Let’s get one thing straight: vaginal discharge is normal. In fact, vaginal discharge is important to keep your vagina clean and healthy! If you’re noticing a clear, watery discharge, you might be wondering if that spells trouble for your health. Let’s run through some of the common causes of this kind of discharge, and what it means for you.
Why do I have discharge?
Vaginal discharge plays an important role in keeping the reproductive system clean and healthy. The mysterious substance you may find lining your underwear from time to time is actually made up of dead cells, cervical mucus and secretion from the vagina.
This helps flush out germs before they can reach the uterus. During the fertile period of your cycle, your vaginal discharge also offers safe passage for sperm that could make their way to fertilize an egg.
Clear watery discharge in between periods: Is it normal?
In response to hormone levels, discharge can vary in amount, consistency and appearance over the course of your menstrual cycle. For example, in the time after your period ends, you tend not to produce much discharge, and what little is there tends to be whitish and thick. This makes the vagina a hostile environment for any potential invaders.
As you approach mid-cycle, however, your body is preparing to ovulate (release a mature egg). If you had unprotected sexual intercourse during this time, that egg could potentially be fertilized by a sperm, and eventually result in a pregnancy. Your vagina’s environment has to change in order to support those sperm on their tireless journey.
Around ovulation, the increased production of cervical mucus may cause the discharge to become clear and stretchy, with a texture often compared to raw egg whites. If you see this kind of clear watery discharge in the middle of your cycle, don’t panic: it could just be a sign that you’re ovulating.
Does clear watery discharge mean infection?
While variation with your cycle is normal, any change in the usual amount, color, consistency or smell of your discharge could be a sign of infection or another condition. In many cases, clear watery discharge is just a sign of hormonal changes.
However, if you’re not sure whether your discharge is normal, don’t hesitate to speak to a doctor to make sure. See a doctor if you have:
Yellow, green or foul-smelling discharge
This can be a sign of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as trichomoniasis (“trich”). STIs don’t always cause symptoms, but if you do notice them, it’s important to get it treated quickly. If you think you or your partner may have been exposed to an STI, get tested ASAP.
If you have vaginal discharge with a grey tint – especially if it has a strong fishy smell – it could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV). This isn’t an STI, but an imbalance of the bacteria naturally found in the vagina. It doesn’t usually cause any other uncomfortable symptoms. See your doctor for antibiotics to clear up this common infection.
Clear watery discharge with itching
While thick, “cottage cheese” discharge is probably the most well known symptom, clear watery discharge plus itching around the vagina can be a sign of thrush. Most women will experience thrush at some point in their lives, but a course of antifungal medicine should clear it up.
Clear watery discharge: A sign of pregnancy?
Discharge responds to hormonal signals, so it’s no wonder that the surging hormones of early pregnancy can cause it to change. Not every pregnant woman will experience it, but a large amount of clear watery discharge after the time you’d have been due to ovulate is a commonly reported symptom of early pregnancy. However, given that there can be many other causes of clear discharge, it’s not enough to make an assumption.
See if clear watery discharge is normal for you
Discharge isn’t something they generally cover when you first learn about the menstrual cycle, but it’s a normal part of your body’s reproductive system. By paying attention to the changes in discharge over the course of your cycle, you’ll be able to notice changes.
Getting used to the changing patterns can give you hints about where you are in your cycle, such as when you’re due to ovulate or when you’re coming up to a period. Once you know what the normal range is for you from one period to another, you’ll be able to notice any of the big changes that could need medical attention.