Have you ever woken up in the morning, gone to the bathroom, and noticed some whitish or yellowish spots on your underwear?
Chances are, you have. Vaginal discharge, known as cervical mucus, is a common occurring in most women. Intended to help flush out bacteria and keep your vagina as well as reproductive system healthy and viable, vaginal discharge keeps infections at bay and maintains your vagina’s acidic pH environment.
While your vagina will likely produce a small amount of cervical mucus throughout the entire duration of your menstrual cycle, you’ll experience a lot more vaginal discharge during ovulation. Why? Because one of your ovaries has just released an egg, which is now ready to be fertilized by a viable sperm cell.
But not all types of discharge during ovulation are normal. Knowing how to identify symptoms that may indicate there’s something wrong with you is critical to staying healthy. The following guide talks about what types of discharge you can get when you ovulate, what’s normal, and what isn’t.
1. Clear Watery Discharge During Ovulation
If the type of discharge you’re seeing is clear, watery and resembles uncooked egg white very closely, then we’ve got good news for you: it’s absolutely normal. Ovulation is the most fertile phase in your menstrual cycle, and the prime time to engage in baby-making sex. The discharge is usually clear, watery, and very slippery, stretching about 1-2 inches without breaking in the middle. It looks very much like uncooked egg whites, which is why it’s often referred to as egg white cervical mucus (EWCM).
Due to its significantly thinner consistency, this type of discharge facilitates fertilization by allowing sperm cells to travel to the fallopian tubes and unite with your egg. Most of the time, you’ll experience a greater amount of discharge as compared to the rest of your menstrual cycle. That’s because estrogen dominates during the first half of your menstrual cycle, which results in more cervical mucus. Once estrogen levels decrease and progesterone kicks in, the amount of discharge becomes minimal.
A few days after your period stops, the discharge will be dry and thick, becoming gradually thinner and more slippery as ovulation approaches. The discharge will be fertile even 5-6 days before you ovulate, so if you’re trying to conceive, that will be a great time to hop into bed.
Unless there’s a bad smell coming from your vagina, and your vulva is itchy, swollen or red, clear watery or white discharge during ovulation is a sign that you’re fertile and ready to conceive!
2. Yellow Discharge During Ovulation
Is your discharge yellow and smelly? Then there’s a great chance you’re dealing with a vaginal infection instead.
Naturally, there will be more of this gooey discharge when you ovulate, however, it’s never a good sign if you have it. Yeast infection, gonorrhea and Chlamydia may cause discharge that’s yellowish, has a bad odor and is accompanied by symptoms such as itching, swelling and redness of the vulva, burning when you urinate, and pain during sex. If any of these symptoms are present, then you should schedule an appointment with your ob-gyn and investigate the underlying issue.
If you’re experiencing yellow discharge with bad smell only, you may have bacterial vaginosis instead, a type of vaginal infection that occurs as a result of a change in your vagina’s acidic pH environment. For example, most feminine hygiene products mess with your vagina’s pH, irritating the skin and removing most of the good bacteria in its environment, allowing for the growth of pathogens and the onset of vaginitis.
If you have yellow discharge, you should not attempt to remove it by increasing the frequency of your hygiene routine, as this will likely worsen the symptoms. Instead, wear sanitary pads (not panty liners or tampon pads) to ensure the discharge isn’t wetting your underwear and/or clothing, and keep yourself fresh by washing with plain tap other every other day.
3. Brown Discharge During Ovulation
Brown discharge signifies that something more serious is going on. The brownish color means there’s blood in your discharge, and unless you’re on your period, this is a reason of concern. The first thing you should do is to make sure that you’re really ovulating. Many women tend to incorrectly remember the date when their ovulation should occur.
If the date corresponds to the date you predicted you’d ovulate, then you should try to remember the day you last had sex. If it’s been longer than 5-7 days, and you were in the first half of your menstrual cycle, then the bloody discharge may be due to implantation bleeding, which occurs when the fertilized egg embeds to the interior lining of the womb (endometrium).
Remember that you don’t have to have sex right when you ovulate to get pregnant. If you have sex within 5-6 days before you ovulate, sperm cells may still be viable, meaning they may fertilize the egg.
Other causes of bloody vaginal discharge include:
- Breakthrough bleeding: irregular bleeding that usually occurs if you use any form of hormonal contraception (e.g. birth control pills).=
- Postcoital bleeding: bleeding that occurs right after sexual intercourse.
- Intermenstrual bleeding/spotting: vaginal bleeding (other than breakthrough and postcoital) that occurs at any time during your menstrual cycle except during normal menstruation.
You’ll want to check with your ob-gyn to see what’s causing the light brown discharge.
4. Pink Vaginal Discharge During Ovulation
One last type of vaginal discharge is pink mucus, which can happen for a number of reasons. Much like brown discharge, pink discharge may indicate the presence of a small amount of blood, which may be due to the same causes as listed above (implantation, breakthrough, postcoital and intermenstrual bleeding).
Pink vaginal discharge may also occur a few weeks after childbirth. This phenomenon is known as lochia, which is discharge mixed with blood, mucus and uterine tissue. During the first few days up to 4 weeks after childbirth, lochia will be bright red, getting lighter every day until it’s pinkish in color.
If you’ve recently given birth, then don’t panic if you notice pink spots on your underwear, as it’s perfectly normal. However, if you haven’t given birth, you aren’t on any form of birth control, and it’s unlikely that you’re pregnant, you should see your ob-gyn about the light pink discharge you’re experiencing.
No Discharge During Ovulation?
Vaginal dryness is a fairly common issue that’s affecting many women from all over the world. Caused by low estrogen levels, vaginal dryness means your vagina can’t produce much cervical mucus, if any at all. This doesn’t happen only during the course of your menstrual cycle, but also when you have sex or when you ovulate.
However, the lack of vaginal discharge during ovulation doesn’t mean you aren’t ovulating, or you’re infertile. While this may make it more difficult to conceive since the mucus doesn’t allow sperm cells to travel to your egg, you can still get pregnant even if you deal with vaginal dryness, especially if you engage in baby-making sex during your fertile window.
Vaginal dryness may also be the result of childbirth, as estrogen levels drop significantly. Anti-estrogen medications for conditions such as uterine fibroids or endometriosis may also cause estrogen levels to drop. Your doctor should be able to identify the exact cause of vaginal dryness by getting you to take several tests.
What Can You Do to Control Heavy Discharge During Ovulation?
As you’ve probably noticed already, vaginal discharge during ovulation can be extremely bothersome, especially since the amount tends to increase dramatically as compared to the rest of your menstrual cycle. While you can’t really control the amount, there are a few things you can do to make the discharge itself less frustrating.
- Use sanitary pads to absorb the excess discharge and avoid wetting and/or dirtying your underwear. This can lead to bad smells, not to mention discomfort. Avoid normal pads and tampons, as they can interfere with your vagina’s pH environment and possibly lead to infections (e.g. bacterial vaginosis).
- Don’t use any hygiene products to wash down there, no matter how much discharge you have. Cervical mucus helps keep infections at bay, so removing it means creating a breeding ground for bacteria. Use only plain tap water to keep your intimate area clean and fresh, and avoid taking long baths.
- Wear only cotton underwear. Your skin needs to breathe, and cotton is one of the most breathable fabrics available. Make sure you choose loose underpants and clothing, as they may also cause changes in your vagina’s bacterial flora.
- Never have unprotected sex, as this increases the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea, trichomoniasis or Chlamydia, and also facilitates the onset of yeast infection and BV.
- Change your underwear every day to avoid bad smells. If you’ve chosen not to wear any pads, you will want to change your underwear as many times as needed to stay dry and clean. It’s wise to keep a backup pair of panties in your purse in case you need to change yours while you’re away from home.