urinating

When to see the doctor for yellow discharge

You should see your doctor if you have yellow discharge and it:

  • Changes color
  • Smells foul or fishy
  • Feels sore or itchy
  • Causes you any pain in the pelvic area, especially when urinating

Diagnosis for yellow discharge

Only a licensed healthcare professional can diagnose the medical issue that your yellow discharge may be a symptom of.

Your doctor will do a pelvic exam to diagnose the cause of the yellow discharge. During a pelvic exam, your doctor will take a sample of your discharge that will be screened for infections. If you’re sexually active, they will also determine whether you have any sexually transmitted diseases. 

It’s essential not to use any spermicide or douche before the pelvic exam to ensure you have an accurate sample.

Treatments for yellow discharge

Once your doctor diagnoses the medical reason for your yellow discharge, it can be treated relatively quickly in most cases. Treatment is typically a topical cream or gel, or antibiotic, but it will depend on the specific cause.

If a sexually transmitted disease is the cause, your doctor will advise you to have your partner treated as well. Both you and your partner must be treated to keep you from passing it back and forth to each other.


The vagina includes the labia, clitoris, and uterus. See Answer

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American Academy of Family Physicians: "Vaginal Discharge."

Associated Women’s Health Specialists P.C.: "Vaginitis."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Chlamydia."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Gonorrhea."

Healthdirect: "Vaginal discharge."

Merck Manual: "Vaginal Discharge."

National Health Service: "Vaginal discharge."

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