Vaginal discharge is a combination of fluid, bacteria, and cells that are continuously shed from the vagina. This process is normal and helps keep the vagina healthy, moistened, and clean (NHS, 2021). It is normal for the appearance to vary throughout the month, and the colour usually varies between clear, off-white, and cloudy. A change in the colour, smell, or texture of vaginal discharge may indicate an infection or other problem that requires medical attention, such as discharge that is green, yellow, or brown in colour. In this article, we will discuss the possible causes of green vaginal discharge, other symptoms that can indicate a vaginal infection, and when to see a doctor.
What is green vaginal discharge?
While slight variations in the colour of vaginal discharge can be harmless, green vaginal discharge is considered to be abnormal and is usually caused by an infection. In order to identify the cause, follow-up with a healthcare provider is required. While green discharge requires medical attention, in most cases it can be easily treated by antibiotics at a clinic or your GP.
Symptoms of green vaginal discharge
As green vaginal discharge is usually a sign of infection, you may experience other symptoms of infection as well. For example, green vaginal discharge is often accompanied by an unpleasant odour, itching, or pain during urination or sex. Green vaginal discharge can also be accompanied by:
- Bleeding in between periods
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Discoloration or soreness in and around the vagina
- Nausea or fever
Causes of green vaginal discharge
Vaginal discharge is made by glands in the lining of the vagina and cervix. When an infection develops in these mucous membranes, the discharge may take on a different colour, texture, or smell. Green vaginal discharge is almost always caused by an infection in the vagina or cervix, which can have varying causes.
Green vaginal discharge due to bacterial vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common infection caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. The vagina naturally contains different bacteria which must stay in balance for optimal health. Sometimes “bad” bacteria in the vagina can grow too much, overpowering the “good” bacteria and causing unpleasant symptoms (CDC, 2022). There are a number of factors that can upset the balance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina. These include douching, using scented soaps in and around the vagina, having multiple sex partners, and not using condoms. Symptoms of BV include:
- Fishy-smelling discharge
- Grey or green coloured discharge
- Vaginal itching/irritation
- A burning sensation while urinating
Source: CDC, 2022
BV can be treated with antibiotics and sometimes goes away on its own CDC, 2022. However, it is important to visit a doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of BV in order to rule out other causes, such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Green vaginal discharge caused by STIs
Green vaginal discharge can also be caused by STIs. STIs can be transmitted during unprotected sex and may cause little to no symptoms. If symptoms occur, they may include changes in the colour and smell of vaginal discharge. Other symptoms can include discomfort during urination or sex, itching and burning in the genital area, pelvic or abdominal pain, or bleeding between periods. STIs that can cause green vaginal discharge are chlamydia, gonorrhoea and trichomoniasis (Cleveland Clinic, 2023, CDC, 2022).
Are you experiencing green vaginal discharge and suspect it is due to an STI? It is important to get tested and rule out potential infections. While chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and trichomoniasis can be easily treated with antibiotics, an STI that goes untreated long-term can have serious health effects, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, pregnancy complications, and infertility (CDC, 2022). Homed-IQ’s Basic-3 STI Test checks for the three STIs known to cause green vaginal discharge using a vaginal swab. With this test, you can identify if you have an infection and get prompt treatment. The test comes in a discreet package and includes everything you need to take a sample at home. After sending your sample to the laboratory, the results will be sent to you within a few days.
How to prevent green vaginal discharge
Most infections that cause green vaginal discharge are treatable. However, preventing an infection in the first place can reduce the discomfort and worry that can be caused by changes in your vaginal health. To prevent STIs that may cause changes in discharge, it is important to practise safe sex, such as using condoms during sexual contact and getting tested regularly. To prevent other vaginal infections such as BV, you should prioritize vaginal care that helps maintain the natural balance of protective bacteria in the vagina. To do this, be sure not to use soaps or other products to wash your vagina internally. To keep your vulva and vagina healthy, wash daily with lukewarm water and avoid heavily scented products or douches. If you choose to use soap on your vulva, try not to get it inside the vagina and to avoid products with fragrance. Using condoms and limiting your number of sex partners may also help prevent BV (CDC, 2022).
In short, green vaginal discharge requires medical attention in order to identify the cause and find an appropriate treatment. While certain causes of green vaginal discharge may be mild, prompt treatment is needed to avoid more serious health complications caused by a long-term infection. Are you having concerns about your vaginal discharge? Always see a doctor for further advice.
Centers for Disease Control. (2022, January 5). STD Facts – Bacterial Vaginosis. https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm
Centers for Disease Control. (2022, April 12). Infertility & STDs. https://www.cdc.gov/std/infertility/default.htm
Centers for Disease Control. (2022, April 25). STD Facts – Trichomoniasis. https://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/stdfact-trichomoniasis.htm
Cleveland Clinic. (2023, February 6). Chlamydia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4023-chlamydia#symptoms-and-causes
NHS. (2021, November 18). Vaginal discharge. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginal-discharge/?_ga=2.245087105.527758847.1679988763-1652938380.1679988763
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