Watery Vaginal Discharge: Is It Normal and What Causes It?

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Watery vaginal discharge is normal and can be a sign of a healthy vagina. The vagina produces discharge to clean itself and also produces more discharge around the time of ovulation.

However, if the color or viscosity (thickness) of discharge changes, or clear discharge is accompanied by other symptoms like itching or soreness in the vagina, it may be an indication of a problem.

Learn more about the causes of watery discharge, and when you should 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.

Woman in bathroom reaching for a panty liner

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Causes of Watery Vaginal Discharge

Watery vaginal discharge is typically normal and can be due to natural hormonal fluctuations that occur during reproductive processes in a woman's body like ovulation and pregnancy, or during sexual arousal or menopause.

Watery Discharge and Ovulation

Ovulation typically occurs halfway through the menstrual cycle, roughly 14 days before the first day of the next period. In the lead up to ovulation, discharge may look similar to egg whites and be:

  • Clear
  • Slippery
  • Stretchy

During the lead-up to ovulation, the body makes up to 30 times more mucus than it will following ovulation.

This discharge is more elastic and watery than at other times during the menstrual cycle. Some women may choose to wear panty liners during this time.

Watery Discharge and Pregnancy

When a woman is pregnant, the cervix and vaginal walls soften. To protect the womb, the body increases its production of vaginal discharge to help stop infections from traveling through the vagina to the uterus.

Because of this, some women may find they have more clear to white discharge during pregnancy, and this is normal.

In the final week of pregnancy, the discharge may change from clear to white to discharge that contains thick streaks of mucus or some blood. This is normal and happens because the mucus that has been in the cervix during pregnancy leaves the body as it prepares for birth.

Watery Discharge and Sexual Arousal

During periods of sexual arousal, glands in the vagina produce a clear, watery fluid to lubricate the vagina and prepare it for potential sexual intercourse. This discharge is normal and usually goes away within an hour.

The discharge is typically:

  • Clear
  • Wet
  • Moist
  • Slippery

Watery Discharge and Menopause

As estrogen levels decline during menopause, the vagina produces less discharge, and discharge is more likely to be watery. Discharge may also be:

  • Clear
  • White
  • Thin
  • Odorless

When Does Vaginal Discharge Happen?

Vaginal discharge is normal and can happen at any time during the menstrual cycle.

Discharge Before a Period

Discharge can change throughout the menstrual cycle. It may look clear, white or slightly yellow. It may appear darker when it dries on underwear.

The amount of discharge may change depending on the time of the cycle. Discharge may get thicker or thinner throughout the cycle.

In the lead-up to your period, the discharge may change from clear to brown or pink. This is known as spotting and is normal.

Discharge After a Period

Some women may find they have slight spotting following their period. It may be brown or red in color and is typically lighter than a regular period. This is normal and is part of the period finishing.

Unexpected Bleeding

Some women experience unexpected bleeding or spotting throughout their cycle.

In a small 2012 analysis of 201 women's bleeding and spotting patterns during their menstrual cycle, researchers found that about 5% of women experienced spotting midway through the cycle. But many experts believe spotting may be even more common.

Unexpected bleeding throughout the cycle may be pink, red, or brown and is often lighter than a period. It may not require the use of sanitary protection.

Managing Watery Discharge

Watery vaginal discharge is normal and a sign of a healthy vagina. There is no need to do anything to try to stop the discharge, but some women may find the use of sanitary protection helpful.

Tips for Coping with Excessive Discharge

If you are experiencing a large amount of discharge, like around the time of ovulation, or you are experiencing spotting, you may want to wear a panty liner for added protection.

There is no need to worry about discharge that is white or clear, but there are steps you can take to prevent abnormal discharge and protect your overall vaginal health, including:

  • Wiping front to back when using the toilet
  • Avoiding tight pants, pantyhose or bike shorts for extended periods
  • Wearing cotton underwear in the day to allow the genital area to breathe
  • Not wearing underwear at night
  • Avoiding sitting in hot tubs
  • Bathing daily and patting the genital area dry
  • Not using feminine hygiene sprays
  • Avoiding toilet paper that is perfumed or colored

Should You Douche?

Douching is not necessary to clean the vagina, and in many cases, can actually be harmful. That's because douches contain chemicals that can disrupt the pH balance of the vagina and encourage the growth of problematic vaginal bacteria.

Douching also carries other risks. It can spread infection to the uterus and may increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). If you notice a smell coming from your genital area, simply wash the outside of the vagina (called the vulva) with gentle soap and water to eliminate any odors.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Clear, watery vaginal discharge is rarely a cause for concern. But if you are experiencing excess discharge, or it changes color or viscosity (thickness), especially if it's accompanied by fever and/or pain in the abdomen or pelvis, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider to get checked out.

You should also contact your healthcare provider if you have unusual discharge and think you may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

There are some symptoms that may indicate an infection, and it is important to be aware of these. If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your healthcare provider:

  • Burning with urination
  • Other urinary symptoms
  • Symptoms that worsen
  • Symptoms that do not resolve after a week
  • Itching in the genital area
  • Redness in the genitals
  • Swelling in the genital area
  • Presence of blisters on the vagina or vulva
  • Sores on the vagina or vulva
  • Sudden changes to the color of discharge
  • Sudden change in odor of discharge
  • Sudden change in consistency of discharge

Summary

Watery discharge is usually not a cause for concern and is a sign of a healthy vagina. It can be an indication the vagina is cleaning itself, and can also be an indication of ovulation. If accompanied by other symptoms like itchiness or a sore vagina, it may be caused by thrush or another condition. If you develop additional symptoms that are of concern, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

Watery, vaginal discharge is normal and natural, but if you find having damp spots in underwear embarrassing, that's normal, too. Panty liners can be helpful in absorbing excess moisture that the body creates between periods.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does watery discharge indicate pregnancy?

    Watery discharge doesn't necessarily indicate pregnancy—it could be due to ovulation or sexual arousal. But during pregnancy, there is an increase in the level of a hormone called progesterone that may cause more discharge to be created.

  • What infection causes watery discharge?

    Watery discharge is usually a sign of a healthy vagina. However, if you have watery or thin discharge that is also accompanied by itching or soreness in the vagina, you may have thrush. This is a common infection that isn't sexually transmitted. It can be treated with anti-fungal medication.

  • What does watery discharge mean before a period?

    Watery discharge can happen at any time during the menstrual cycle. It is a sign of a healthy vagina and that the body is functioning as it should. During ovulation, there may be an increase in watery discharge, and some women may prefer to use a panty liner during this time.

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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.
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