Copious amounts of vaginal discharge are a common occurrence in both sexually active and inactive women. Usually caused by hormonal imbalances and stepped-up levels of estrogen, increased amounts of discharge from vagina occur at specific times in your menstrual cycle, and may be sometimes the result of an infection or a more serious underlying condition.
When experiencing a lot of discharge for the first time, you may get unduly distressed and look for treatment at your local doctor. But just because you have lots of discharge, this doesn’t mean that you aren’t healthy, or that there’s anything wrong with you. Keep reading to find out more about what causes a lot of discharge, and when this may indeed be a reason of concern.
The Role of Vaginal Discharge: Why Do You Have It?
Most women are unaware of what their vaginal discharge means. Since your body goes through many hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, your discharge will naturally suffer changes in color, consistency and amount.
The vagina is essentially the passage that connects your internal reproductive organs with the vulva. Glands inside the vagina and cervix produce fluid to help flush out dead skin cells and bacteria in order to keep your reproductive system healthy and prevent infections. The pH of the vagina is acidic, ranging from 3.8 to 4.5, and is maintained by organisms such as Doderlein’s bacilli, which naturally occur as part of the vagina’s bacterial flora.
Normal vaginal mucus is clear or white milky, has a relatively thin consistency, and most notably doesn’t bear any smell. Also, it isn’t accompanied by other symptoms such as itching, swelling, redness, bad odor, burning, pain or vaginal discomfort.
What Causes Changes in Your Vaginal Discharge?
If you have paid close attention to your vaginal discharge, then you have certainly noticed that color, consistency and amount change throughout your menstrual cycle. After period, the mucus is brown, getting gradually white creamy as ovulation approaches. During the middle of your menstrual cycle, your discharge is watery and slippery, with a texture that’s stretchy and similar to uncooked egg whites. After ovulation, the discharge becomes white creamy again until your period finally arrives. The cycle of changes repeats once your period stops.
What causes them? During ovulation, your body’s levels of estrogen increase, directly impacting the amount of discharge your vagina and cervix produce. As a result, you will have a lot of discharge during the middle of your menstrual cycle and during your period – but as you have probably figured out, this isn’t a reason of concern.
Can Lots of Discharge Be a Sign of Pregnancy?
Many women assume that having a lot of discharge from vagina shows they’re pregnant. This can be your case if:
1) you have recently engaged in unprotected intercourse;
2) the time of the intercourse was around your ovulation;
3) you experience other early pregnancy signs such as breast tenderness, fatigue and frequent urination;
4) if you don’t experience vaginal itching, swelling or redness, pain during urination, painful intercourse, or spotting between periods.
When you get pregnant, the amount of vaginal discharge doubles as a result of estrogen levels increasing. That’s why pregnant women report very large amounts of mucus coming out of their vaginas, as well as wetting of clothes and a tacky feeling of the vulva. To find out whether or not you are pregnant, it’s recommended that you take either a home or blood pregnant test.
Does Sexual Intercourse Increase the Amount of Discharge?
To cut a long story short – yes, it does, but not in the way estrogen does. Normal vaginal discharge, as its name suggests, is produced by the vagina, and comes from outside of the vagina, similar to your period. But the discharge you see when you engage in sexual intercourse is produced by glands outside of the vagina, located above and below the vaginal opening. Sexual arousal sends specific signals to the brain, which in turn, stimulates production of a clear, slippery fluid from these glands in order to facilitate the intercourse.
This type of discharge serves an important role in protecting the vagina as well. By making penetration easier, skin tissues will not be damaged, thus preventing the onset of vaginitis and other such undesirable effects.
Can I Have Lots of Discharge If I Have an Infection?
Most of the time, a lot of vaginal discharge is normal and shouldn’t concern you. But if the amount increases out of the blue and you also experience foul-smelling mucus, itching, redness, swelling, burning when urinating or pelvic pain, there’s a chance that you have an infection that needs to be addressed as soon as possible to prevent potential complications.
- Yeast Infection – The discharge is cloudy or milky white, sometimes yellow, and has a thick, cottage cheese-like consistency. A foul odor, as well as itching, swelling, redness and discomfort, are common with yeast infection.
- Bacterial Vaginosis – Your vagina produces a cloudy white, grey or yellow discharge with a pretty clumpy texture and a strong fishy odor that’s more noticeable after sex. No other symptoms are present.
- Trichomoniasis – Yellow greenish vaginal discharge that’s frothy and lotion-like. The smell is usually strong, and you may experience vulvitis (swelling and reddening of the vulva), burning when urinating, lower abdominal pain and spotting between periods.
- Chlamydia – Yellow discharge with a relatively thick consistency, typically similar to cottage cheese. All symptoms described above are present except spotting between periods.
- Gonorrhea – Also known for causing abnormal yellow discharge, gonorrhea may also lead to the appearance of symptoms similar to trichomoniasis.
What to Do If You Have a Lot of Discharge?
First of all, don’t panic. Assuming that you suffer from a condition or another can result in self-treating it wrongly, possibly leading to complications. It’s best to see your doctor about the abnormal discharge and have a few samples of taken and analyzed for a correct diagnostic. It’s advised that you also do a Pap smear test, which can show whether you are at risk of developing cervical cancer at any point in your life. Make sure to talk to your doctor about preventive measures you can exert to avoid vaginal infections in the future and keep your vagina both clean and healthy.