White stuff from vagina

Contents

What Is Vaginal Discharge?

Normal vaginal discharge is a healthy way for your body to get rid of fluid and old cells — but discharge can also be a sign of something more serious.

Clear or white fluid that comes out of the vagina is called vaginal discharge (also known as leukorrhea).

This discharge contains mucus that is normally produced by glands in the cervix and the walls of the vagina. It’s especially common in women of childbearing age.

Vaginal discharge can be thick, pasty, or thin — and can have a bad odor or no odor at all.

When exposed to air, the discharge may turn white or yellow. It can also be cloudy, bloody, or green.

While most women experience vaginal discharge at some point, some women have it more often — and in larger amounts — than others.

Characteristics such as the color, thickness, or smell of the discharge may change based on the following factors:

  • Stress
  • Time in relation to menstrual period
  • Ovulation
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual arousal

Other causes of vaginal discharge and vaginal itching may include:

  • Menopause or low estrogen levels
  • Forgotten tampon or foreign object in the vagina
  • Use of detergents, fabric softeners, feminine sprays, ointments, creams, douches, or contraceptive foams, jellies, or creams
  • Medical conditions affecting the skin
  • Cervical or vaginal cancer

Vaginal Discharge and Infection

The following signs may indicate that your vaginal discharge is due to an infection, such as a yeast infection:

  • Itchy or swollen vagina
  • Pelvic pain
  • Foul-smelling discharge
  • Green, yellow, or gray discharge
  • Foamy or clumpy (like cottage cheese) discharge

Contact your doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms.

Vaginal Discharge and Douching

Normal vaginal discharge is a healthy and natural way for your body to get rid of fluid and old cells.

Douching can interfere with this process and even lead to infection.

Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

If there is cause for concern about your vaginal discharge, your doctor will most likely ask you about your medical history, give you a full-body physical exam, and examine your pelvic area.

Your doctor may also:

  • Take a culture of your cervix
  • Examine your vaginal discharge under a microscope
  • Perform a pap smear
  • Take skin biopsies of the vulva (area surrounding the vagina)

Any treatment will depend on the cause of your symptoms, and may include medication or other steps to address underlying conditions.

What causes heavy white discharge?

Menstrual cycle

When your menstrual cycle begins, it is characterized by a creamy white or milky white vaginal discharge. This depends on what stage of your cycle you are on. This discharge is normal, it does not smell, and it is completely harmless.

Ovulation

When you start ovulating, the estrogen levels in your body go up, and your vaginal discharge increases. The discharge is usually creamy and milky which is a sign that you are ovulating.

It is also normal to have excessive milky white vaginal discharge at the onset of your pregnancy. This kind of discharge is accompanied by abdominal cramps and spotting.

Menopause

When you reach menopause, you may experience some symptoms including abnormal discharge because the hormone levels are fluctuating. The discharge is normally white and thick, but it is not excessive and so you should not worry about it unless the color or smell of the discharge changes.

Stress

When you are under a lot of stress, whether it is emotional or psychological, you may notice that your vaginal discharge is unusual. The discharge may be heavy, white, and creamy.

The reason why the discharge appears heavy and creamy is because of hormonal imbalances which alter the normal production of the vaginal mucus.

Vaginal lubrication

Sometimes you may find yourself needing vaginal lubrication especially when you are about to have sexual intercourse, but you are experiencing vaginal dryness.

While vaginal lubrication makes penetration easier and painless, it may cause abnormal vaginal discharge. This happens because the lubricant interferes with the normal PH levels of the vagina.

Cervical mucus

Cervical mucus is considered as a type of vaginal discharge and it often appears when you are in your menstrual cycle. During this time, your vaginal discharge may appear white, thick and creamy.

Male partner ejaculates

When you have unprotected sex, this may imbalance the normal bacteria in your vagina. As a result, this may cause your vaginal discharge to appear unusual.

You ejaculate

When you ejaculate or orgasm, you produce a white thick discharge, which has a different appearance to that of your normal vaginal discharge. In other cases, you may release a clear fluid, or urine but this happens when you “squirt.”

5 types of abnormal white discharge

Genital yeast infection

A genital yeast infection (candidiasis) is a type of fungal infection that is characterized by white cheese-like vaginal discharge as well as itching and burning sensations.

Some amount of yeast can be found in the vagina and that is normal. However, there are certain situations that may cause the growth of the yeast to multiply.

These include:

  • Birth control pills
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Medications such as antibiotics

Sexually transmitted diseases

Although not all sexually transmitted diseases can cause you to have an abnormal vaginal discharge, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause this problem.

When you have chlamydia or gonorrhea, your vaginal discharge may appear to have a different color, usually, yellow or green and may be accompanied by a foul smell. Other symptoms you may experience include painful urination, pelvic pain, and urinary incontinence.

Atrophic vaginitis

Atrophic vaginitis is a thinning of the vaginal walls, which causes inflammation, abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal dryness, and genital itching. This condition occurs when the estrogen levels drop significantly and it often occurs after menopause.

Vulvovaginitis

Vulvovaginitis is an infection of the vagina or the vulva. It is also referred to as vaginitis or vulvitis.

Vulvovaginitis is caused by yeast, sexually transmitted diseases, parasites or yeast. Symptoms include smelly abnormal vaginal discharge, itching, irritation and inflammation around the vaginal area.

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection. While it hardly causes any symptoms, if you have bacterial vaginosis, you may notice an increase in your vaginal discharge, which may have a strong fish-like odor.

Final remarks

Girls cream for various reasons. Maybe you are ovulating, pregnant or sexually aroused. Or you could be suffering from some type of infection or disease.

Furthermore, there are different types of vaginal discharge and this difference is owing to the cause of the discharge. The good news is that when you experience abnormal vaginal discharge, you may be able to treat it once the cause has been determined.

Your vagina can tell you a lot about your health — especially when it comes to discharge, which can signify everything from normal cycles to major health issues, like STIs or other infections. Always ask your healthcare provider if something doesn’t look right to you, but here are a few of the most common kinds, according to doctors.

If it’s white and creamy…

Don’t freak out. A few days or a week before your period, you may get a thicker, creamier discharge. “Discharge is almost like tears to the eyes or saliva to the mouth, where it’s helpful to the cleaning process,” explains Dr. Sherry A. Ross, an OB/GYN and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period. “Depending on the time of the month, it’s going to change consistency and texture.”

If it’s clear…

A slippery egg white-like discharge is usually a sign of ovulation. “This is nature’s way of letting you know that this is a great time to get busy if you want to get pregnant, and a great time to protect yourself if you don’t,” says Alyssa Dweck, MD, associate clinical professor at Mount Sinai and co-author of The Complete A to Z for Your V. Bonus: It often comes with a boost to your libido since it’s your most fertile time of the month.

If it has traces of blood…

You may just be getting ready for your period. But if you’re bleeding in between cycles or it looks slightly off, it could signify something more serious. Possible culprits could include, but are not limited to, breakthrough bleeding on the pill, infections, polyps, ectopic pregnancy, and pregnancy, Dr. Dweck says. Bottom line: Because the range of possibilities is so wide, it’s important to see your doctor if you’re not sure.

If it’s thick, white, and lumpy…

Monistat $28.53 $16.00 (44% off)

This is very likely a sign of a yeast infection. “Typically, it’s thick, white, and causes lots of itching that can be both internal and external,” Dr. Dweck says. Fortunately, most yeast infections are easily treated with over-the-counter medication, such as Monistat or a tablet that your doctor can prescribe.

For women prone to yeast infections, Dr. Dweck recommends avoiding heavily scented personal hygiene products as well as getting out of wet workout clothes and bathing suits immediately. (Hot yoga devotees, we’re looking at you.) Another tip: Go commando, especially at night. “This allows the entire area to air out a bit,” Dr. Dweck explains.

If it’s yellow or greenish-yellow…

That most often means trichomoniasis or gonorrhea, both of which are STDs that require medical treatment. (More on this in a bit, but if it’s greenish and frothy it might be something else, but you should still see your doctor.) Also keep in mind that chlamydia can cause a discharge like this, but frequently it has no symptoms at all — so just because you don’t have a discharge doesn’t mean you don’t have it, Dr. Dweck explains.

If it’s greenish-gray and frothy (and smells like fish)…

You’ve likely got bacterial vaginosis, or BV, which is a common but uncomfortable infection (not an STD) caused by an imbalance of the normal flora, the microorganisms in the vagina. It can be a bit alarming, but the good news is that this is usually treated with a simple antibiotic or antibacterial gel from your doctor.

If you’re prone to BV, never douche. And abstaining from sex can help lower your risk, reports Lama Tolaymat, MD, MPH, FACOG — but it is certainly not mandatory! Just keep your risk at bay by using condoms, as sometimes sperm contributes to creating an imbalance in the vagina.

Related Stories

If it’s watery…

Herpes may be the cause: The blisters from herpes can cause some weeping from time to time, leading to a watery, semi-opaque, occasionally blood-tinged discharge. That occurs mainly if you have sores on the inside. “However, herpes has many other symptoms — including that it’s painful,” says Dr. Dweck. “So if you have it, you’re most likely going to know something is wrong without needing to see a watery discharge.”

If it’s heavier than usual…

Your contraceptive may be at fault. The most common causes of an unusually heavy discharge are birth control pills and IUDs. As long as the discharge is clear or white and has no bad smell, this is normal and nothing to be concerned about, confirms Dr. Tolaymat.

Occasionally, a heavier discharge results from an allergic reaction or sensitivity to chemicals. (Think: sitting in a chemical-laden hot tub or trying a new body wash.) Dr. Dweck explains this reaction isn’t dangerous, but women should limit their exposure to the offending chemical in the future to avoid irritation.

If it’s lighter than usual…

Really dry, atrophic changes in your discharge can signal perimenopause (the transition phase before menopause) or menopause. In addition to lighter volume, the discharge may also become thin, watery, and somewhat uncomfortable, Dr. Dweck notes. Usually perimenopause doesn’t begin until your 40s, but it can start in your 30s or even earlier.

Elizabeth Durand Streisand Elizabeth Durand Streisand was a former freelance journalist with bylines in Us Weekly, Yahoo, Life & Style, NY Post, NY Daily News, and MTV, among others.

Why Is My Vaginal Discharge Watery?

Vaginal discharge helps keep your vagina clean and free from infection. Healthy bacteria living in your vagina help make your secretions acidic. That acidic discharge fights off bad bacteria and clears out dead cells.

Vaginal discharge can begin about six months to one year before a girl gets her period. It’s caused by hormonal changes. If the discharge is watery, it’s most likely normal and not a sign of infection.

Clear and watery discharge can increase at any point during your cycle. Estrogen can stimulate the production of more fluids.

Is watery discharge a sign of ovulation?

You may notice more discharge when you’re ovulating. This discharge tends to be clear and stretchy, like egg whites. It may be less watery than discharge you have during other parts of your menstrual cycle.

Watery discharge and pregnancy

Many women have an increase in discharge during pregnancy. Watery discharge is usually harmless, but other types of discharge can be a sign of infection. Call your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • pain or itchiness in your vulva or vagina
  • a green or yellow discharge
  • a foul-smelling discharge
  • white, cottage cheese discharge

Changes to discharge may be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), like chlamydia or gonorrhea, or another type of infection. Bacterial and viral vaginal infections can cause pregnancy complications, so it’s important to see your doctor as soon as you notice symptoms.

If there is a rush of water, it’s probable that your water broke and you need to seek immediate care. If you’re at the end of your pregnancy, this is a normal sign of labor starting. If you aren’t yet due, this can indicate premature labor and delivery. Immediate care can increase outcomes.

Watery discharge and sexual arousal

Sexual arousal can trigger an increase in watery discharge. When you’re sexually aroused, blood flushes to the vagina and triggers the release of lubricating fluids. You may notice an increase in discharge following sexual intercourse.

Watery discharge and menopause

You may continue to experience vaginal discharge during and after menopause. Vaginal atrophy can cause a watery discharge. Vaginal atrophy is a condition that causes the vaginal walls to thin and may occur in women who’ve gone through menopause.

Watery discharge during pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body experiences a lot of hormonal changes. As a result, you may notice a change in your discharge as early as two weeks after conception. Later in pregnancy, as your baby’s head presses against your cervix, you might notice more discharge and possibly streaks of mucus with a little blood, called “show.” This is an early sign of labor, and you should notify your doctor.

Normal discharge, or leukorrhea, is thin and clear, has the consistency of an egg white, a mild smell, and does not soak right through a liner.

Clear watery discharge and cramps

Talk to your doctor if you experience any of these unusual types of discharge, particularly if accompanied by cramps and especially during pregnancy:

  • yellow, grey, or green in color
  • strong, bad smell
  • redness, soreness, itching, or swelling in the vaginal area

Cramps and abnormal discharge could be signs of infection or a medical condition, which may lead to premature labor or other complications if you’re pregnant. Make sure to contact your doctor if you notice any of these.

Watery vaginal discharge isn’t a cause for concern in most cases. Vaginal discharge changes naturally through different life stages: puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Be aware of any unusual odors, colors, or textures in your discharge, as they can be an indication of a medical condition.

Here are a few useful tips to keep your vagina — and your discharge — healthy:

  • Wear breathable clothing and underwear
  • Change your underwear frequently
  • Wipe your vagina from front to back to avoid contamination
  • Consider using panty liners, pads, or period underwear to control discharge

Always be sure to consult your doctor if you notice anything out of the ordinary, especially if you’re pregnant.

Is It Normal to Have Watery Discharge During Pregnancy?

Morning sickness, fatigue and those achy, achy feet. You knew pregnancy was going to come with a whole host of common symptoms. But is watery vaginal discharge par for the course too?

You can breathe a sigh of relief, because clear or white watery discharge during pregnancy is completely normal. Not only is it rarely a cause for concern — it’s actually a sign that your body is working hard to keep you and your baby healthy.

Here’s the lowdown on watery discharge during pregnancy and when you need to bring it up with your doctor.

What is watery discharge during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, your vagina secretes a thin milky-white discharge called leukorrhea. It’s a lot like the discharge you might have between periods, only heavier.

Leukorrhea usually consists of sloughed-off dead cells and tissue. And the further along into your pregnancy you get, the more watery discharge you’ll likely have.

What does watery discharge during pregnancy mean?

Watery discharge is a completely normal part of pregnancy, and it typically gets heavier as your pregnancy progresses. In fact, very heavy discharge towards the end of your third trimester could be a sign that your body is preparing to go into labor.

When you’re expecting, higher levels of the pregnancy hormone estrogen cause more blood to flow to your pelvic area. That increased blood flow stimulates the body’s mucous membranes, which in turn causes the extra discharge.

But watery discharge during pregnancy is not just a meaningless symptom. Leukorrhea clears out dead cells in the vagina, which helps maintain healthy bacteria in the birth canal and protect you and your baby from infection.

What does watery discharge look like?

You might feel it in your underwear, but visually, leukorrhea isn’t all that noticeable. It tends have:

More About Lesser-Known Pregnancy Symptoms

Your Health Metallic Taste During Pregnancy (Dysgeusia) Your Health Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy (Leukorrhea) Your Health Pregnancy Nail and Hair Growth Your Health Metallic Taste During Pregnancy (Dysgeusia) Your Health Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy (Leukorrhea) Your Health Pregnancy Nail and Hair Growth

  • A thin or mucus-like texture

  • A clear or milky-white color

  • A mild odor (or no odor at all)

Causes of watery discharge during pregnancy

So why exactly does watery discharge make an increasingly noticeable appearance when you’re pregnant? There are two main reasons it could be happening, depending on where you are in your pregnancy:

  • Your body is responding to pregnancy-related changes. Leukorrhea is your body’s way of clearing dead cells out of the birth canal to promote optimal bacteria levels and keep infections at bay. Basically, it protects you and your baby and helps keep you both healthy.

  • Your water broke. Clear fluid isn’t always leukorrhea, however. It could also be amniotic fluid — the liquid that nourishes and safeguards your baby in the amniotic sac. Amniotic fluid looks a little different than leukorrhea, though. It’s watery and straw-colored (like pale urine), instead of whitish and mucus-like in consistency. And it usually trickles out continuously once it starts.

Are clear watery discharge and white watery discharge normal during pregnancy?

Yes, both clear watery discharge and white watery discharge are totally normal, and will likely get heavier as you get farther along in your pregnancy. It’s fine to wear a panty liner or pad, if you’d like. But steer clear of tampons, since they can introduce unwanted germs into the vagina.

Even if the discharge feels sticky or is bothering you, a daily shower or bath is all you need to keep yourself clean. Avoid douching, since it can disrupt the balance of bacteria in your vagina and up the risk of infection.

Is excessive watery discharge a sign that your water broke or you’re leaking amniotic fluid?

Excessive watery discharge can be a sign that your water broke if it turns out to be amniotic fluid, not vaginal discharge, and rarely, it could be a sign you’re leaking amniotic fluid at other times during your pregnancy.

Thankfully, telling the difference between the two is usually pretty easy. When the discharge is amniotic fluid, it feels like a steady trickle or gush, with more of a light yellowish tint than a white one, and a thinner consistency than that of leukorrhea.

If you do think you’re leaking amniotic fluid prematurely, call your doctor right away to be checked out. And if it seems to be your water breaking close to your due date, also get in touch with your practitioner.

Even if your water doesn’t break (and for most women, it doesn’t!), changes to your discharge could indicate that labor isn’t far off. Leukorrhea tends to get heavier in the days or hours leading up to labor. And instead of being clear or milky, you might notice that it’s pink or slightly bloody.

When to call the doctor

Discharge that’s thin, clear, or milky is a normal, healthy part of pregnancy. But you should call your doctor if you notice any changes from your usual discharge including:

  • A deep yellow or green color

  • A bad smell

  • A thick or lumpy consistency

  • Burning or irritation, which can be signs of infection

  • A pinkish or brownish color or streaks of blood, which could be a sign of labor later in pregnancy or a sign of implantation bleeding early on

  • A pale-urine color and consistency, which could mean your water broke or you’re leaking amniotic fluid

Watery discharge is a common pregnancy symptom and is rarely cause for concern. So just pay attention to what’s normal for you and watch for any changes. If your discharge starts to look or smell different, or if you suspect that it might be your water breaking, let your doctor know.

Vaginal Discharge

What is vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is a clear or whitish fluid that comes out of the vagina. The uterus, cervix or vagina can produce the fluid.

Is vaginal discharge normal?

Yes. Most women have vaginal discharge but not all discharge is normal. The amount of discharge is different for each woman. Some women have a little discharge now and then. Others have discharge every day. Your “normal” discharge might change many times throughout your life.

If my vaginal discharge changes, do I have an infection?

Maybe. Your discharge might change color, become heavier or smell different. You might notice irritation around the opening of the vagina. You might also notice changes before or after your period. Changes in vaginal discharge may or may not be a sign that you have a vaginal infection.

Can a woman have more than one type of infection at one time?

Yes. A woman may have two or three types of infection at the same time.

Share Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email Get useful, helpful and relevant health + wellness information enews

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

This Video Shows How Much Vaginal Discharge Is Normal (It’s Way More Than You Think)

Vaginal discharge is a topic of conversation you’ve likely filed away under “Things that stay between you and your panties.” But that doesn’t mean you’re not curious or concerned about what you find down there. And if so, you’re certainly not alone. San Francisco-based ob-gyn Jen Gunter, MD, says that over the last five years, she’s noticed an increase in the number of women who are worried about the amount of discharge they see in their underwear. “Some women even believe that any vaginal discharge is abnormal,” she wrote in her latest blog post.

That’s what prompted Dr. Gunter to clear up confusion on the subject: “Vaginas are meant to be wet,” she explains in the post. “Discharge is the by-product of the process that keeps everything in working order. It’s not gross, it’s normal.”

According to studies and textbooks, women generally produce anywhere from 1 to 4 ml of vaginal discharge in 24 hours. The amount tends to vary on a day-to-day basis, often affected by factors like ovulation and birth control.

But how much is 4 ml anyway? Dr. Gunter filmed a short video to illustrate what qualifies as “normal.” In the clip below, she fills a syringe with water mixed with iodine to simulate vaginal discharge. She then empties the liquid onto a panty liner, and it nearly fills the entire surface, showing that a healthy amount of daily discharge is probably way more than you thought.

If you’re producing more than 4 ml a day, however, that could be a sign that you have a fistula, the STI trichomonas, or a bacterial imbalance known as desquamative inflammatory vaginitis. Profuse discharge might also mean there is a foreign object (such as a tampon or condom) left inside the vagina. You will likely have other symptoms as well, says Dr. Gunter, such as irritation, itch, strong odor, or pain with sex. If you’re experiencing any of those issues—or irritation combined with 3 to 4 ml of discharge—check in with your doc, she says.

Leukorrhea: Is This White Vaginal Discharge an Early Sign of Pregnancy? 

Leukorrhea is the medical term for normal vaginal discharge, and is usually thin, white, and harmless. It is normal in early pregnancy, but there can be instances where this fluid is a signal that warrants further medical attention. To help you know the difference between when it’s cause for concern and when it’s normal, this post will cover:

  • What is leukorrhea?
  • When is it normal to have this white vaginal discharge?
  • Is leukorrhea one of the early pregnancy signs?
  • When should I see a doctor for leukorrhea?

What is leukorrhea?

Leukorrhea is the normal milky white or clear vaginal discharge. It is usually thin and could have a mild odor. It typically does not come with itching or strong foul odor.

Vaginal flora help make this white fluid, which helps maintain an acidic pH in the vagina and prevents other harmful pathogens from thriving. So, this discharge is a good thing! Don’t use vaginal wipes or douches because these can disturb your vaginal discharge from doing its thing.

When do you get leukorrhea?

Because white vaginal discharge can sometimes seem like an infection, like a yeast infection, it’s important to know when it’s normal to experience leukorrhea and when it’s a problem.

Leukorrhea is normal when you’re experiencing major changes in hormones like estrogen, so you might notice more of this discharge around the time of ovulation or early in pregnancy. And if you’re interested in figuring out when you ovulate, cycle tracking can help.)

You may notice leukorrhea as wetness in your underwear, so if you want to use panty liners for managing it, that’s definitely fine. But, don’t use tampons if you see this discharge because this can introduce new germs into the vagina.

This white discharge is not normal if it comes with itching or odor. In these cases, it’s possible that you have an infection. The most common vaginal infection is a yeast infection, but sometimes abnormal discharge can be a sign of bacterial infection or a sexually transmitted disease. Talk to your healthcare provider so you can get the right diagnosis and the treatment.

Is leukorrhea one of the early pregnancy signs?

While leukorrhea can happen during the menstrual cycle due to changes in the hormone estradiol, it’s most commonly associated with early pregnancy discharge. It can be tempting to examine your cervical mucus to look for changes as one of the first signs of pregnancy. But changes in vaginal discharge are not necessarily an early sign of pregnancy.

The increase in pregnancy-related leukorrhea can start as early as a few weeks after conception and gets more noticeable as the pregnancy progresses. However, there are other potential causes for leukorrhea, so don’t expect to gain any meaningful insight from your discharge during the two-week wait.

When to see a doctor about leukorrhea?

Leaking any vaginal fluid, whether it’s brown discharge, bright red spotting, or white discharge, can understandably cause some worry. But, leukorrhea is usually harmless and common to see during your cycle and when you’re pregnant. However, if you ever observe any of these additional symptoms, it’s important to see your health care provider:

  • Itching or burning
  • Change in odor
  • Yellow or green tint
  • More discharge than usual
  • Pain in the pelvis or legs

If you’re trying to get pregnant and notice this discharge, it is especially important talk to your healthcare provider about receiving treatment soon because infections are causes of miscarriage.

If you’re already pregnant, leukorrhea is a part of normal pregnancy discharge, if you notice any major changes in consistency or amount, let your healthcare provider know. If the discharge starts to have a foul odor or has the consistency of yeast infection, definitely see your healthcare provider so that you can get the appropriate treatment as soon as possible.

By Aarthi Gobinath, PhD | Oct 28, 2018 Tags: early pregnancy, early pregnancy symptoms, estrogen, hormones, symptom spotting, two week wait

Aarthi Gobinath, PhD

Aarthi Gobinath earned her PhD in neuroscience from the University of British Columbia. Her research covers the ways that stress affects the male and female brain differently.

Your very official guide to the sticky stuff in your underwear

Zarè adds that like smell, volume differs between patients. “The amount of discharge varies from woman to woman.” All three experts emphasized that both the consistency and volume of healthy discharge can shift depending on where you are in your cycle.

Speaking of discharge and your cycle…

Dr. Barrett breaks this down for us: “During menstruation, it is bloody and may be red, pink, brown or nearly black. After menstruation, the amount of discharge will be less, but there is often sticky, thick, and white discharge. A few days before ovulation, when a woman is most fertile, the discharge becomes stretchy, creamy, and wet. This ‘egg white cervical mucus’ is more hospitable to sperm. During ovulation, the discharge then becomes thin, stretchy and very slippery. After ovulation, the discharge is stretchy, creamy, and wet, similar to how it appeared prior to ovulation.”

However, Davis points out that many external variables such as medications, hormonal changes, sexual practices, and anatomy can impact discharge. When using it to track your cycle or the days you’re most fertile, she advises to look at the whole picture, which can also include discharge. “It’s important to monitor other changes throughout your cycle, reliably detect when ovulation has occurred, and correctly track your menstrual cycles,” she says. “There are many helpful applications and technologies out there to aid women in tracking their menstrual cycles and fertility, as well as education from their healthcare providers.”

What about not-so-normal discharge?

If vaginal discharge ever takes on an unusual smell or color and is accompanied by burning or itching, it’s critical to make an appointment with your doctor. This could indicate an infection or other condition. Davis and Zarè provided the following examples using the texture, volume, smell, and color criteria.

  • A large, frothy amount of green or yellow-colored and offensive-smelling discharge is consistent with trichomoniasis, a common and treatable sexually transmitted disease (STD).

  • Yellow or green-colored mucopurulent (resembling mucus or pus) discharge can indicate chlamydia or gonorrhea, two types of treatable STDs.

  • Brown or brownish discharge can be a sign of an irregular cycle or in less frequent cases, endometrial or cervical cancer. (Keep in mind, it’s normal to have brown, red, pink, or nearly black discharge during your cycle.)

  • A moderate amount of white, curd or cottage cheese-like discharge is consistent with candida, commonly known as a yeast infection. This is caused by excess yeast growing in the vagina.

  • Thin and watery white or gray discharge that has a fishy odor can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, which occurs when there’s more harmful than beneficial bacteria in the vagina.

There’s a reason we rely on practitioners like Barrett, Zarè, and Davis: It’s often difficult for us to self-diagnose infections based on symptoms like discharge. “Talk with your healthcare provider if you notice potential signs of an infection so that you can receive the proper treatment,” advises Davis.

In terms of treatment, there are many over-the-counter options for yeast infections. However, bacterial infections like bacterial vaginosis require a medical diagnosis and prescription, as well as STDs. “With bacterial infections, an antibiotic is the first line of treatment,” says Davis. “Most importantly, it is imperative to see a medical professional if you are concerned you may have been exposed to an STD. If left untreated, STDs can cause complications in the future.”

Get down with your discharge

All three women agree on the importance of establishing familiarity with your discharge. By doing this, you’ll be able to notice if something is ever unusual and make a doctor’s appointment if necessary. “It is very important to know what is normal for you and see a doctor if you notice any major changes,” says Zarè.

Doctor’s orders: On your next trip to the bathroom, take a peek at your underwear to familiarize yourself with your vaginal discharge and your health.

I’ve Never Had My Period, So What’s This Discharge?

  • Larger text sizeLarge text sizeRegular text size

I’ve never had my period, so what’s this discharge?
– Laura*

About 6 months to 1 year before a girl gets her first period, her body may start to make vaginal discharge. This is normal and due to changing hormone levels. The discharge helps keep the vagina healthy.

Normal vaginal discharge can have a texture that’s anywhere from thin and slightly sticky to thick and gooey. Discharge also can vary in color, ranging from clear to white or off-white. The amount of discharge can depend on a girl’s menstrual cycle. For example, fluids tend to be a bit heavier around the time a girl ovulates, which is when an egg is released from the ovary and moves into the fallopian tube.

Normal discharge should have only a slight odor and should never cause itching or burning. If you notice itching, a strong bad smell, or a change in color (such as to brown, gray, or green), it’s a sign of a vaginal infection. If that happens, see a doctor.

Sometimes a normal vaginal discharge can irritate the skin. This is due to the moisture against the skin. You can prevent skin irritation in the vaginal area, especially when it’s hot and humid outside, by wearing cotton underwear and not wearing tight clothes. Do not use over-the-counter feminine washes or douches as these can irritate the vagina and may cause infection.

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD Date reviewed: June 2018

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *