Vaginal discharge

Key points about vaginal discharge

  • Vaginal discharge is fluid or mucus that keeps your vagina clean and moist, and protects it from infection.
  • It's normally white or clear and has minimal smell.
  • It can vary in thickness and amount over your menstrual cycle, becoming clear and slippery near ovulation and thicker and tacky after ovulation.
  • During pregnancy, vaginal discharge is thicker and white-cream colour.
  • If your discharge changes (smell, colour or texture) it might be a sign of an infection, so seek advice.
Young wahine Māori woman wearing orange hoody
Print this page

Normal vaginal discharge is clear or white. It has a slight but not unpleasant smell.

For most women, discharge:

  • becomes more obvious near ovulation, when it is clear, slippery and stretchy (similar to raw egg white) for 1 to 4 days
  • becomes thicker and tacky after ovulation leading up to your period
  • isn't noticeable once menstruation begins
  • is light after menstruation and then, as ovulation approaches, the amount increases again.

During pregnancy, vaginal discharge can increase in volume and be thicker and white-cream in colour.

If your discharge changes, eg, in smell, colour or texture, it might be a sign of an infection.

Unusual vaginal discharge is most commonly due to bacterial vaginosis. 

Possible cause


Bacterial vaginosis

Smells fishy


Thick and white, like cottage cheese with itching skin, redness/irritation and pain with sex


Green, yellow or frothy discharge with itching, skin irritation and pain or bleeding with sex

Chlamydia or gonorrhoea

Often no discharge but can have pelvic pain or bleeding

Genital herpes

Generally, no discharge but can get very painful blisters or sores

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of causes of vaginal discharge and if you have any of these symptoms you should see a healthcare provider for an assessment.

See your healthcare provider if:

  • your discharge changes colour, smell or texture
  • you produce more discharge than usual
  • you feel itchy or sore
  • you bleed between periods or after sex
  • you get pain when peeing or with sex
  • you get pain in your lower belly (pelvic pain)
  • you have redness, pain, or swelling around the vulva (the area of skin around the outside of your vagina)
  • you're feeling unwell with a fever.

Sexual Wellbeing Aotearoa and sexual health clinics can also help with abnormal vaginal discharge

Sexual Wellbeing Aotearoa and sexual health clinics have doctors and nurses who can treat problems with your genitals and urinary system.

Most clinics offer a walk-in service, where you don't need an appointment, but you may need to wait for a while to be seen.

Find a clinic by clicking on the links below. 

Sexual Wellbeing Aotearoa clinic(external link) 
Sexual health clinic(external link)

To help prevent irritation, soreness, or dryness:

Things to do

  • Do wash your vulva (the area of skin around the outside of the vagina) gently every day – it's easily cleaned by running water over it in the shower.
  • Do use water only to clean your vulva – avoid soaps and other 'hygiene' products.
  • Do wipe from front to back after a bowel motion and urination (peeing).
  • Do pat your vulva dry rather than rubbing it after a shower or bath.
  • Do change your tampons/pads regularly when menstruating.
  • Do wear cotton underwear and avoid tight-fitting clothes.
  • Do use a pH neutral water-based product, if a lubricant is needed for sex.
  • Do practice safe sex by using a condom every time you have sex.
  • Do eat a balanced diet, get regular exercise and avoid smoking to keep your body healthy and functioning well.

Things not to do

  • Don't use soaps, gels, scented bath products, or bubble baths.
  • Don't use deodorants or scented hygiene wipes (eg, 'baby wipes').
  • Don't douche (wash the inside of your vagina).
  • Don't use scented panty liners and avoid using panty liners when you do not have your period.
  • Don't use spermicides or scented lubricants.
  • Don't waste your money on unproven products marketed to improve vaginal health, like probiotics.
  • Don't use antiseptics to wash your vagina.


Vaginal discharges(external link) Sexual Wellbeing Aotearoa, NZ
Your body – do all genitals look the same?(external link) Sexual Wellbeing Aotearoa, NZ
What's going on down there?(external link) Vaginal Health, Australia


  1. Vulvovaginal health in premenopausal women(external link) BPAC, NZ, 2011
  2. Vaginal discharge(external link) NZ Sexual Health Society Guidelines, NZ, 2017
  3. Vaginal discharge(external link) Auckland Regional HealthPathways, NZ
  4. Vaginal discharge(external link) STI Management Guidelines, NZ

Need help now?

Healthline logo in supporters block

Need to talk logo

Healthpoint logo

Credits: Healthify editorial team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Dr Phoebe Hunt, Medical Officer, Northland

Last reviewed: