For anyone with a vagina, it can be surprising and even upsetting to experience discharge of an unexpected color.
The good news is, it’s totally normal for vaginal discharge — fluids secreted from your cervical glands — to occasionally change color and even consistency.
Certain changes, though, may signal a health condition.
Green discharge, for example, could indicate an infection that requires treatment by a medical provider.
Infections that cause green discharge can be uncomfortable, but there are many treatments available, and you can also take steps to prevent abnormal discharge.
In this article, I’ll explore green vaginal discharge causes, what green discharge means, and possible treatments. I’ll also cover what normal discharge is like and how to prevent abnormal discharge.
Finally, I’ll explain when to see a doctor for abnormal discharge.
Green Vaginal Discharge Causes
While it’s normal to experience changes in your discharge from time to time, green discharge is usually not normal, and can often indicate an infection.
One of the most common causes for green vaginal discharge is bacterial vaginosis, an infection thought to be caused by a disruption in people’s vaginal flora.
Along with excessive, fishy-smelling green or yellow discharge, bacterial vaginosis can cause pain and itching in the vagina.
People with bacterial vaginosis may also experience pain during urination.
Sexually Transmitted Infections and Diseases
Some infections that cause green or yellowish green discharge are sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, such as:
- Trichomoniasis: Also known as “trich,” trichomoniasis is an STI that spreads through unprotected sex with an infected person. Trichomoniasis usually causes greenish-yellow discharge that smells fishy or musty and looks frothy, and it can cause pain, burning, or itching in the vagina accompanied by painful urination. Some cases of trichomoniasis can also be asymptomatic, not causing any symptoms for the infected individual.
- Gonorrhea: Another STI, gonorrhea, can lead to green or yellow discharge that smells foul. In addition to increased discharge, people with gonorrhea usually have painful urination, vaginal bleeding between periods, and pelvic or abdominal pain.
- Chlamydia: This infection also causes smelly green or yellow discharge that’s accompanied by pain during sex and urination along with vaginal bleeding between periods.
Yeast Infections vs Bacterial Vaginosis
If you’re experiencing changes in your vaginal discharge, you may be wondering whether your symptoms are due to a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis.
These two infections can both cause discomfort and change your discharge, but they have different causes.
Yeast infections are caused by a fungal infection, and bacterial vaginosis happens from a bacterial infection.
Yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis usually cause different types of discharge.
While yeast infections often cause thick, white, clumpy discharge, BV can result in thin, milky gray, yellow, or even green vaginal discharge.
It’s possible for a yeast infection to cause an unpleasant smell, but bacterial vaginosis usually has a distinct, fishy smell.
The treatments for yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis are different, too.
If you’re unsure whether you have a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis, check in with your doctor for an exam and diagnosis.
What Green Discharge Means
Everybody notices changes in their discharge, and some of those changes can represent perfectly healthy processes in the body, like ovulation or sexual excitement.
Green discharge, however, is usually cause for concern.
It can occur due to an infection, which can cause uncomfortable symptoms along with changes in discharge.
Left untreated, infections can worsen and spread to the bloodstream, so it’s important to seek medical treatment if you have green discharge.
Learning an infection is causing your green vaginal discharge can be upsetting.
Fortunately, there are several effective treatments for bacterial infections, including those that affect your discharge.
Bacterial vaginosis treatments
If you’re diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis, your healthcare provider may prescribe you an antibiotic, a type of drug that stops bacteria from growing and reduces infection symptoms.
It’s important to seek treatment if you suspect an infection, both to decrease your symptoms and your risk of complications.
Treatment is especially vital if you’re pregnant, as BV and STIs can both cause adverse pregnancy outcomes.
The following drugs are often prescribed for bacterial vaginosis:
- Metronidazole: The generic form of Flagyl and Metrogel-Vaginal, metronidazole is an antibiotic that’s available as an oral tablet or a topical gel you apply to your vagina.
- Clindamycin: This medicine, the generic version of Cleocin and Clindesse, is a cream you insert into your vagina.
- Secnidazole: This drug — the generic form of Solosec — is a one-dose antibiotic. It typically comes in a pocket of small granules you add to food and eat.
- Tinidazole: Also sold under the brand name Tindamax, this medication is an oral antibiotic commonly used for vaginal infections.
Sexually transmitted infection treatments
Sexually transmitted infections caused by bacteria are best treated with oral antibiotics, because the infection isn’t only in your vagina.
Depending on the type of infection you have and how severe it is, your medical provider may prescribe one of a few types of antibiotics.
You may be prescribed a one-time dose or antibiotic medication you take daily or several times a day for several days.
No matter what type of drug you’re prescribed, always follow your doctor’s instructions and finish the dose.
Stopping antibiotics prematurely can result in antibiotic resistance, which means future infections could be more difficult to treat.
What is Normal Discharge Like?
There’s no one “normal” color or consistency of discharge.
Your vagina can secrete different forms of discharge at different times.
For example, your discharge may change at different points in your menstrual cycle, if you take birth control, or during pregnancy.
It’s typical for vaginal discharge to be either clear or white.
If your vaginal discharge becomes yellow, green, or gray, it’s important to get checked out by a medical provider.
These colors can indicate a potential infection or another medical condition.
Prevention of Abnormal Discharge
Many infections that cause green discharge are treatable, but it’s important to do what you can to prevent conditions like sexually transmitted infections and bacterial vaginosis.
To prevent a sexually transmitted infection, always use condoms when you have sex of any kind, especially with a new partner.
If possible, ensure your partner doesn’t have an STI before engaging in sexual activity.
Bacterial vaginosis isn’t always preventable.
Some people get BV due to a natural lack of “good bacteria” in their vaginas.
Douching can also heighten your risk of bacterial vaginosis, so avoid washing inside your vagina with soap and water.
When to See a Medical Provider
Noticing changes in your vaginal discharge can be disconcerting.
Your healthcare provider is the best resource for finding out whether these changes could be due to an infection or another health condition.
A doctor can also recommend the best course of treatment if you do have an infection.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with an infection, call your doctor right away if it’s not responding to treatment or getting worse.
Certain red flags may also indicate an infection is spreading, which requires prompt medical care.
Seek emergency medical treatment if you experience any of the below symptoms during an infection:
- Feeling weak or faint
- Nausea and vomiting
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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Vaginal itching and discharge: adult and adolescent. (n.d.).