Vaginal Discharge and Your Cycle: Are Differences During the Month Normal?

Discharge and cycle

Have you ever noticed that your vaginal discharge changes as you move through your menstrual cycle? You may have heard about ovulation discharge that happens in tandem with an egg releasing each month, but there are even more nuances to how discharge can change with your period. In this article, we’ll address some common and perfectly normal changes in vaginal discharge before and after your period. We’ll also discuss how to recognize abnormal discharge.

Vaginal discharge changes over the course of a woman’s menstrual cycle. These changes in color and thickness are associated with ovulation and help to create conditions that are favorable for fertilization of the egg. These changes are completely natural. Discharge may vary based on the amount of progesterone and estrogen levels in the blood throughout the menstrual cycle. Progesterone and estrogen are two hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle.

Point in Monthly Cycle

Discharge Characteristics

At the very end of your period

Brownish discharge (old blood) signifying the end of your period

The days immediately after your period

Little to no discharge. Some women report “dryness” during this time, but over the next several days, discharge will likely increase and appear yellow, cloudy, or white in color, and may be sticky

Days approaching ovulation

Before an egg is released, up to 30 times more mucus is produced than after ovulation! It is also more watery and elastic  and may be cream-like in appearance

Ovulation

Discharge can be at its highest in the days around ovulation, with an egg white color and consistency—this is sometimes called ovulation discharge

Days after ovulation and before you menstruate

Less discharge may be present and it may have a thicker consistency

Once you reach menopause, your vaginal discharge may change once again. Many menopausal women have an abnormal discharge that results from decreased estrogen levels that cause the vagina to become thin and dry. A thin, dry vagina can become irritated and inflamed, resulting in a discharge.

Recognizing Normal and Abnormal Discharge

Normal vaginal discharge is usually clear or milky and may have a subtle scent that is not unpleasant or foul smelling. Changes that may signal a problem include an increase in the amount of discharge, a change in the color, smell or texture of the discharge. You may also experience other symptoms with a change in discharge, such as  irritation, itchiness or burning in or around your vagina. The combination of these factors can help reveal what may be going on in your body.

A vaginal discharge is considered abnormal if it is:

  • Heavier than usual
  • Thicker than usual
  • Pus-like
  • White and clumpy (like cottage cheese)
  • Grayish, greenish, yellowish, or blood-tinged
  • Foul- or fishy-smelling
  • Accompanied by itching, burning, a rash, or soreness

Only you know your body. If you have vaginal discharge that doesn’t seem normal for you (with or without other symptoms), talk to your healthcare professional.

Check Your Symptoms

See what your vaginal discharge and other symptoms may be telling you.

Opinions, content and any information expressed on or linked with this website, are intended to be general in nature and do not constitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek medical advice from your professional healthcare provider.

Sources:

  1. Cervical mucus and your fertility. American Pregnancy Association web site. Available at:  http://americanpregnancy.org/getting-pregnant/cervical-mucus/. Accessed May 20, 2017.
  2. Vaginal discharge. Merck Manual web site. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/women-s-health-issues/symptoms-of-gynecologic-disorders/vaginal-discharge. Accessed May 20, 2017.
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