Clear Discharge From the Vagina: What Does It Mean?

This is considered normal and has several potential causes

Clear discharge from the vagina can be normal at any time during the menstrual cycle. This is true whether it is fully translucent or a little milky, thick or thin, and odorless or musky.

Clear discharge is common in most women when they are ovulating. It can also happen at other specific times, such as during sexual arousal or when exercising. It can also be a sign of pregnancy.

This article explains what causes clear discharge, management strategies, and when to see a healthcare provider.

The word “woman” is used in this article to refer to people who identify as women and have typical reproductive organs of a cisgender female. We recognize that some people who identify as women do not have the same anatomy as that depicted in this article.

A person holding a panty liner

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Possible Cause of Clear Discharge

Vaginal discharge is produced by glands in your cervix and vagina. Its purpose is to keep your vagina clean and lubricated and to help protect against infection. If you have a clear discharge, it's generally a sign that your vagina is working optimally.

Clear vaginal discharge has several possible reasons, including:

  • Ovulation
  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Sexual arousal/activity
  • Exercise
  • Medication

Ovulation

When ovulating, the body produces a clear discharge that is stretchy, sticky, or slippery. The discharge may be similar in appearance to egg whites and is an indication of fertility.

There is also likely to be a higher volume of discharge during this time. Roughly a teaspoon of discharge a day is typical. In the lead-up to ovulation, vaginal glands produce up to 30 times more cervical mucus than in the time following ovulation.

Monitoring cervical mucus can help women understand when they are at the most fertile time of their cycle. Observing cervical mucus takes into account factors like:

  • Appearance: This refers to color and consistency. During ovulation, discharge is typically clear and stretchy.
  • Sensation: How mucus might feel at the vulva. During ovulation, it is typically wet and slippery.
  • Fertile window: Tracking the menstrual cycle can offer clues as to when ovulation is likely to happen and how vaginal discharge changes at each stage of the cycle.

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the walls of the vagina and the cervix began to soften to make room for a growing fetus. The body will create more vaginal discharge to stop infections moving up the vagina to the womb. Increases in the hormone progesterone also contribute to an increase in vaginal discharge.

This is why some women notice they have more discharge while pregnant and may even mistake it for urine due to the volume of fluid. During most of the pregnancy, healthy discharge should be:

  • Clear or white
  • Odorless

Towards the end of pregnancy, discharge may change to include streaks of blood or mucus. This can be normal and is usually not cause for concern.

Menopause

The body goes through many changes during menopause, and the vagina often becomes less moist during this time due to declining levels of estrogen and progesterone.

However, women still produce discharge, just in smaller amounts. Discharge should be clear and non-irritating.

Sexual Arousal and Activity

When the body is sexually excited, glands in and around the vagina produce arousal fluid. Arousal fluid is created to lubricate the vagina and prepare it for potential sexual intercourse. Unlike other forms of discharge, arousal fluid often disappears within an hour. Arousal fluid is:

  • Clear
  • Moist
  • Wet
  • Slippery

Exercise

Some women experience an increase in watery, clear discharge when exercising. This is normal and nothing to worry about.

Medication

Some medications, such as hormonal contraceptives (birth control pills) can impact vaginal discharge.

Combined oral contraceptives that contain both progesterone and estrogen can thicken cervical fluid. This helps stop sperm from entering the uterus and prevent pregnancy, but it can change the appearance of discharge.

Some women on the pill may find their discharge becomes white consistently throughout the entire month.

What If Discharge Isn't Clear?

While clear, slippery discharge is considered normal, it's also normal for vaginal discharge to take on a thicker consistency and a white or off-white color after ovulation.

While the color and viscosity (thickness) of vaginal discharge is expected to change from day to day and at different points in the menstrual cycle, there are some colors that may be cause for concern:

  • Yellow or green discharge is not normal and can be a sign of a bacterial or viral infection.
  • Red or brown discharge between periods can happen if you have an irregular cycle or as a side effect of birth control pills. It can also be a sign of something more serious, like uterine or cervical cancer.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Clear, sticky discharge alone does not warrant a visit to your healthcare provider. If the amount of discharge is bothersome, a panty liner may be worn.

However, certain changes and the presence of other symptoms may be indicative of an underlying problem.

Speak with your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following, especially if they worsen or persist for more than a week or you think you may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection:

  • Sudden changes to discharge (in color, amount, odor, or consistency)
  • Itching in the genital area
  • Redness in the genital area
  • Swelling in the genitals
  • Burning with urination
  • Blisters on the vagina or vulva

Go for an immediate evaluation if you have abnormal vaginal discharge that is accompanied by:

  • Fever
  • Pain in the pelvis
  • Pain in the abdomen

Summary

Clear, sticky discharge can happen any time during the menstrual cycle and is not a cause for concern. Clear discharge can be an indication of ovulation and pregnancy, but may also happen during periods of sexual excitement, during menopause, and even when exercising.

If you are concerned about your vaginal discharge or if there are sudden changes to your vaginal discharge accompanied by symptoms like a fever or cramping, make an appointment to speak with your healthcare provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is clear jelly discharge?

    Vaginal discharge that is clear with a jelly-like consistency is normal and may be indicative that you are ovulating or about to ovulate.

  • Does clear vaginal discharge mean pregnancy?

    Clear vaginal discharge can be a sign of pregnancy. Production of vaginal mucus ramps up to help prevent infections from traveling up the vagina and into the womb. However, there are other possible causes.

  • What is the difference between period discharge and pregnancy discharge?

    Period discharge is made up of blood and shed uterine lining. It can range in color from pink or red to brown or black. During pregnancy, healthy discharge is clear or white. It helps prevent infection.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Sutter Health. Vaginal discharge.

  2. UNC School of Medicine. Cervical mucus monitoring.

  3. Pregnancy, birth and baby. Vaginal discharge during pregnancy.

  4. Jean Hailes. Hormonal health – clues made clear.

  5. MedlinePlus. Vaginal itching and discharge - adult and adolescent.