It’s a question that every woman has, but most are too shy to ask: Is my vaginal discharge normal? Discharge is a normal sign of a perfectly healthy vagina; the secretions help clean and regulate the vagina. On the other hand, certain types of secretions could be a sign of something more serious. Here’s how to tell the difference between good and bad vaginal discharge.

No Need For Concern

According to the University of Illinois, normal vaginal discharge may appear to be clear or a cloudy white/yellow. At times it may also contain white flecks and can be thin and stringy in consistency. White discharge is most common at the beginning or end of the menstrual cycle, and is a sign of the vagina trying to balance its pH levels.

Clear watery discharge is considered normal at any time of the month, and according to Healthline may be especially heavy after exercise. White discharge in particular may be most common at the beginning or end of the menstrual cycle.

Although slightly alarming, brown or bloody discharge is also perfectly normal. It can either be a sign of late discharge of your period, could be a “spotting” between periods, or, if it occurs after you’ve recently had unprotected sex could be a sign of pregnancy.

Visit A Doctor

Green is definitely not a color you’d like to see in your vaginal discharge, and according to Healthline, seeing green residue in your panties could be a sign of a serious vaginal infection called trichomoniasis. This green residue may also be thick and chunky and have a foul odor.

Trichomoniasis may be unnerving at first, but the Centers for Disease Control and Protection report that this is a very common STD and can cured with a single dose of prescription antibiotic pills, which can be taken by mouth.

In addition, gonorrhea and chlamydia can also cause an abnormal cloudy yellow or greenish discharge — two other STDS that are also completely treatable.

Especially thick, white, and “cheesy” looking vaginal discharge is a common symptom of a yeast infection. This discharge is also usually accompanied by painful swelling around the vulva, itching, and painful sex. A yeast infection is the result of a fungal infection in the vagina. Although there is always yeast in the vagina, some behaviors and activities, such as stress or pregnancy, can cause their numbers to multiply and lead to an uncomfortable infection. Luckily, these infections are also easily treatable as well.

Increased amounts of grey/white watery discharge that may have a foul fishy odor could be a sign of an infection called bacterial vaginosis. This infection is caused when there is too much of a certain type of bacteria in the vagina, although it’s not exactly clear why this occurs. According to the CDC, certain factors such as having a new sex partner or multiple sex partners and douching can increase risk of contracting this infection.

In rare cases, brown or bloody discharge can be a sign of something more serious, such as cervical cancer. This type of “bad” bloody discharge usually has a bad odor though and may be accompanied by pelvic pain and abnormal vaginal bleeding.