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Sticky Discharge and Its Variations: What Should You Expect?

Written by Elizabeth Buescher, Gynecologist

Sticky discharge is one of the most common types of discharge women deal with. It usually occurs before and after period, and results due to low estrogen levels in the body. The consistency of sticky vaginal discharge goes from thick and clumpy to creamy and pasty, while the color ranges from clear to cloudy white or pale yellow. If accompanied by a bad fishy odor, unusually yellow or greenish color, vaginal itching, swelling or redness, the discharge may indicate the presence of an infection instead.

This guide shows you when sticky mucus from vagina is normal and when it’s a reason of concern.

White Sticky Discharge Before and After Period

The consistency of your vaginal mucus is largely influenced by the estrogen-progesterone balance in your body. During ovulation, estrogen levels increase while progesterone levels decrease, resulting in larger amounts of discharge that’s clear and watery. This happens during the middle of your menstrual cycle – specifically, between the date when your last period started and the date when your next period is due to start.

After ovulation, estrogen levels start gradually decreasing as progesterone levels increase before period, causing your clear sticky discharge to become thick, clumpy and impossible to swim through for sperm cells. The color ranges from clear to whitish, and the mucus feels quite like lotion when rubbed between fingers. Similarly, the levels of progesterone are higher than those of estrogen after period, which is why your cervical mucus gets significantly thicker and chunky once your period stops.

Clear Sticky Discharge During Pregnancy

Clear sticky vaginal discharge is a common sign of pregnancy that occurs very early, sometimes during the second week of the first trimester. During early pregnancy, your body goes through many hormonal changes that alter the estrogen-progesterone balance. Estrogen levels increase and your vagina starts expelling watery discharge that can be quite sticky and stringy. Meaning, it can stretch an inch or two without breaking in the middle. But as pregnancy progress and estrogen levels increase, the mucus becomes increasingly watery, losing its spinnbarkeit (stretchy) property.
Normal sticky discharge during pregnancy should be clear or white, and have no significant odor. Due to the increase in amount, the smell may become slightly musky, but this will be noticeable specifically when you sit to urinate.

Yellow Sticky Discharge – Normal or Not?

A small yellow tint in your discharge can be normal and doesn’t necessarily have to indicate that something bad is going on. As long as there is no bad (fishy or sour smelling) odor, vaginal itching, swelling or discomfort, you may be perfectly healthy.

On the other hand, if the sticky yellow discharge is accompanied by a strong, foul smell, itching, swelling and redness of the vagina and vulva, painful urination and/or intercourse, and pelvic pain, you may have an infection. The most common types of vaginal infections that cause yellowish mucus include bacterial vaginosis, gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Keep in mind that, while the last two are known for generating all of these symptoms, BV will not cause any vaginal discomfort.

Brown Sticky Discharge – Should I Be Concerned?

Sticky brown discharge is a serious concern that normally indicates that something very serious is going on. The brownish color signals the presence of blood in your discharge, which is never good (unless you are close to the end of your period). Damage to your reproductive organs may cause vaginal bleeding, which in turn results in bloody discharge with a sticky or stringy consistency. It’s important not to ignore this occurrence when it happens, even if the amount of blood seems to be relatively little.

A complete vaginal or pelvic examination (including a Pap smear) should reveal the exact cause of the bleeding. If you have recently started taking birth control pills, then you may be experiencing breakthrough bleeding, which is fairly normal and doesn’t constitute a reason of concern. If the bleeding occurs right after sexual intercourse, then you may have postcoital bleeding, which is normal in 50% of cases. Another possibility would be intermenstrual bleeding or spotting, which usually happens at any other time than your period.

If none of these are your case, then you may be suffering from vaginal, cervical or uterine cancer. It’s wise to do a Pap smear as this test will quickly help identify whether you are at risk of cancer, and what you can do to successfully treat it or avoid complications.