Reasons You May Have Grey Vaginal Discharge

Vaginal discharge, made up of cells, bacteria, and fluids from the vagina and cervix, is normal for people with vaginas. Discharge helps ward off infection and lubricate the vagina. Typically, discharge is clear or white, thick, and does not smell. Its production is triggered by estrogen in the body.

The consistency, amount, color, and smell of discharge changes throughout the menstrual cycle for a number of reasons, including pregnancy, use of birth control, and menopause. It may also change due to the presence of an infection.

Grey discharge is not normal and could indicate an infection. Read on for more about infections that may cause changes in vaginal discharge and when to seek medical care.

What Grey Discharge Could Mean

Verywell / Laura Porter

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Grey vaginal discharge can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina.

The exact cause of BV is unknown. What is understood is that symptoms are likely caused by a disruption and overgrowth of naturally-occurring bacteria in the vagina. BV may be related to having a new sexual partner, multiple partners, or douching.

Symptoms

Symptoms associated with BV include:

  • A thin vaginal discharge that is grey or grey-ish white
  • A burning sensation in the vagina or during urination
  • Pain or itching in the vagina
  • A fish-like vaginal odor, particularly after sex

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is a common infection caused by a parasite. It's typically transmitted through sex (oral, anal, and vaginal) as well as genital touching. It is most common among people with vaginas.

Symptoms

Though not everyone who has a trichomoniasis infection has symptoms, some may experience:

  • A strong-smelling vaginal discharge that has a yellow, green, or grey color
  • Discharge that may be foamy
  • Pain or discomfort during sex or urination
  • Pain or itching in and around the vagina

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria. This infection is most common in young people with vaginas. Not using condoms and having multiple sex partners can increase the risk of a chlamydia infection.

Symptoms

It is possible to have chlamydia and have no symptoms. If symptoms are present, they may include:

  • An atypical vaginal discharge with a strong smell
  • Burning sensation while peeing
  • Pain during sex

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is an STI is also caused by bacteria. Many people with gonorrhea have no symptoms, particularly young people with vaginas. However, some may have mild symptoms or mistake them for a bladder or vaginal infection.

Symptoms

If a person does have symptoms, they may experience:

How Much Discharge Is Normal?

The amount of discharge can be different for each person, but one to one-half teaspoon of discharge per day is common.

When to See a Doctor

If your vaginal discharge is a different consistency, color, smell, or amount than what is normal for you, discuss it with your healthcare provider. It's possible that the change in vaginal discharge may not be due to an infection, but a provider can help determine the cause.

They may test you for common infections and provide appropriate treatment if necessary.

If the change in discharge is caused by an STI, getting treated will reduce the risk that it may be passed on to a sexual partner. It will also reduce the risk of any long-term complications due to an untreated infection, which can include infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease.

Summary

Vaginal discharge is common and is usually normal for people who have vaginas. There are many reasons that a change in the color, consistency, amount, or smell of discharge may occur. Some causes require treatment. Other causes are associated with non-medical issues, such as pregnancy, birth control use, or menopause.

If changes in vaginal discharge are associated with characteristic vaginal or sexually transmitted infections, talk with a healthcare provider to identify the cause and appropriate treatment.

A Word From Verywell

Though vaginal discharge is normal, it's still important to get familiar with what your discharge typically looks and smells like day-to-day. That way, you can better identify if there is an unexpected change in the amount, texture, color, or smell of your discharge.

If and when you do notice a change, speak with a healthcare provider. They can help investigate why the change in discharge occurred and if it requires any treatment. If you are sexually active, they can also speak with you about STI testing, even if you don't have symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does grey discharge look like?

    Vaginal discharge typically is clear or white and may have a thick consistency. Grey discharge may look slightly off-color and have a different consistency, such as being foamy or having a cottage-cheese texture. These changes are often associated with an infection.

  • Why does vaginal discharge smell?

    Generally, vaginal discharge does not have a smell. However, a strong or "fishy" smelling discharge may indicate the presence of an infection.

  • What causes vaginal discharge?

    The presence of estrogen in the body triggers the production of vaginal discharge. The discharge itself is made up of cells, fluid, and naturally occurring bacteria from the vagina and cervix. It is a normal and common experience for people with vaginas.

  • What other colors can appear in discharge?

    Normal discharge may vary between being clear to white and be runny or even have an egg-white texture. However, changes in discharge that may be caused by an infection can lead to different colors, including green, yellow, or grey.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. UpToDate. Patient education: vaginal discharge in adult women (beyond the basics).

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bacterial vaginosis CDC factsheet.

  3. MedlinePlus. Trichomoniasis.

  4. MedlinePlus. Chlaymdia.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chlamydia - CDC fact sheet.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonorrhea CDC fact sheet (detailed version).

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. STDs & infertility.

  8. Nemours Teen Health. Vaginal discharge: What's normal, what's not.