Vaginal discharge is fluid that comes out of the vagina. Most women have discharge at some point during their life. Discharge is usually white or clear. Some women have discharge every day, but others experience it only occasionally.
The amount and type of discharge that you experience can change throughout your monthly menstrual cycle. It can also change throughout your life, including during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.
Watery discharge is typical of normal, healthy vaginas. Most women have about 1 to 4 milliliters (around 1/2 teaspoon) of discharge every day during their reproductive years. You may experience more discharge when your estrogen levels increase because you are ovulating, pregnant, or using birth control pills.
Normal discharge looks like water, egg whites, or milk, and has an mild odor. If you notice any significant changes in the consistency of your discharge, it could be a sign of an infection.
Read on to learn more about watery discharge.
Causes of watery discharge
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.
When to seek help
Vaginal discharge is one of the most common reasons women see a gynecologist, amounting to about 10 million office visits per year. Clear, watery discharge, however, is rarely a sign of a problem.
There are several conditions, including infections and STIs, that can cause abnormal discharge. Discharge may be a sign of a problem if there are noticeable changes in color, odor, consistency, or amount.
If you’re concerned about your vaginal discharge, you should make an appointment with your primary care doctor, gynecologist, or OB-GYN. You can also seek treatment at a sexual health clinic, such as Planned Parenthood.
See your doctor if you have any of these signs of abnormal discharge:
- yellow, gray, or green color
- white and chunky discharge, like cottage cheese
- a strong, fishy, or sour odor
Managing this condition
Watery discharge is normal and healthy. There’s nothing you can do to prevent it, but there are ways of dealing with it.
The amount of discharge that accumulates in your underwear can fluctuate during the month. Excessive moisture in your underwear can be both uncomfortable and unhealthy. Bacteria and fungi thrive in moist environments, so it’s important to keep the area dry.
Panty liners and pads are the best way to manage excessive moisture. Changing them throughout the day should keep you dry and comfortable. Avoid products with deodorants, because they can cause irritation. Look for products labeled unscented.
You could also try “period underwear,” which are designed to absorb moisture. They look just like regular underwear, which is a plus.
Should you douche?
Vaginas require no cleaning. Watery discharge is a side effect of their built-in cleaning system. Vulvas require very little cleaning. Regular showers with soap and water are all you need to keep the area healthy and clean.
Douching isn’t recommended because it can lead to infections. You need the healthy “good” bacteria in your vagina to fight off infections. When you douche, these good bacteria get washed away, and the vaginal walls become susceptible to infection.
Watery discharge can be uncomfortable, but it’s usually harmless. Choose breathable cotton underwear and, if your underwear is getting wet, try wearing a pad or panty liner.
If you’re concerned about your vaginal discharge, talk to your doctor. As well, contact your doctor if you have discharge that is green, yellow, or gray or has changes in texture or smell. That could be a sign of infection.