What It Means When You Have Clear Vaginal Discharge

The female reproductive system is an intricate system of varying organs and tissues, including the uterus, ovaries, cervix, and vagina (via Medical News Today). In regards to vaginal health, one commonly discussed topic is vaginal discharge. This is a perfectly normal process and is the vagina's way of cleaning itself to stay healthy, per the Cleveland Clinic. The cervix, vagina, and uterus produce this discharge (mostly made up of cells and good bacteria) to carry away bad bacteria and infection, says the clinic. According to the clinic, the amount of discharge varies from one woman to another, and some women produce more than others.

Furthermore, various types of vaginal discharge exist, each characterized by differing colors and consistencies, according to Medical News Today. Common colors include clear, white, red, yellow-green, pink, and gray. Clear to whitish discharge is typically deemed normal, but what does it means when you have clear vaginal discharge? Continue as we dive into the details.

What does a clear vaginal discharge mean?

While some women experience discharge daily, others only come across it occasionally (via Healthline). According to the source, women produce, on average, about ½ teaspoon of discharge daily during their fertile years. Clear or white discharge is considered normal and may be slippery, often a similar consistency to egg whites, says Medical News Today.

Even though discharge is a daily occurrence for some women, many tend to experience more discharge when estrogen levels have increased, says Healthline. Estrogen levels are typically higher when on birth control pills or during ovulation — the release of an egg from an ovary. In addition to increased vaginal discharge, symptoms of ovulation include an increase in body temperature, cramps, and occasionally spotting, says Medical News Today.

Women also report a change in their vaginal discharge early in their pregnancy, says Healthline. Usually, estrogen levels decrease after ovulation. However, if fertilization successfully occurs between an egg and a sperm, your hormones, specifically progesterone and estrogen, increase. This leaves your discharge thicker, clearer, and more stretchy for up to eight weeks, per the source. Beyond ovulation, clear discharge also appears during sexual arousal, says Medical News Today.

When to see a doctor

According to the Cleveland Clinic, some discharge colors might signal the need for medical assistance. Abnormal discharge can be identified by a change in the amount, color, smell, or consistency of what you usually experience. In such instances, it's best to see your doctor. According to Medical News Today, red discharge usually signals the onset of bleeding during a period. However, if you're bleeding between menstrual periods, it can signal a more serious condition like endometrial cancer, especially during menopause.

Vaginal discharge that is dark yellow or green and accompanied by an unpleasant smell might signal a bacterial or sexually transmitted infection, which will require treatment, says Medical News Today. Gray vaginal discharge isn't healthy either, and can signal a common bacterial infection known as bacterial vaginosis or BV. Bacterial vaginosis is often accompanied by irritation, itching, strong unpleasant odors, and redness around the vaginal opening.

Treatment for such infections usually requires a doctor's visit. You might be prescribed an antibiotic or antiviral drug, depending on the cause of infection, per the Mayo Clinic.