Watery vaginal discharge is normal and can be a sign of a healthy vagina. The vagina produces discharge to clean itself and also produces more discharge around the time of ovulation.
However, if the color or viscosity (thickness) of discharge changes, or clear discharge is accompanied by other symptoms such as itching or soreness in the vagina, this may indicate a problem.
Learn more about the causes of watery discharge, and when you should see a healthcare provider.
The word “woman” is used in this article to refer to people who identify as women and have typical reproductive organs of a cisgender woman. We recognize that some people who identify as women do not have the same anatomy as depicted in this article.
Causes of watery vaginal discharge
Watery vaginal discharge is typically normal and may be due to natural hormonal fluctuations that occur during reproductive processes in a woman’s body such as ovulation and pregnancy, or during sexual arousal or menopause.
Watery discharge and ovulation
Ovulation usually occurs halfway through the menstrual cycle, about 14 days before the first day of the next period. In the run-up to ovulation, discharge may look similar to egg white and be:
During the run-up to ovulation, the body produces up to 30 times more mucus than it will after ovulation.
This discharge is more elastic and watery than at other times during the menstrual cycle. Some women may choose to wear pantyhose during this time.
Watery discharge and pregnancy
When a woman is pregnant, the cervix and vaginal walls become soft. To protect the uterus, the body increases its production of vaginal secretions to help prevent infections from traveling through the vagina to the uterus.
Because of this, some women may find that they have more clear to white discharge during pregnancy, and this is normal.
In the last week of pregnancy, the discharge may change from clear to white to discharge containing thick streaks of mucus or a little blood. This is normal and happens because the mucus that was in the cervix during pregnancy leaves the body as it prepares for birth.
Watery discharge and sexual arousal
During periods of sexual arousal, glands in the vagina produce a clear, watery fluid to lubricate the vagina and prepare it for possible sexual intercourse. This discharge is normal and usually goes away within an hour.
The dismissal is typically:
Watery discharge and menopause
As estrogen levels decrease during menopause, the vagina produces less discharge, and it is more likely to be watery. Dismissal can also be:
When does vaginal discharge occur?
Vaginal discharge is normal and can occur at any time during the menstrual cycle.
Dismissal before a period
Discharge can change throughout the menstrual cycle. It may appear clear, white or slightly yellow. It may appear darker when it dries on underwear.
The amount of discharge can change depending on the time of the cycle. Discharge can become thicker or thinner throughout the cycle.
In the run-up to your period, the discharge may change from clear to brown or pink. This is known as spotting and is normal.
Dismissal after a period of time
Some women may find that they have slight spotting after their period. It can be brown or red in color and is typically lighter than a regular period. This is normal and is part of the period rounding.
Some women experience unexpected bleeding or spotting throughout their cycle.
In a small 2012 analysis of 201 women’s bleeding and spotting patterns during their menstrual cycle, researchers found that about 5% of women experienced spotting midway through the cycle. But many experts believe spotting may be even more common.
Unexpected bleeding throughout the cycle can be pink, red or brown and is often lighter than a period. It may not require the use of sanitary protection.
Handle watery discharge
Watery vaginal discharge is normal and a sign of a healthy vagina. There is no need to do anything to try to stop the discharge, but some women may find using sanitary protection helpful.
Tips for dealing with excessive discharge
If you experience a large amount of discharge, such as around the time of ovulation, or if you experience spotting, you may want to wear a panty liner for extra protection.
You don’t need to worry about discharge that is white or clear, but there are steps you can take to prevent abnormal discharge and protect your overall vaginal health, including:
- Wipe from front to back when using the toilet
- Avoid tight pants, pantyhose or cycling shorts for long periods of time
- Wear cotton underwear during the day to allow the genital area to breathe
- Do not wear underwear at night
- Avoid sitting in hot tubs
- Bathe daily and pat the genital area dry
- Do not use feminine hygiene sprays
- Avoid toilet paper that is perfumed or colored
Should You Shower?
Douching is not necessary to clean the vagina, and in many cases can actually be harmful. This is because douches contain chemicals that can disrupt the pH balance of the vagina and encourage the growth of problematic vaginal bacteria.
Douching also carries other risks. This can spread infection to the uterus and can increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). If you notice an odor coming from your genitals, simply wash the outside of the vagina (called the vulva) with mild soap and water to eliminate any odors.
When to see a health care provider
Clear, watery vaginal discharge is rarely a cause for concern. But if you experience excess discharge, or it changes color or viscosity (thickness), especially if it is accompanied by fever and/or pain in the abdomen or pelvis, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider to be checked.
You should also contact your healthcare provider if you have unusual discharge and think you may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
There are some symptoms that may indicate an infection, and it is important to be aware of them. If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your healthcare provider:
- Burning with urination
- Other urinary symptoms
- Symptoms that worsen
- Symptoms that do not resolve after a week
- Itching in the genital area
- Redness in the genitals
- Swelling in the genital area
- The presence of blisters on the vagina or vulva
- Sores on the vagina or vulva
- Sudden changes in the color of discharge
- Sudden change in smell of discharge
- Sudden change in consistency of discharge
Watery discharge is usually not a cause for concern and is a sign of a healthy vagina. This can be an indication that the vagina is cleaning itself, and can also be an indication of ovulation. If it is accompanied by other symptoms such as itching or a sore vagina, it may be caused by thrush or another condition. If you develop additional symptoms that are concerning, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider.
A word from Verywell
Watery vaginal discharge is normal and natural, but if you find wet spots in your underwear embarrassing, that’s normal too. Panty liners can be helpful in absorbing excess moisture that the body creates between periods.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does watery discharge indicate pregnancy?
Watery discharge does not necessarily indicate pregnancy – it could be due to ovulation or sexual arousal. But during pregnancy there is an increase in the level of a hormone called progesterone which can cause more discharge.
What infection causes watery discharge?
Watery discharge is usually a sign of a healthy vagina. However, if you have watery or thin discharge that is also accompanied by itching or soreness in the vagina, you may have thrush. This is a common infection that is not sexually transmitted. It can be treated with anti-fungal medication.
What does watery discharge before menstruation mean?
Watery discharge can occur at any time during the menstrual cycle. This is a sign of a healthy vagina and that the body is functioning as it should. During ovulation, there may be an increase in watery discharge, and some women may prefer to use pantyhose during this time.