What Are the Common Causes of Excess Vaginal Discharge?

Excess vaginal discharge may occur during the middle of the menstrual cycle.
Sexual excitement may cause excess vaginal discharge.
Birth control pills that contain the hormone progesterone may cause excess vaginal discharge.
A yeast infection can account for increased vaginal discharge.
Birth control pills that contain progesterone can cause excess vaginal discharge.
Discharge may increase just before menstruation due to hormonal changes.
Panty liners absorb excess vaginal discharge.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Excess vaginal discharge is most commonly caused by the hormonal spike that accompanies ovulation, and is also a regular part of pregnancy, particularly in the early stages. Women who have a progesterone imbalance or who are taking birth control pills with high doses of this particular hormone may also see more discharge than they’re used to. Yeast infections could also be to blame, particularly if the discharge is accompanied by pain or itching, though in many cases there’s no specific cause at all. Medical experts typically agree that it’s pretty normal to see temporary increases in discharge as a routine part of the female reproductive cycle. Discharge ebbs and flows with normal hormone fluctuations, and some days are almost certainly going to be wetter and moister than others. Women who are concerned about the amount of discharge they see are encouraged to get a medical check-up, though, particularly if the discharge is brown, rust-colored, or particularly foul smelling, as these could indicate a more serious medical condition.

Ovulation

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One of the most common causes of excess vaginal discharge is ovulation, which is the moment a woman’s ovaries release an egg into the uterus for fertilization. The cervical glands secrete mucus to help sperm find that egg and achieve pregnancy. Women who pay attention to their menstrual cycle often notice a sudden increase in vaginal discharge about two weeks after the first day of their period. This is when ovulation tends to occur in women of childbearing age, and the main sign of this event is extra discharge known as cervical mucus.

The increase in the sex hormone progesterone during ovulation frequently also leads to extra vaginal lubrication. Most women produce some natural lubrication at all times, though in many it’s the thickest and richest right around ovulation since this will make sexual intercourse go smoothly, thus making pregnancy more likely. An additional cause of excess discharge during this time is sexual excitement, though this can happen at any time in the cycle.

Pregnancy

Heavy discharge is also very common during the early weeks of pregnancy. The increased blood flow to the vagina during these first weeks combines with increased progesterone to make extra secretions to not only protect the fertilized egg but also create a moist place for it to grow and develop.

Sometimes things return to normal once the pregnancy really takes root, but not always. Depending on the woman, there can sometimes be a lot of discharge that basically never lets up as the body adjusts to the growing fetus. This can last through delivery and even beyond. Pregnant women are frequently advised not to wear tampons, usually to avoid the risk of infection, but panty liners and light pads are often suggested to keep the underwear dry and the woman more comfortable as the pregnancy progresses. Pregnant women should also know that, while clear or white discharge is considered normal, anything that appears streaked with pink or red should be evaluated by a healthcare professional right away.

Progesterone Imbalances

Where both ovulation and pregnancy are concerned, the main driver behind the increase in discharge is the hormone progesterone — but a woman doesn’t have to be either ovulating or pregnant to see spikes in this chemical that can lead to increased wetness. Birth control that contains this hormone, for instance, can cause excess vaginal discharge because it may trick the body into assuming it is pregnant. Women who are bothered by this problem may want to consider switching to a different formula.

More Serious Conditions

In some cases, excess vaginal discharge is not a normal occurrence; instead, it may signal an infection or even vaginal or cervical cancer. This is especially true when the discharge is pink or brown, because that can be a sign that it may contain blood. A yeast infection can cause increased discharge that is thicker than usual and leads to itching and irritation. Those with cancer may notice their discharge smells foul or is particularly watery. Women with these symptoms are advised to consult their doctor to determine the specific cause.

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Discuss this Article

pleonasm
Post 3

It's a good idea to pay attention to this kind of thing, since it can be easy to miss and dismiss as just another quirk of the female anatomy. But even an excessive clear vaginal discharge can be the sign of an infection, and a brown or yellow vaginal discharge is even more of a sure sign.

The quicker you get it treated, the quicker it will go away. Unfortunately it's not the kind of thing that gets better if you ignore it.

browncoat
Post 2

@ana1234 - Well, even if they wanted to change it, there's no real solution to normal vaginal discharge, except maybe for menopause. Most women know by now that it's not a good idea to douche or use products made to perfume or clean the vagina, since it can upset the pH balance and cause thrush very easily.

But I don't think it's entirely wrong to be annoyed at excessive discharge. It can be very inconvenient, particularly if you want to wear nice underwear without having to use a liner. That happened to me when I was on birth control and, in the end, I switched to a different one in order to stop it. I can't blame someone for wanting to be able to do that if they simply naturally have the same problem every month.

We should be able to choose whatever we want to do with our bodies, even if that means changing how they might react naturally.

Ana1234
Post 1

I just want to point out that women need to be careful about whose definition of "excessive vaginal discharge" they are using. We get socialized these days to view everything our bodies do with suspicion and I think many people worry too much about perfectly natural conditions.

The vagina is made to create discharge in order to clean it and lubricate it. If someone tells you that it's not normal, make sure that person isn't just trying to sell you something.

If it's doing something radically different from the usual, then of course it might be a problem. But I'm sick of women feeling guilt and shame over facts of life that they should see as perfectly natural.

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