Vaginal discharge is an often-misunderstood aspect of our bodies, but it’s a powerful signpost of our reproductive health.
And then there’s the smell.
But what does it mean when you’re seeing green?
Today, we’re tackling the question of what does green discharge mean—what causes it, should you be concerned, and how best to deal with it.
In this article: 📝
- What does green discharge mean?
- Why do I have green discharge?
- Can you have green discharge without an STD?
- Should I be worried if my discharge is green?
- How to treat green discharge?
What does green discharge mean?
First things first, let’s make space for the critical role vaginal discharge plays in our reproductive health.
This built-in natural mechanism keeps your vagina clean and moistened, maintains a healthy pH balance, and helps protect the internal genital and urinary tract from infection. Phew.
Vaginal discharge is a healthy mix of cells from the cervix, uterus, and vagina combined with bacteria, water, and cervical mucus.
And it’s highly sensitive to hormonal changes, which is why it can vary so widely in consistency and color throughout your menstrual cycle.
But it’s also influenced by changes in your vaginal pH levels and infection.
Green, smelly discharge typically indicates a bacterial infection.
It’s basically your body’s response as white blood cells rush to the infection site, and your vaginal discharge works to remove the dead cells and balance out your bacteria.
Why do I have green discharge?
Whether it’s a thick green discharge that smells foul or a light green discharge without odor, all signs point to an infection.
But because there’s so many forms that your vaginal discharge can take, it’s vital to pay attention to any other abnormal symptoms.
Still, how you treat your new green hue will depend on what’s influencing it, so keep an eye out for vaginal itching, burning, or discomfort during sex.
Your intimate connection with your body makes you the best eyewitness.
To help you nail down the culprit (and find some sweet relief), here are the main suspects behind greenish vaginal discharge:
1. Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
BV is simply an imbalance of the natural bacteria in the vagina, and it’s one of the most common vaginal infections in women of reproductive age (affecting up to an estimated 70% worldwide.
Its signature is an increase in abnormal discharge that smells strongly of fish (especially after sex).
But it can also appear as a greenish-yellow discharge.
Other symptoms to watch out for, according to the CDC include:
- Vulvovaginal itching
- Pain or burning in the vulva
- Burning sensation when you pee
- A foul, fish-like odor
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a tiny parasite that goes by the name Trichomonas vaginalis.
‘Trich’ is one of the most common STIs in the US but often goes undetected because its symptoms can be mild or even non-existent.
But when it does cause symptoms, it tends to go bold with a foul-smelling yellow-green discharge.
A yellow or green frothy discharge is common, too.
Other telltale symptoms include:
- Vulvovaginal itching or soreness
- Burning and discomfort during urination
- Pain during intercourse
3. Other STIs
Trichomoniasis may be the main suspect, but other STIs can occasionally result in changes to vaginal discharge—including its color.
So, while chlamydia typically presents with cloudy discharge, if left untreated, it might lead to a yellow or greenish color.
Similarly, gonorrhea can also cause an increase in vaginal discharge that can vary from watery to creamy to green.
What’s interesting about both these treatable conditions is that they can present as co-infections with certain symptoms overlapping.
The main complaint? You guessed it: Abnormal discharge.
Other common signs include burning while peeing and vaginal discomfort.
Why is my discharge green but not chlamydia?
Chlamydia often has no symptoms, which is why it’s earned the moniker ‘the silent infection.’
And when it does make a grand show, green mucus discharge is not typically its outfit of choice.
If you’re experiencing green discharge but test negative for chlamydia, it might be down to BV or trichomoniasis.
4. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
PID is an infection of the female reproductive organs, like the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
Picture it as the pesky aftermath after certain infections decide to throw a not-so-welcome party in your reproductive system.
It often arises from untreated sexually transmitted infections, especially chlamydia and gonorrhea, but other bacterial infections can be to blame too.
So, what’s PID got on its symptom list?
It’s a hefty blend of lower abdomen pain that doesn’t play nice, the inconvenience of a fever, uncomfortable moments during intimacy, a burning sensation during bathroom breaks, and a menstrual cycle that’s forgotten its schedule.
And then there’s the off-the-charts discharge, which might lean green.
Left untreated, PID can cause long-term complications to the reproductive organs—such as fallopian tube scarring—and increase your chances of having an ectopic pregnancy.
If you’re handling all of the above, honor your suspicions and book in with your healthcare provider.
5. Yeast infection
Yeast is a usual resident in the vaginal microbiome.
But sometimes, this fungus throws balance out the window and multiplies like it’s on a sugar binge.
The result? A yeast infection, scientifically termed as Candidiasis.
Classic signs include itching that makes you want to invent a discreet public scratch, creamy white discharge resembling cottage cheese, and some burn during bedroom or bathroom trips.
Green discharge isn’t typically the poster child for yeast infections, but the body’s varied reactions can occasionally result in a light green discharge without odor.
So, if you notice green chunky discharge alongside vaginal swelling, itching, and redness, you may have a fungal infection.
Can you have green discharge without an STD?
Absolutely, but first, let’s clear up the language of STI and STD.
As we mentioned above, STI stands for sexually transmitted infection, while STD means sexually transmitted disease.
It’s not uncommon to see trichomoniasis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea referred to as both—so what’s the deal?
Simply put, an STI describes an ‘invasion’ of a type of bacteria, parasite, or virus, while an STD refers to the specific disease caused by the infection.
In other words, while all STDs start out as STIs, not all STIs will end up as STDs.
Really, using the term ‘STI’ helps to introduce a little more understanding of sexual health (while reducing the stigma).
Because the reality is it’s possible to have a sexually transmitted infection without any symptoms whatsoever. Just like it’s possible to never develop any long-term health complications from being exposed to one.
The flipside, though, is that STIs can (and do) spread easily, which is why STI screenings are so important.
As is keeping an eye out for any abnormal symptoms like green clumpy discharge, vaginal itching, and discomfort down below.
Still, bacterial vaginosis is not an STI or STD and can also cause green itchy discharge.
Just look out for that distinctive fishy smell.
Should I be worried if my discharge is green?
Color variations in vaginal discharge can be a cause for curiosity, concern, or sometimes just a shoulder shrug.
But green? That’s not the most standard shade on the spectrum.
While it doesn’t necessarily mean something severe, green discharge can indicate an infection that needs medical attention.
But context is key, so before hitting the panic button, assess other symptoms.
Is the green discharge accompanied by itching, burning, an unusual odor, or pain?
These can be telltale signs that an infection or an imbalance is afoot.
On its own, green discharge might not be a major cause for alarm, but coupled with other symptoms, it deserves attention.
But instead of playing the guessing game or consulting Dr. Google (we’ve all been there), the best approach is to consult your doctor.
They can provide clear answers, perform tests if necessary, and guide you on the best course of action.
Why is my discharge green but not smelly?
Not all infections result in a strong-smelling discharge.
It’s possible to have green discharge due to BV without the characteristic fishy smell, especially in the early stages of the infection.
And a yeast infection may also result in a green discharge with no smell.
What causes light green discharge?
A light green discharge without odor or itching can result from the early stages of a bacterial infection or when an infection is mild.
While you don’t need to sound all the alarms, you shouldn’t ignore it either.
Consider it a gentle nudge, a heads up from your body saying, “Hey, give this a second look.”
How to treat green discharge?
Understanding and addressing the root cause is the linchpin of effectively treating green discharge.
And the big no-no? Self-diagnosing and self-treating.
Here’s a step-by-step approach to get rid of that funky discharge fast:
- Consultation: Before diving into over-the-counter solutions or home remedies, consult a healthcare professional. An accurate diagnosis ensures that you’re treating the real issue and not just masking symptoms.
- Antibiotics: For bacterial vaginosis, antibiotics such as metronidazole or clindamycin cream might be prescribed. While the usual go-to for trichomoniasis is metronidazole or tinidazole. PID, on the other hand, often requires a combination of antibiotics.
- Antifungals: Yeast infections, on the other hand, might require antifungal medications like fluconazole or topical creams.
- Maintain vaginal health: Refrain from douching or using any scented vaginal products, as these can disrupt the natural balance further. The best vaginal cleaning routine is gentle and non-invasive.
- Practice safe sex: While receiving treatment, it’s wise to avoid sexual intercourse or use protection to prevent potential transmission or further irritation.
- Follow through: Complete the entire course of prescribed medication, even if your symptoms have faded. This ensures that the infection is fully cleared and reduces the risk of recurrence.
- Revisit if needed: If the green discharge persists or if symptoms return shortly after treatment, make a follow-up appointment. Sometimes, resistant strains or misdiagnoses can be the culprits, and adjustments to the treatment plan may be necessary.
And finally, prevention
While treating the current issue is essential, looking ahead is equally crucial.
Think regular check-ups, safe sexual practices, and understanding the cues your body provides can help lessen the chance of future occurrences.
Vaginal discharge is a crucial indicator of our reproductive health.
While it can feel awkward or even taboo to discuss it, understanding its changes can offer essential insights into our well-being.
If you notice any unusual changes, like green discharge, see it simply as a sign your vaginal health needs support.
Ultimately, the green light your body is giving with this discharge is a call for attention.
Proper treatment, combined with preventative measures, can keep such signals at bay and ensure a healthier, more balanced vaginal environment.
And there’s zero shame in that.