Vaginal discharge is a normal occurrence for women and is often totally normal and healthy. Discharge is a housekeeping function. It allows the vagina to carry away harmful bacteria and dead cells. This process keeps it clean, healthy, and helps prevent infection.
In other cases, vaginal discharge may be a sign of infection or disease if the hue, odor, or consistency is abnormal.
Normal vaginal discharge typically appears as a milky white or clear. If your discharge appears orange, there may be an underlying cause.
Abnormal discharge is a common sign of an underlying medical condition or sexually transmitted infection (STI), especially if the color and smell are irregular. When something disrupts the natural balance of yeast or bacteria in your vagina, the result is often irritation, unusual odor, and irregular discharge color and consistency.
Orange vaginal discharge is often a sign of infection. The color can range from a bright orange to a dark, rusty hue. Two of the most common vaginal infections that may cause colored discharge are bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) occurs when there’s an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your vagina. This is a common infection that can go away on its own in some cases. However, if it becomes recurrent or if your symptoms worsen, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat the condition.
Common symptoms of BV include:
- discharge that may appear gray, green, orange, or thin white
- abnormal vaginal odor
- burning sensation while urinating
- a foul, “fishy” smell that becomes stronger after sex
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic ointments, gels, or pills for to treat BV. This infection can become recurrent. If you begin to notice symptoms or if your condition doesn’t improve after treatment, schedule a visit with your doctor to ensure you’re receiving the best care.
Trichomoniasis (trich) is a common STI caused by a parasite. While it’s more prevalent in women, men are also susceptible to trich.
It’s normal to sometimes experience little to no symptoms from this condition. However, some common symptoms associated with trich include:
- genital itching or irritation
- irregular discharge color such as green, yellow, white, or orange
- “fishy” smell
- burning or discomfort while urinating
Treating trich requires antibiotics. It’s not common to get this condition again within three months after receiving treatment. To prevent recurrent infections, make sure you and your sexual partners are appropriately treated. If you notice irregular symptoms from treatment or signs of recurrence, make an appointment with your doctor.
End of your menstrual cycle
Sometimes orange vaginal discharge is simply a sign your menstrual cycle is coming to an end. At the end of a menstrual period, it’s common to notice a brown or rust-colored discharge. This is often blood mixing into vaginal discharge, altering the normal hue.
Orange or pink discharge is also a sign of implantation. This is a stage of pregnancy when an already fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus, usually 10 to 14 days after sex. If you experience vaginal spotting with an orange or pink color that doesn’t result in a period cycle, visit your doctor for further testing.
There may be no cause for alarm if you have orange discharge. But if the orange discharge is accompanied with irregular symptoms and a foul odor, schedule a visit with your gynecologist.
If you’re pregnant and begin to notice irregular colored discharge and symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. Abnormal discharge and issues could cause pregnancy complications and may also affect your health.
Vaginal discharge is normal and often healthy for women. However, if you begin to notice irregular colors and accompanying symptoms, schedule a visit with your doctor. It may be a sign of an STI. Don’t self-diagnose. While your symptoms may go away on their own, it’s possible for them to reappear and worsen without proper treatment.