When to See a Healthcare Provider About Vaginal Discharge

A vaginal discharge is a normal function of a healthy vagina. A typical vagina contains naturally occurring bacteria that create an acidic environment. As part of their self-cleaning process, vaginas produce fluids that then leave the body as normal discharge.

A normal discharge usually appears clear, cloudy white, or a light yellowish color. Normal discharge may also contain white flecks or be thin and stringy.

Discharge may appear heavier towards the middle of your menstrual cycle. Changes in the thickness of the vaginal walls associated with menopause can also make discharge appear heavier or more frequently.

Female doctor with female patient
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There are many reasons why your vaginal discharge may appear to change. These can include emotional stress, dietary changes, pregnancy, medications (including birth control pills), and sexual arousal. While increased frequency can be annoying, in many cases it's normal.

However, some changes such as foul odor, change in consistency or color, and discharge paired with cramping pain can indicate a potential medical problem.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

You should make an appointment to see your healthcare provider if you have an abnormal vaginal discharge accompanied by any of the following:

If you are having a watery discharge that is tinted with blood, and it does not appear around the time of menstruation (either before or after), make an appointment to see a gynecologist.

You should consult your healthcare provider, within one day, anytime you have symptoms or concerns relating to abnormal vaginal discharge. Especially if it is accompanied by a foul odor or has an abnormal color such as gray, green, or yellow.

Anytime you experience a vaginal discharge during pregnancy you need to see your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.

Causes of Abnormal Discharge

Abnormal discharge may be the result of a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis (a parasitic infection), or other sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Other causes of abnormal discharge include postoperative pelvic infection, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and in rare cases, cervical cancer.


If you think you may have a sexually transmitted disease, or if you have the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection, and you have not previously been diagnosed with a yeast infection, call your healthcare provider as soon as possible.​

For a bacterial infection, your healthcare provider will prescribe an antibiotic. For yeast infections, your healthcare provider will likely prescribe an anti-fungal, which might be in pill, cream, or suppository form.

Bacterial and yeast infections are easy to treat when caught early enough. If you have recurring bacterial or yeast infections, discuss preventative measures with your healthcare provider.

3 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. Cleveland Clinic. How to decode your vaginal discharge — and when to worry.

  2. Girlshealth.gov. Types of STDs (STIs).

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Vaginal discharge: Possible causes.

Additional Reading

By Tracee Cornforth
Tracee Cornforth is a freelance writer who covers menstruation, menstrual disorders, and other women's health issues.