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Help! Why is my vaginal discharge green? What does it mean?

Discharge is a completely normal and healthy part of owning a vagina. But seeing a color, texture, or smell out of the ordinary can set alarm bells ringing. Discharge can give us signs about what’s happening in the body, so it’s important to know how to read them. 

Green vaginal discharge is most likely a sign of infection. Throughout this blog, we’ll explore the reasons for green discharge and ways to treat it. 

So, first – what exactly is discharge?

Vaginal discharge is a healthy way for the body to keep the vagina clean, protecting it from bacteria and infection. Discharge is the name used to describe any non-menstrual fluid that leaves the vagina. This can include:

  • vaginal fluid
  • cervical mucus
  • arousal fluid
  • sperm from intercourse
  • any dead cells from the cervix or vagina
 

Are discharge and cervical mucus the same thing?

The words discharge and cervical mucus are sometimes used interchangeably. Although discharge is often made up of mostly cervical mucus, they are not the same. 

Cervical mucus is produced by the cervix. This sits at the very top of your vaginal canal at the entrance to your uterus or womb. The cervix produces the most fluid when you are fertile around the time of ovulation and less during other phases of your cycle. This is because of fluctuations in your estrogen levels. 

What should my normal discharge look like?

normal discharge

The type and amount of discharge can vary from person to person. But even typical discharge changes in color and texture throughout the menstrual cycle. 

This is because hormones play an important role in controlling the glands in the cervix and vagina. Typical discharge can range from: 

  • Red to light pink, orange or brown. This is caused by small amounts of menstrual blood mixing with discharge around the time of your period. 
  • Clear to white, with an egg white texture. This clear, sticky texture is caused by a rise in estrogen levels around the time of ovulation. 
  • White to cream or light yellow, with a milk-like texture. This is the typical state of healthy discharge, which can vary in color, texture and amount between women.
 

What does it mean when your discharge is green?

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Now we’ve explored what typical, healthy discharge should look like – it’s time to explore why yours is green. 

Vaginal discharge that appears dark yellow, yellow-green, or bright green is most often a sign of infection.

The green color is an inflammatory response to pathogens as your body works to fight the bacteria.

The beginning of an infection may cause a thin, yellow discharge. If left untreated, this often evolves into a thicker, darker yellow or green discharge. 

It’s then likely that your discharge will get a more mucus-like texture before turning a brighter shade of green. A thick texture and a strong foul smell are clear signs of infection.

Why is my discharge green?

Because green discharge is often a clear sign of infection, the causes can usually be narrowed down to three sexually transmitted infections (STIs):

  • Trichomoniasis 
  • Gonorrhea 
  • Chlamydia

Trichomoniasis (or Trich)

Trichomoniasis, also known as ‘Trich’, is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a parasite. This parasite is passed between people during sex. 
According to the CDC, Trich is one of the most common STIs in the world but also one of the most treatable. 

Roughly only 30% of people with Trich display any symptoms at all – making it difficult to detect and treat. 
 
For those who do show symptoms of Trich, they may include: 
  • Green or yellow vaginal discharge 
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain when peeing 
  • Itching, burning, and soreness of the genitals 
 

Trich is one of the most common causes of green vaginal discharge. However, Trich can’t be diagnosed on symptoms alone – you need a lab test from your doctor to confirm the diagnosis. 

Once you have a Trich diagnosis, it can be treated with antibiotics. Because Trich is a sexually transmitted infection, it’s recommended that both you and your recent partners are treated with antibiotics to prevent them from passing it on. 
 

Gonorrhea and Chlamydia 

Both Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are sexually transmitted infections that can cause green discharge. 

Similar to Trich, both of these infections can also go unnoticed as people don’t always show symptoms. 

For those that do show symptoms, they may include:

  • Green or yellow discharge
  • Increased amounts of discharge 
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain when peeing 
  • Irregular bleeding between periods
 

Both gonorrhea and chlamydia need to be treated with antibiotics. Again, you need to confirm your diagnosis through a lab test before receiving treatment.

Once you have your test results, your doctor will be able to prescribe the right antibiotics for both, you and your recent partners.

What if I don’t get treatment?

It’s incredibly important to seek treatment if you’re experiencing green vaginal discharge and think you may have a sexually transmitted infection. 

If left untreated, STIs can spread throughout your reproductive system and cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. 

What is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)?

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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is particularly common in people who contract STIs but remain asymptomatic and don’t seek treatment. 

Without showing any symptoms, people don’t know to seek treatment. This allows the bacterial infection to spread throughout the reproductive system, causing serious damage. 

Symptoms of PID may include: 

  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Pelvic aches and pain 
  • Pain during sex

It’s important to consult your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Leaving PID untreated can cause chronic pain, damage to the reproductive system, and infertility. 

Can Bacterial Vaginosis cause green discharge?

Bacterial Vaginosis cause green discharge

Bacterial Vaginosis, also known as BV, is a gynecological condition caused by an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in the vagina. 

For example, high levels of bad bacteria, such as ‘Gardnerella Vaginialis’ can cause BV. One of the main symptoms of BV is thicker, smellier, and unusual colored discharge. 

Although this discharge is more often gray or yellow, it can appear green in some cases.

 

Symptoms of BV may include:

 

  • Increased levels of discharge
  • Thicker discharge 
  • Discharge with a strong fishy smelling odor
  • Discharge which is white, gray, yellow, or green in color
  • Burning when peeing 

 

 

BV is not sexually transmitted and is not contagious between partners. However, having BV can increase your risk of contracting STIs. This is because the bacterial imbalance in the vagina makes it more difficult to fight off infection. 

If you think you may have BV, speak to your doctor about the treatment and how to protect yourself from STIs. 

 

Ways to avoid contracting BV involve protecting your vaginal balance by: 

 

  • Washing your vulva using water 
  • Avoiding tight or synthetic fabric underwear
  • Taking warm baths to relieve irritation 
  • Avoiding putting soap or perfumed products near your vulva

How can good hygiene prevent green discharge?

Keeping good hygiene is super important for avoiding infections down there. This is even more important when managing your period each month. 

You should try to remove and replace your period products every 4-8 hours if possible, as suggested by the FDA guidelines. 

Although this isn’t always easy to achieve around school, work, and life commitments – it’s a key part of keeping your vagina healthy. 

Leaving a product in or around the vagina for too long can prevent the self-cleaning process and allow harmful bacteria to grow. This can again lead to imbalance and increase the risk of infection. 

What about green discharge during pregnancy? Should I be worried?

Green discharge during pregnancy is abnormal. It is a sign of infection and should signal that you need to get checked out by your doctor. 

Infections during pregnancy present a higher risk to both the mother and baby, so it’s important to get it addressed early on. 

For example, if a pregnant person has Trichomoniasis and it’s left untreated – it can trigger preterm birth or cause babies to have lower birth weights.

How do I get rid of green discharge?

Because green discharge is a sign of infection, it’s usually treated with a course of antibiotics. 

First, you should visit your doctor to diagnose the exact cause of your green discharge. 

It’s important to be open and honest about your sexual history, even if you may feel embarrassed. The doctor will need to know the cause of your infection as well as run a lab test to confirm the type of infection.

Once you have your results, you’ll be prescribed the right antibiotics to treat your specific infection. 

If taken correctly as a full course, the antibiotics should clear up your infection within a couple of weeks. 

If you continue to experience green discharge after finishing your antibiotics, you should return to your doctor. 

In the meantime, painkillers and a cold compress can soothe discomfort and reduce any swelling around the vulva.

How to avoid green discharge in the future?

  • Avoid using scented soaps or perfumed products in or around the vulva – use only water.
  • Always use a condom to protect yourself from STIs during intercourse. Also, try to get screened regularly even if using protection. 
  • Ensure you remove and replace menstrual products every 4-8 hours to prevent harmful bacteria from growing. 

Summary

  • Green discharge is not normal and is most often a sign of infection. 
  • The most common cause of green discharge are sexually transmitted infections. These include Trichomoniasis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia.
  • Bacterial Vaginosis can also cause unusual or green discharge.
  • If you experience green discharge during pregnancy, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible to reduce the risk of harm. 
  • Always be open and honest with your doctor about your sexual history and get screened regularly for STIs.

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