Vaginal discharge

You can experience vaginal discharge for many reasons. It doesn't always mean you have an STI.

Vaginal discharge is nothing to worry about if it's:

  • odourless (no unpleasant smell)
  • clear or white
  • thick and sticky
  • slippery and wet

The amount of discharge you might experience can vary. You might experience heavier or more frequent discharge if you're:

  • pregnant
  • sexually active
  • using contraception, such as the contraceptive pill

During ovulation, you'll notice more slippery and wet discharge, which is normal.

Non-urgent advice: Contact your GP or sexual health service if:

You have vaginal discharge and:

  • you experience pelvic pain
  • you're bleeding between periods or after sex
  • you experience pain when peeing
  • you feel itchy, sore or have blisters
  • your vaginal discharge changes in colour, smell or texture

You should look out for anything that doesn't seem normal for you. This can include discharge which is:

  • foul-smelling
  • thick and white (like cottage cheese)
  • green or yellow and frothy
  • accompanied by pain or bleeding
  • accompanied by itchiness, blister or sores

STIs that can cause vaginal discharge include:

If you're sexually active and you experience any abnormal discharge, contact your local sexual health clinic to get tested for STIs.

Vaginal discharge can also be caused by thrush or bacterial vaginosis.

You might be asked to visit your local sexual health clinic for a vaginal examination to ensure you get the correct treatment.

Free treatment

If you're experiencing discharge that you don't think has been caused by an STI, you can visit your local pharmacy for advice.

If you experience discharge and think there's a chance it could be caused by an STI, you should contact your local sexual health clinic. If they think you need treatment or aftercare for anything that's caused vaginal discharge, you'll be given this for free.

Free treatment is available for:

Genital hygiene

You can't always prevent vaginal discharge. But it's important to keep your vagina clean and healthy. Your vagina cleans itself internally. So you don't need to clean inside with things like a vaginal douche.

You can use panty liners if you experience heavy discharge. But don't use them all the time as they can cause irritation.

Read genital washing advice

Last updated:
01 June 2023

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