Discharge is a mix of mucus and vaginal secretions that’s released through the vagina. It’s normal for women to have discharge throughout their menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels affect discharge, so the type of discharge can change throughout your cycle.
Higher estrogen levels at the middle of your cycle can lead to thicker discharge, while discharge at the beginning and end of your cycle tends to be thinner. Some medications, such as fertility drugs and some types of birth control, can also increase your estrogen levels and lead to more discharge.
Discharge can also provide clues to your health. Some discharge is normal. But, it can also signal a health problem, depending on the color or consistency of the discharge and other symptoms. Most normal discharge is white or clear, with no odor. Pale yellow discharge before your period can be normal, but it also might be a sign of an infection.
Read on to learn more about yellow discharge before your period.
Yellow discharge can have different consistencies or smells, depending on what part of your menstrual cycle you’re in and whether the discharge is a sign of an infection.
Here are some of the possible causes for yellow discharge:
1. Menstruation is near
Main characteristics: watery or pale yellow discharge
Watery yellow discharge is most common right before your period. This is because your vagina is producing more mucus. The yellowish tint can come from small amounts of menstrual blood mixing with normal white discharge.
Very pale, yellow discharge is also common and usually normal, especially right before your period. It’s only a cause for concern if the discharge is also an abnormal texture or smells bad.
2. Short menstrual cycle
Main characteristics: brownish-yellow discharge
Brownish-yellow discharge is most common right after your period. The color comes from menstrual blood. If you have a short cycle, you may notice brownish-yellow discharge before your period, too.
Women undergoing menopause might also notice brownish-yellow discharge as a result of hormonal changes.
3. Sign of infection
Main characteristics: foul-smelling, yellow discharge
Discharge is usually odorless or has a very slight odor. Foul-smelling odor, which is often fishy-smelling, is a sign of an infection.
Main characteristics: frothy, yellow or greenish discharge; may have a fishy odor
Frothy, yellow discharge may be a sign of trichomoniasis, a type of sexually transmitted infection (STI). Trichomoniasis is more likely than other STIs to lead to symptoms.
Discharge from trichomoniasis is greenish or yellowish, and fishy-smelling. Genital itching and pain while urinating or having sex are also symptoms of trichomoniasis.
5. Gonorrhea or chlamydia
Main characteristics: yellow, pus-like discharge
Gonorrhea and chlamydia are STIs that are often asymptomatic, but can cause discharge. Discharge from gonorrhea or chlamydia will be yellow and pus-like.
6. Pelvic inflammatory disease
Main characteristics: yellow or green discharge with a strong odor
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection usually caused when untreated gonorrhea or chlamydia spreads through the reproductive system. It can cause damage to your uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries if not treated.
Discharge from PID is yellow or green, and has a strong odor. Other symptoms include:
- a dull abdominal pain
- irregular periods
- spotting throughout the month
- a high fever
- pain during sex
7. Bacterial vaginosis
Main characteristics: yellowish or grayish white discharge with fishy odor
Bacterial vaginosis is an infection that occurs when the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina changes. The cause is unknown, but it’s been linked to:
- using a douche
- having multiple sexual partners
Discharge from bacterial vaginosis will have a fishy smell and may be grayish-white or yellowish-white.
Main characteristics: yellowish, pus-like discharge with an unpleasant odor; discharge may also be green or brown
Cervicitis is an inflammation of the cervix. It’s caused by an STI, overgrowth of bacteria, or an allergy (such as to latex). It’s often asymptomatic, but can cause large amounts of yellowish, pus-like discharge with a bad smell. Discharge might also be green or brown.
Other symptoms include:
- frequent, painful urination
- pain during sex
- bleeding after sex
9. Changes to diet
In some cases, your discharge can change color if you try a new vitamin or food. However, it’s more likely that yellow discharge is a sign of an infection.
Yellow discharge is often a sign of an infection. You should see a doctor if you have yellow discharge before your period, especially if:
- the discharge has a strong smell
- the discharge is chunky or frothy
- you have itchy genitals or pain while urinating
These are also signs of an infection.
Your doctor will start by taking your health history. They might ask you:
- when the discharge began
- what the discharge is like
- what other symptoms you have
- your sexual history
- if you douche
They might then take a sample of the discharge and look at it under a microscope to see if you have bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis. A sample of the discharge will also be sent to a lab to check for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and PID.
Discharge is a normal part of a woman’s menstrual cycle, but yellow discharge can be a sign of an infection, such as an STI. If your discharge smells bad, is chunky or frothy, or you have other genital symptoms, you should see a doctor.
Causes of yellow discharge are treatable, but catching and treating them early will help you avoid more serious symptoms or complications.