≡ Menu

Excessive Discharge: When Does It Occur, and What Causes It?

Written by Elizabeth Buescher, Gynecologist

For most women, excessive discharge is an embarrassing complaint that causes distress, discomfort and may lower self-esteem. But despite appearing out of the ordinary, having large amounts of discharge is normal at certain times in your menstrual cycle. There is up to 30 times more discharge when you’ve ovulating or pregnant due to stepped-up levels of estrogen.

If you are currently taking hormonal medication, the amount of discharge may also increase – but unless it’s pathological, this certainly isn’t a reason of concern.
There are many possible causes of excessive vaginal discharge – and we’ll be covering them below.

1. Excess Discharge When You’re Ovulating

Have you ever wondered why there is more discharge around the middle of your menstrual cycle? During ovulating, your body goes through a series of hormonal changes that ultimately result in your estrogen levels increasing substantially. Under the influence of estrogen, cervical mucus becomes abundant, clear and stretchy – an occurrence known as “spinnbarkeit.” It can make your vagina feel very slippery, sometimes feeling as if you have passed urine. Some women report large amounts of clear discharge gushing out of their vaginas and even trickling down their legs.

After ovulation, the levels of estrogen decrease while levels of progesterone increase, causing the mucus discharge to become milky white discharge that’s thicker and creamier.

2. Excessive Discharge During Pregnancy

Clear vaginal discharge during pregnancy is probably the most common complaint women have in addition to nausea and frequent urination. The effect of early pregnancy on your body (and specifically on cervical mucus) is catastrophic. With levels of estrogen increasing dramatically, the cervix softens and more watery discharge is produced. This usually happens in order to flush out bacteria and keep infections at bay, thus ensuring that your pregnancy progresses healthily and neither your baby nor yourself are at risk.
If you have been experiencing excessive vaginal discharge and aren’t currently ovulating, this may be a sign of pregnancy, more commonly if you experience breast tenderness, frequent urination, fatigue and other common pregnancy symptoms. Wait for at least ten days before taking a pregnancy test, otherwise the results may not be relevant. Blood tests are best since they are usually more accurate and can better identify the presence of hCG in your body.
Keep in mind that normal discharge while pregnant should be clear or whitish, thin or watery, and bear only a certain musky smell. If your vagina or vulva is itchy, swollen or red, or if you experience pain, discomfort or burning when urinating, you may have an infection, so make sure to call your doctor and have the issue investigated.

3. Excess Discharge During Sex

Another embarrassing complaint women have is the increase in milky white discharge when engaging in sexual intercourse. This is usually caused by two factors: first, your brain’s response to sexual stimulation. When you’re sexually aroused, your brain sends some stimuli to Bartholin’s and Skene’s glands (located above and under the vaginal opening), causing them to produce thin white discharge in order to facilitate the intercourse. This is different from the vaginal discharge you experience on a daily basis since it comes from glands located outside of the vagina. Second, it happens as a result of increased estrogen levels. Sexual stimulation causes a boost of estrogen that leads the glands to producing more lubricating discharge.

Most of the time, your vulva will be wet and tacky for several hours after intercourse.

4. Excessive Discharge May Happen Naturally

As mentioned above, many women complain about very large amounts of discharge gushing out of their vagina and trickling down their legs. Many times, this doesn’t happen during ovulation or pregnancy, but just as a normal part of their self-cleansing system. Some women have higher levels of estrogen naturally, which subsequently increases the amounts of discharge they experience. Some experience watery discharge gushing out of their vagina when sneezing, coughing or bending. As long as there is no bad smell, itching or other such symptoms that may indicate the presence of an infection, you should be fine – but just to be sure, you may want to see your doctor and have a few samples of the discharge taken for analysis.

5. Excess Discharge During and After Exercise

If you have an active lifestyle and exercise regularly, you certainly notice that your underpants may be literally soaking wet after you’re finished. The increased amount of discharge after exercise happens due to an increase in human growth hormone and cortisol, an occurrence that oftentimes results in hormonal imbalances. The consequence is more cervical mucus that appears to be very watery and runny, feeling very similar to sweat. Sometimes, the amount of discharge may be so much that it may soak through your pants, wetting your clothes and causing them to have a stronger odor.

There’s Something Wrong with My Discharge – It’s Itchy!

If you have been experiencing itchy discharge in large amounts, then you probably have an infection. Common infections that impact cervical mucus include yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, Chlamydia and Human Papillomavirus. The last four are usually contracted through sexual intercourse, while the first two may occur as a result of lifestyle changes, hormonal medicine, antibiotics, steroid medications, excessive cleaning of the genital area, wiping from back to front and use of tampons of panty liners outside of your period.

The best way to say what the cause behind abnormal discharge may be is taking note of the color. White discharge is very common when you have yeast infection, or yellowish discharge appears in case of BV and gonorrhea. Trichomoniasis and Chlamydia usually cause greenish discharge. For accurate diagnosis please go to your gyn or a sexual health clinic for a complete vaginal examination.

What to Do After Treating the Infection?

Once the infection clears up, you need to be extremely careful about a few aspects concerning your lifestyle in order to avoid it in the future. The best ways to keep yourself clean and healthy are eating a balanced diet, avoiding sugary foods, avoiding sexual intercourse with more than one partner, wearing loose cotton underpants, wiping from front to back, and washing your genital area specifically with water and no soap, deodorant or perfume. You can ask your doctor about the best preventive measures to take, as she will give you a more complete list of do’s and don’t’s.