Clear Watery Discharge: Is It Normal or Something to Worry About?

Clear Watery Discharge: Is It Something to Worry About?
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Clear watery discharge is usually nothing to worry about because it is necessary to keep your vagina healthy. Normal vaginal discharge that looks clear or milky white also protects your reproductive organs from infections. The cervical mucus from your vagina that is clear and watery is completely normal.

There are some conditions that can cause clear watery discharge to increase. For example, you might notice that before ovulation, clear watery discharge becomes thinner and may increase in its amount. Also, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and even exercising are all reasons for vaginal discharge that is a milky-white color or transparent.

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Some conditions can change the color and consistency of vaginal discharge. For example, a bacterial infection can cause clear watery discharge to turn yellowish and emit a strong odor. Or, yeast infections can turn normal milky discharge into thick white clumpy discharge. However, dark discharge may be perfectly normal and is just old blood that gets cleaned out after your period.

This article looks at the many different reasons for clear watery discharge. You will also find out if there are any times when you should worry about white or clear discharge that appears before or after your period.

What Does Watery Discharge Mean?

Vaginal discharge is a type of thin mucus fluid that the vagina and cervix produce to lubricate and protect the vagina. Vaginal discharge that is clear and watery or thin and white is completely normal.

Dr. Trina Pagano, an obstetrician from the Cleveland Clinic, says that vaginal discharge is part of the “housekeeping” functions in a woman’s reproductive system. Normal vaginal discharge looks like a clear or milky whitish fluid during the menstrual cycle. Dr. Pagano says that the amount and consistency of normal discharge changes during the monthly cycle.1

According to doctors from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, normal milky white vaginal discharge doesn’t smell bad. In fact, discharge is usually odorless and your vagina may excrete about 4 ml (or about a teaspoon) of discharge per day.2

The journal American Family Physician states that vaginal discharge is made up of cervical mucus that carries away dead cells from the vagina. Sometimes the consistency of normal discharge can be clear and stretchy, and other times the vaginal secretions will be clear and watery.3

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Causes of Clear Watery Discharge

Even though clear watery discharge doesn’t mean there is anything wrong, there are many reasons why vaginal discharge can be clear and watery and why sometimes it has an egg white consistency.

Menstrual cycle

Watery vaginal discharge that is clear or milky and doesn’t smell is part of your monthly menstrual cycle.

According to doctors from the National Health Service, there are 4 ways to know that your vaginal discharge isn’t something to worry about. Normal vaginal discharge should not have any strong or unpleasant smell, it should be clear and white, have a sticky consistency, and be slippery and wet.4

Ovulation

Sticky milky white vaginal discharge that resembles egg whites could be a sign that you are ovulating. During ovulation, you may notice that the discharge becomes slightly thicker than usual.

The American Pregnancy Association reports that cervical mucus before ovulation thickens to help sperm reach the egg. This type of white or clear discharge is called “egg white cervical mucus” or EWCM (also called ovulation discharge). Observing changes in the consistency and amount of your vaginal discharge can help you work out when your most fertile days occur.5

After sex

Thin, clear watery discharge is often noticed after having sex. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says that sexual excitement increases the amount of vaginal discharge you produce. The discharge will be thinner and more watery than usual.3

Pregnancy

Clear watery discharge during early pregnancy is completely normal and you shouldn’t worry about it. In fact, along with implantation spotting, increased watery vaginal discharge can be an early sign of pregnancy. During the term of your pregnancy, you will continue to have thin discharge.

Doctors from the American Academy of Pregnancy say that normal discharge during pregnancy is thin, white, milky and only has a mild odor. However, if you notice any changes to the color and consistency of the discharge and you have vaginal itching, you should speak to your healthcare provider.6

You can also expect that the amount of white vaginal discharge increases and becomes thicker during pregnancy. Doctors from the National Health Service say that during the last week of pregnancy, discharge will be noticeably thicker and may be brown or have some blood in it. This is your body preparing for birth and is a normal part of pregnancy.7

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Breastfeeding

If you are breastfeeding you may notice lots of clear discharge from your vagina. The AAFP says that there is more discharge excreted when you are breastfeeding.3

After exercising

Exercising may also cause your body to produce a more watery vaginal discharge that is clear and sticky. According to doctors from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, heavy exercising or prolonged physical activity can lead to an increase in normal clear discharge.2

When to Worry about Clear Watery Discharge

There is usually nothing to worry about clear watery discharge as long as there is no strong or unpleasant odor with it. But, changes to the consistency, amount, and color of vaginal discharge could indicate an infection that needs to be treated. The infection can be accompanied with other symptoms, such as vaginal itching, burning sensation, pain and swollen vaginal area.

Bacterial vaginosis

One cause for concern with milky-white watery discharge is that it can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV) if it has a fishy odor.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the signs of BV are white or gray vaginal discharge that is watery. You may notice that the milky-white discharge with a strong smell is more noticeable after sex. You may also have vaginal irritation, swelling around the vaginal opening, and burning when peeing.8

Taking probiotics can help boost your vaginal health and treat cases of BV. When the infection clears, the smell and appearance of your vaginal discharge will return to normal. You can find other natural remedies for treating bacterial vaginosis, such as rinsing your vagina with diluted tea tree oil or soaking in a bath with apple cider vinegar added to it, in my article about the top 9 home remedies for bacterial vaginosis.

Thick and clumpy discharge

Yeast infections can turn clear and watery cervical mucus into thick and clumpy vaginal discharge. Yeast infections called candidiasis are often caused when there are not enough “good bacteria” in your body to stop yeast overgrowing. When yeast infections take over, the result can be a thick white discharge that resembles cottage cheese.

According to Dr. Kathleen Romito on WebMD, yeast infections in the vagina produce an unusually thick white clumpy discharge. However, there won’t be any strong odor with the abnormal white vaginal discharge. Other symptoms of candidiasis include itching and swelling around your vagina, burning sensation when peeing, or pain during sexual intercourse.9

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There are many natural remedies to treat a yeast infection. For example, you can use coconut oil for candidiasis because it has antifungal properties. Also, natural yeast infection treatments can include apple cider vinegar or you can increase the number of “good” bacteria to combat a yeast infection by using plain live yogurt.

Green or yellow vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharge that looks greenish or yellow could be a sign of a bacterial infection in your vagina. One common type of infection that causes thin yellow vaginal discharge is bacterial vaginosis (BV). However, bacterial infections can also be caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

According to Dr. Trina Pagano on WebMD, BV or trichomoniasis can turn discharge yellowish or green with a strong unpleasant odor. Along with the off-colored discharge, you might have swelling of the labia, and pain and itching when urinating.1

Brown or Dark discharge

Noticing occasional brown vaginal discharge on your underwear may be part of your regular menstrual cycle and is not always something to worry about.

Dr. Trina Pagano on WebMD says that brown discharge is common among women who have irregular menstrual cycles.1 Also, doctors say that dark brown or black discharge-like spotting can occur at the end of the period as old blood gets cleaned out from the vagina.10

Brown spotting before your period could be a sign of implantation spotting which could mean that you are pregnant.

If you notice brown spotting after the menopause or you have other symptoms like itching and redness around your vagina, you should speak to your doctor about the problem.

Common Questions about Discharge that is Watery and Clear

Because every woman’s menstrual cycle is different, you may notice other changes in your vaginal discharge. Therefore, it’s important to keep a menstrual calendar to look for irregularities in your monthly cycle.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about discharge that is watery and clear.

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Is watery discharge a sign of ovulation?

Yes. In the days before your ovulation, you may notice an increase in watery discharge from your vagina. However, according to the American Pregnancy Association, discharge after ovulation will be of a thicker consistency and less like watery vaginal discharge.5

Is it normal to have clear watery discharge during pregnancy?

Yes. Clear watery discharge is normal during pregnancy as long as you don’t have other symptoms like vaginal itching or smelly discharge. Doctors from the National Health Service say that all women have more vaginal discharge during pregnancy. Towards the end of pregnancy, vaginal discharge can be so watery that it is often mistaken for urine. As already mentioned, during the last week of pregnancy, it’s normal that discharge becomes thicker.7

What is clear watery discharge before period?

After ovulation occurs, discharge before your period will be sticky, clear, and watery. According to the UNC School of Medicine, vaginal mucus before your period has a transparent egg-white look and will be wet and slippery.11

What is clear watery discharge after period?

Many women experience normal milky-white discharge after their period. Doctors from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation say that white discharge is normal at the end and beginning of your cycle.2

Is clear watery discharge with odor normal?

No. Normal discharge that is clear and watery should only have a very faint or mild odor. Doctors say that vaginal odor should not smell bad or have a fishy smell.3 If there is a strong unpleasant smell with your vaginal discharge, it is usually an indication that you have a bacterial vaginal infection.

What does cramping with clear watery discharge mean?

Cramping along with an increase in watery discharge could be a sign of implantation. Dr. Trina Pagano says that implantation can cause light cramping that can be mistaken for menstrual cramp.12 Also, some women experience mid-cycle cramping in their lower abdomen that can accompany with increased vaginal discharge when ovulation occurs.

Is it normal for discharge to smell after sex?

No. Normal vaginal discharge odor should never be strong and unpleasant. According to doctors, it is common for discharge to smell after sex if you have bacterial vaginosis.

Clear Watery Discharge – When to See a Doctor

Vaginal discharge that is clear and watery or milky-white and thin with no odor is normal and helps to look after your vaginal health. However, if there are abnormal changes in the color, consistency, and smell of vaginal odor, you should see a doctor.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic recommend visiting a doctor if you have abnormal vaginal discharge in the following circumstances:

  • Your vaginal discharge looks green, yellow, or is thick with a cottage cheese-like consistency.
  • There is an offensive smell from your discharge.
  • Along with abnormal vaginal discharge, you have signs of irritation around your vagina or itching.
  • You have unusual vagina spotting that is not connected to your period.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. WebMD. Vaginal discharge: What’s abnormal?
  2. PAMF. Vaginal discharge.
  3. AAFP. Vaginal discharge.
  4. NHS. Vaginal discharge.
  5. AmericanPregnancy. Cervical mucus.
  6. AmericanPregnancy. Vaginal discharge during pregnancy.
  7. NHS. Vaginal discharge in pregnancy.
  8. WomensHealth. Bacterial vaginosis.
  9. WebMD. Vaginal yeast infections.
  10. WebMD. Menstrual blood problems.
  11. UNC. Cervical mucus monitoring.
  12. WebMD. Pregnancy symptoms.
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