Green Vaginal Discharge: What Does It Tell About Your Health?
Discharge that is considered normal is usually clear or white and has either no odor or a very mild smell. Green discharge is considered abnormal and usually indicates infection, especially when accompanied by a foul smell.
What is green discharge?
There is a whole range of colors that women see in their vaginal discharge, some considered normal, and some abnormal.
Before and after your period, discharge may appear yellow, orange, brick red, or brown. During the rest of the month, discharge is usually clear, white, cream, or even a very pale yellow.
Once we pass these shades and get to bright yellow, yellow-green, or green discharge, we should start asking questions.
In most cases, green vaginal discharge is a sign of infection. It happens when the body reacts to pathogens with an inflammatory response. At the very start of an infection, you may see thin, yellow discharge. It then progresses to a yellowish-green discharge with a thicker, mucus-like consistency, and finally to a bright, or lime-green discharge that is very thick and usually foul-smelling.
Because there are so many types of vaginal discharge, it’s important to take all factors into account — not just color. The consistency and smell of your discharge will also indicate whether you may have an infection. For example, if you notice that you have green discharge, but it is a thin consistency and does not have an odor, it may be one-off thing caused by something you ate, or perhaps a new vitamin you started taking.
If you have any doubts, it’s best to see a doctor because they are the most qualified to say what type of discharge is abnormal.
What can cause green discharge?
Infection is the most common cause of green vaginal discharge. There are many different types of infections that can affect the vagina and result in abnormal discharge. The following are the most common causes of green discharge from the vagina.
Trichomoniasis, or “trich,” is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a Trichomonas vaginalis. It is the most common cause of greenish discharge, and luckily it is a very treatable condition. This bug is the reason of vaginitis.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), trich is the most common curable STD. About 3.7 million people have the infection in the United States. (1)
Only 30 percent of people infected by trichomoniasis have signs and symptoms. The rest are asymptomatic. It is unclear why some people get symptoms and others do not. Women affected by symptoms of trich may experience the following:
- A change in vaginal discharge that can be yellow or green with a foul smell
- Itching, burning, redness, or soreness of the genitals
- Painful urination
- Painful sex
It is not possible to treat trichomoniasis based on symptoms alone. Laboratory tests will confirm a diagnosis. Trich is treated with antibiotics (like Metronidazole for patient and partner prophylaxis).
Make sure to inform and treat your sexual partner/s if you have been diagnosed with trich, as the infection is asymptomatic in 70 percent of cases.
Gonorrhea and chlamydia are another two treatable sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that can cause green discharge in women. Like trich, infections with these diseases are often asymptomatic.
When women do experience symptoms of chlamydia or gonorrhea, they often include:
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Yellow or yellow-green discharge
- Painful urination
- Painful intercourse
- Pelvic pain
Left untreated, these infections can spread to the uterus, fallopian tubes (salpingitis), and ovaries (oophoritis) in a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). In the long-term, PID can cause permanent damage to the reproductive organs and lead to infertility or ectopic pregnancy.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection caused by an imbalance in “good” and “bad” bacteria in the vagina. BV is not an STI, and often the cause of the infection is Gardnerella vaginitis. Factors that may increase the risk of developing BV include having a new sexual partner, having multiple sexual partners, douching, smoking, and having a general lack of “good” bacteria.
Common symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include:
- Vaginal itching
- No inflammation
- Thin, white discharge
- Burning during urination
- Grey, yellow, or green vaginal discharge
- Foul-smelling “fishy” vaginal odor.
Having BV increases your risk of contracting STDs. If you suspect you may have BV, speak with your doctor as soon as possible. Antibiotics should clear it up within a few weeks.
What does green discharge during pregnancy mean?
Green vaginal discharge during pregnancy should raise some red flags. In general, green discharge is considered abnormal discharge, and during pregnancy you need to be extra cautious.
A woman who has green discharge while pregnant should immediately make an appointment with her doctor. Certain infections that cause a woman to have green discharge pose threats to the pregnancy and the baby.
For example, pregnant women with trichomoniasis are more likely to have preterm deliveries and babies with lower-than-average birth weights.
Any infection that is present during pregnancy should be taken care of immediately with antibiotics.
What should I do if I notice green discharge?
Seeing green in your underwear or on a piece of toilet paper can be quite alarming. Note any other changes in your discharge including the amount, consistency, and smell. Green smelly discharge is almost a sure sign of infection.
Contact your doctor right away if you have green discharge, and make sure to include any other information you have gathered about changes in your vaginal discharge.
How is green vaginal discharge treated?
In most cases, green discharge indicates infection, and infections are treated with antibiotics. Laboratory tests will confirm what kind of infection you have (and STI, bacterial vaginosis, or something else).
Depending on the type of infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics that should clear it up within a few weeks.
Questions that your doctor may ask you about green vaginal discharge
Don’t be shy when it comes to talking to your doctor about vaginal discharge. You can bet that this isn’t the first — and it won’t be the last — discussion they have had with patients regarding normal and abnormal vaginal discharge. It’s just another way of your body telling you when something is off.
Your doctor may ask you the following questions about your discharge:
- Have you noticed an increase in vaginal discharge recently?
- What is the consistency of your vaginal discharge (thin, thick, chunky, mucus-like, etc.)?
- Is your discharge constant or does it come and go?
- When did the abnormal discharge begin?
- Do you have burning, itching, pain, or any discomfort in or around the vagina?
- Do you have multiple sexual partners?
- Do you douche?
- When were you last tested for STDs?
- When was your last period?
- Are you pregnant?
- When was the last time you got a pap-smear?
Frequently asked questions on green vaginal discharge
You see green discharge and you have questions. These are the most common questions asked about green vaginal discharge.
What STDs cause green discharge?
The most common causes of green discharge are STDs trichomoniasis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. All three of these STDs are often asymptomatic, but when women do experience signs and symptoms, green discharge is one of them. They are all treatable with antibiotics.
Why do I have smelly green discharge?
Smelly green discharge indicates infection — usually either an STI like the ones mentioned above or an infection called bacterial vaginosis. The smell associated with vaginal infection is a foul “fishy” smell.
What causes light green discharge without odor?
Rarely, a woman may have light green discharge that does not have an odor and is not the result of an infection. In this case, the abnormal vaginal discharge may be the result of a dietary change, a new food, or new vitamins.
Green vaginal discharge is considered abnormal discharge. As soon as you notice green discharge, especially if it is frothy, clumpy, or mucus-like and has a bad odor, contact your doctor. It may be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection or an infection called bacterial vaginosis.
If it is an infection, your doctor will start you on a course of antibiotics that should clear it up within a few weeks.