Excess vaginal discharge: Causes and Prevention

Vaginal discharge is a natural fluid produced by glands near the vagina and cervix. It keeps the vagina clean and provides lubrication. A healthy vaginal discharge is clear or white and has a neutral smell. Depending on certain factors, the volume may vary over some time.

The vagina discharges an average amount of about 1 teaspoonful of fluid per day. When it is more than 1 teaspoonful, it doesn’t mean it’s excessive. Discharge amounts differ among women similar to oil in your hair or skin. Some people just produce more than others. The most important thing is when a woman knows what is normal for her body or not.

Indications of abnormal discharge 

Normal vaginal discharge should be clear, white, off-white, or a pale yellow. It should be odorless or have a mild, inoffensive odor. 

A discharge is abnormal if it has the following properties:

  • Strong, unpleasant odor or fishy smell
  • Green, grey, or yellow color
  • Chunky texture with itchiness, swelling, or burning
  • Accompanied by abdominal (belly) or pelvic pain (unrelated to your period)
  • Accompanied by a burning sensation during urination

Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms.

Causes of excess vaginal discharge

1. Arousal

Extra lubrication or liquid is normal when a woman is aroused sexually. It’s the body’s way of preparing the vagina and its opening for intercourse. You may also notice an increase in your heart rate or swelling of the vulva.

2. Ovulation

Around ovulation, discharge increases and thins out. It becomes more clear, more slippery, and more stretchy. You may notice ovulation pain in the abdomen (belly) or pelvis (between hips) during this time. 

3. Hormonal imbalance

Birth control, menopause, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and pregnancy all affect hormones. These hormonal fluctuations may affect the volume of discharge.

4. Pregnancy

Increased vaginal discharge is common with pregnancy. It begins some weeks after conception. And will continue to increase as hormonal changes prepare the woman’s body for pregnancy. 

5. Yeast infection

Discharge from a yeast infection (or vaginal candidiasis) is usually white, thick, and chunky, like cottage cheese. It often causes itching or burning.

Changes in hormones, medications such as antibiotics or steroids, excess sugar, or diabetes can increase the risk of a yeast infection. 

6. Bacterial vaginosis (BV)

BV occurs when the healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted. While BV is not transmitted through sexual contact, it commonly occurs in sexually active women.

7. Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)

Some infections are spread during sexual contact. They are referred to as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Common STIs like Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Trichomoniasis may increase vaginal discharge.

Prevention of excess vaginal discharge

Normal vaginal discharge cannot be prevented. However, excess vaginal discharge caused by infections can be prevented by doing the following:

  • Wiping from front to back
  • Wearing breathable underwear
  • Avoiding tight pants
  • Changing clothes when wet
  • Avoiding hot tubs
  • Cleaning around your vaginal opening with water only
  • Avoiding chemicals from detergents, scented toilet paper, or scented feminine hygiene products (like pads and tampons)
  • Using a barrier device such as a condom during sexual intercourse
  • Avoiding latex condoms or sperm-killing gels that may be irritating to you

Contact your healthcare provider if you have any worrisome symptoms.

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