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Orange Discharge: What Does It Mean And Should You Worry?

Seeing orange discharge in your underwear or when you wipe can be alarming. More often than not, it’s a sign that your body is trying to communicate with you. In this article, we take you through all that your body’s discharge may be saying and how you should respond. 

Vaginal discharge isn’t something a lot of us are taught to understand from a young age. 

This can make us feel confused, grossed out, or unsure when to seek help if we spot our discharge looking out of the ordinary.

But know that it is a completely natural process and actually helps keep our bodies in balance. You just need to know what to look out for. 

Discharge or mucus are not the most flattering names for such an important bodily function. The medical term for vaginal discharge is leukorrhea. Leukorrhea is a type of fluid produced by the vagina and cervix that helps to keep it clean and free from infection. 

It can appear in different amounts, colors, and consistencies throughout your menstrual cycle. 

These changes provide a useful way to understand your fertility and vaginal health. But, seeing a color out of the ordinary can cause concern. So, why is my discharge orange?

What Does Healthy Vaginal Discharge Look Like?

Before we move on to what’s unhealthy, let’s first explore what healthy vaginal discharge should look like. 

People with vaginas can have discharge at any age and the amount can vary from person to person. 

Types of vaginal discharge depend on the stage of your menstrual cycle, for example:

  • After your period, your discharge may become cloudy, white, or light yellow with a creamy texture. 
  • In the lead up to ovulation, your discharge may be wet and slippery with a consistency similar to egg whites. 
  • After ovulation, your discharge may return to being cloudy and white. The texture may be thicker and stickier during this stage of your cycle. 

Each of these types of discharge are healthy. They show your body is regulating itself in tune with changes in your hormones throughout your menstrual cycle.

Rising estrogen levels stimulate your cervix and vagina to secrete more mucus. This is why you can expect more discharge following your period and around the time of ovulation as your estrogen levels are higher.   

How Much Discharge Is Normal? Does It Smell? What To Expect

Some people struggle with the amount of discharge they experience. Everyone will experience different amounts of discharge depending on their estrogen levels.

Those with higher levels of estrogen will experience more discharge compared to those with lower levels. Birth control containing estrogen can influence the amount of discharge you get, as well as lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise.

Thin panty liners or period pants can be a great solution for absorbing excess moisture. If possible, using organic, non-scented products will help protect your good bacteria. 

Some people worry about the smell of vaginal discharge. The natural bacterial flora of the vagina works to keep it within a healthy balance. This is also known as the vaginal microbiome. It’s this bacteria that causes vaginas to have a natural musky scent. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about. 

However, if your discharge has a strong smell or fish-like odor, this could be a sign that your body is fighting infection. 

For example, curdy white discharge with a thicker consistency and a strong fish-like smell is a symptom of a yeast infection. These often appear alongside other symptoms like itching or irritation of the vulva. 

Yeast infections can be treated with creams and tablets from your local pharmacy, but a doctor’s consultation should be prioritized. Other colors that could suggest infection include darker yellow, green, or gray. We’ll cover these below as we explore the different possible reasons behind orange discharge. 

I’m seeing an orange discharge. What does it mean?

Orange Discharge

There are multiple reasons as to why your discharge may be orange. Some are completely normal and nothing to worry about, whereas others may be your body providing an important sign that you need to seek treatment.

  • Part of your Period
    Orange discharge around the time of your period is common. It’s caused by menstrual blood mixing with typical discharge to create a brown, orange, or rust color.
    If you notice orange vaginal discharge around your menstrual period that stops after a couple of days, this is spotting.
    Spotting is completely normal and nothing to worry about. Experiencing orange discharge and cramps together is also fairly common as both are symptoms of menstruation. 
  • Birth Control
    Orange discharge also can occur due to hormonal birth control. This is sometimes referred to as breakthrough bleeding.
    The hormone, progestin, found in birth control causes the lining of the uterus to remain thin. This stops fertilized embryos from implanting but it can also cause breakthrough bleeding.
    Breakthrough bleeding is common in the first six months of trying a new birth control method. This is because your cycle takes time to adjust to the new hormone levels. Forgetting to take your pill for more than a day can also trigger breakthrough bleeding. 
  • A Sign of Infection
    If your orange discharge is brighter in color and has a strong fish-like or sour smell, it’s likely a sign of infection. Two common causes of orange discharge are Trichomoniasis and Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). 
  • Trichomoniasis
    Trichomoniasis is also known as Trich. It’s a type of sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a parasite.Genital irritation, discomfort while urinating, and a strong-smelling discharge are symptoms of Trich.If you suspect you may have Trich, you should visit your doctor and receive a full course of antibiotics.It’s recommended that both you and your sexual partner receive treatment. Continued symptoms after completing your antibiotics could signal an underlying condition.
    In this case, you should consult your doctor again.
  • Bacterial Vaginosis
    Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is one of the most common gynecological infections. It happens due to an imbalance of vaginal bacteria. The exact causes of this imbalance are not completely understood. However, you’re more likely to experience BV if you’re sexually active, have an IUD, or use perfumed products around your vagina.

    Half of all people with BV don’t experience any symptoms, making it difficult to detect. The most common symptom is a change in vaginal discharge. It ranges from orange to gray in color, with a thin, water-like consistency and a strong smell. BV does not usually cause any irritation or soreness of the vulva but changes the acidity level of your vagina and reduces your natural defenses against infection. Doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat BV, which can come as tablets, gels, or creams.

    There are a few other ways to protect the pH balance of your vagina. Try using plain water to wash your genital area and take showers instead of baths. Avoid using any perfumed soaps, washes, or deodorants, and do not clean the inside of your vagina. This is because the vagina is self-sufficient and cleans itself. Wearing cotton underwear and washing them with gentle detergent prevents overheating and moisture.

  • Part of Pregnancy
    Orange discharge can mean different things during pregnancy. It’s normal to experience more vaginal discharge during pregnancy due to the higher levels of estrogen in your body.
    This extra fluid helps to protect the vagina from potential infection. However, once again – it’s important to pay attention to the color and consistency of your discharge as your body communicates with you. 
  • Implantation
    Orange discharge can be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. After ovulation, if a mature egg becomes fertilized, it may attach itself to the lining of your uterus. This is implantation.Implantation can cause a small amount of bleeding due to the breakage of the blood vessels around the site of implantation.
    This blood can mix with typical vaginal discharge to create a light red, brown, or orange color. If you experience spotting and don’t start your period within a few days, you may be pregnant.

    It’s a good idea to take a pregnancy test or get a sonography scan to confirm your pregnancy sooner rather than later. Here are some more early signs of pregnancy.

  • Pregnancy Loss
    Orange discharge during the first trimester of pregnancy is common. This is because between 4-24% of women experience light bleeding during their first trimester. Small amounts of blood can appear light pink or orange in color when mixed with typical vaginal discharge.

    If your discharge changes to a deeper red, you must see your doctor as soon as possible. Darker red or brown discharge may signal a complication such as miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
    Ectopic pregnancy is when the embryo implants in the fallopian tube. It can be very dangerous for the mother if not removed early on.
    Cramping, passing tissue, dizziness, or the easing of pregnancy symptoms are all signs of miscarriage. If any of these occur you should seek medical help immediately. 
    Read More :
    What Does Miscarriage Look Like?

  • After Birth
    Orange discharge after C-section birth procedures is also common. Lochia is the vaginal discharge experienced after pregnancy. It’s a mix of blood and other membranes from inside the uterus. Lochia changes over time as the mother’s hormones return to their natural rhythm after giving birth. It starts as bright red and then becomes brown, orange, or pink and returns to a creamy-white color.
    It’s recommended that new mothers check their vaginal discharge. They should look for any changes in color or smell that could show infection. If you experience fresh blood clots, cramping, or a strong odor you must contact your doctor.

  • Rectal Discharge
    The release of orange discharge from the anus is not unheard of. This can be the result of many different things. Examples include: infection, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hemorrhoids, abscesses, or even anal or rectal cancer.
    Rectal discharge is any substance other than feces that exits the rectum.It’s usually found as fluid in your underwear or stool and can range in color from red to brown, orange, or yellow.
    Orange rectal discharge can be the result of blood mixing with the mucus found in your gut. Other symptoms like pain, itching, fever, or fatigue suggest something more serious. Contact your doctor for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Summary:

  • Vaginal discharge is your body’s way of regulating its bacterial flora.
  • It’s normal for your discharge to change throughout your menstrual cycle as your hormone levels rise and fall.
  • Pay attention to any unusual changes in the color, consistency, or smell of your discharge.
  • If you’re unsure why you’re experiencing orange discharge and feel you may need treatment, please don’t hesitate to seek medical support.
  • Orange vaginal discharge may suggest: normal menstrual spotting, breakthrough bleeding from birth control, STIs such as Trichomoniasis, infections such as Bacterial Vaginosis, pregnancy implantation, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, or postpartum infection. 
  • Orange rectal discharge may suggest: STIs, food poisoning, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), hemorrhoids, abscesses, anal or rectal cancer. 

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