Is your watery discharge from your vagina making you feel like you peed yourself? You’re not alone. All women will likely experience watery vaginal discharge at some point in life.
Sometimes it can be heavy enough to make you wonder if there’s anything wrong ‘down there’. Let’s talk about whether or not watery discharge is normal and what it could mean.
The discharge (sometimes called leukorrhea) in your underwear starts out as cervical mucus and lubricants in the vagina.
The cervix makes this mucus as a natural lubricant and a fertility aid. It even cleans and protects the vagina from certain infections.
On average, you can expect 1-4ml of vaginal discharge per day. But the amount, color, and consistency of your cervical mucus changes throughout your cycle.
For instance, at times you may notice it’s more thin, clear, and copious. Other times, your discharge may be brownish or even pinkish. We’ll get to how to read this shade card a little further ahead in the article.
To begin with, know that these changes are totally normal. Think of them as your body’s attempt to communicate with you. Taking note of changes in your discharge is a good step towards making better sense of your cycle.
Let’s start off by understanding what watery discharge is.
Why is my discharge watery?
The first thing you should know is that watery discharge is generally normal. Here is a 101 guide on tracking cervical mucus.
Here are a few more normal descriptors of female discharge:
- Slightly odorous
- Sticky or pasty
- Stringy or stretchy
Thin, stretchy, or watery discharge is linked to changes in the levels of progesterone and estrogen. As these hormones rise and fall throughout your cycle, they influence how your cervix creates mucus. But there are different reasons why these hormones could be fluctuating.
Here are some reasons for watery discharge:
- Ovulation – If you’re not pregnant, chances are you are seeing thin, watery discharge with the consistency of egg whites because your body is getting ready to release an egg from the ovaries. It could indicate the onset of ovulation and your fertile window, which is the best time to have sex in order to successfully conceive.
- Sexual arousal – You’ll probably notice a “wet” feeling in your underwear when you’re having foreplay or getting ready for sex. This slippery arousal fluid is made by glands inside the vagina and helps with lubrication during intercourse.
This isn’t technically cervical mucus. Unlike mucus, this fluid dissipates quickly. You may notice a more substantial amount of discharge when you wipe after sex, and this is normal.
- Exercise – It’s totally normal to notice more clear, watery discharge in your underwear after a good workout. This can be brought on by any physical activity. Some experts believe this happens because of the increase in abdominal pressure when you work out. This pressure may push out cervical mucus and lubricant in the vagina.
- Pregnancy – Beginning in early pregnancy, you may notice you have more discharge that is clear and liquid. Estrogen, progesterone, and the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) cause these changes. Cervical mucus plays a vital role in protecting pregnancy and preventing preterm labor. We’ll get to that later.
- Hormone birth control – Medications and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs) can change the appearance and consistency of cervical mucus. Generally, these make discharge more thick, but they can cause an increase in watery discharge as well.
- Fertility medications – Many fertility medications stimulate the production of the hormones that cause ovulation. This can lead to more liquid, watery discharge as your body prepares to release an egg. Ask your doctor about potential side effects of fertility medication.
- Menopause – Even after your fertility cycle has stopped, your vaginal discharge can still be watery or copious during menopause. Vaginal atrophy, a condition causing the vaginal walls to thin, can lead to more liquid discharge during this time.
- Cervical surgery – A LEEP procedure (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure) can cause liquid, copious discharge for several weeks afterwards. This procedure involves scraping abnormal cells off of the cervix, and your doctor may tell you to wear sanitary pads during your recovery.
As you can see, there are a lot of potential reasons why your discharge may be watery.
But know that in general, watery discharge is a normal symptom. If you’re worried about your discharge, tell your doctor about it.
Excessive watery discharge
Even excessive watery discharge is generally normal. If you notice more than 1ml of discharge in your underwear, this is typically not something to worry about.
It’s even a sign that your vagina is healthy. This fluid helps to flush out the vaginal canal and protect it from germ invaders.
What about leaking discharge that makes you think you peed your pants?
Finding a damp underwear can be embarrassing. But unless it’s accompanied by other symptoms, excess discharge is typically normal.
If you’re finding yourself worrying about excessive watery discharge, panty liners and pads can help prevent that peed-your-pants feeling. These may be especially helpful during pregnancy, since many women notice an increase in discharge during this time.
Yellow watery discharge
Yellow watery discharge is common in the days before your period. This is typically pale and odorless.
But in some cases, yellow discharge can be a sign of infection. Yeast infections and sexually transmitted diseases can lead to changes in discharge. Pay attention to other symptoms like pain and swelling around the vulva, painful urination, and painful sex.
Watery discharge and cramping
These two symptoms together may be a sign that your period is approaching.
These can be common symptoms in the days leading up to your period. Estrogen and progesterone changes can cause you to start noticing period symptoms up to a week before you start bleeding. Discharge may be more yellow or liquid, and you may notice abdominal cramping as well.
Watery discharge before, during, or after your period
Watery discharge can happen at any time in your cycle. While it’s most common around ovulation, you may notice more clear discharge around your period as well.
This is a sign that your vagina is healthy! Clear discharge helps to flush out germs and protects your reproductive organs from infection.
Watery discharge after ovulation:
Watery, clear discharge right after ovulation is normal and generally a good sign. This is also sometimes called egg-white cervical mucus (EWCM).
Discharge becomes thin around ovulation because it helps with sperm motility during your fertile window. It also helps filter out unfit sperm so that only the best sperm can access the ovum for fertilization.
This watery discharge around ovulation will become thicker and whiter during your luteal phase, which falls between your ovulation and menses.
These cervical mucus changes are like clockwork through your cycle, and it’s even possible to predict ovulation by tracking cervical mucus. Check out our guide on cervical mucus for more info.
Does watery discharge mean I’m pregnant?
Watery discharge can increase in the first few weeks of pregnancy. But this is not considered a solid sign of pregnancy. You can try to predict whether or not you’re pregnant using your cervical mucus, but the only true indicator of pregnancy is a positive pregnancy test. This test is best taken after you miss your first period post-intercourse.
Watery discharge during pregnancy
Even though watery discharge does not confirm you are pregnant, you will likely notice changes in your discharge during pregnancy. These are linked with progesterone and estrogen.
Let’s talk about what you can expect for your discharge in each trimester of pregnancy.
- First trimester
Early on in pregnancy, many women start to experience more discharge than usual.
In a normal fertility cycle, cervical mucus goes from clear and liquid to thicker and white after ovulation. But if you’ve gotten pregnant during this cycle, your discharge will stay liquid and clear. You may even have more of it than usual. This is the first change in discharge during pregnancy.
Later in the first trimester, you may notice pale, yellow, or sticky discharge. Pregnancy hormones and vaginal blood flow contribute to these changes. Thicker cervical mucus may help prevent infection during this time.
- Second trimester
Discharge continues in the second trimester of pregnancy. This can range from being liquid and clear to sticky or white.
- Third trimester
Discharge typically increases even more during the third trimester. This can be liquid, cloudy, tan, and stringy.
In the last few days or weeks of pregnancy, discharge often is more pink and jelly-like. This happens as you shed mucus that forms on the cervix for pregnancy. It’s often called “show” or “bloody show”, and is a sign that your body is beginning to prepare for labor.
Here are a few tips if you’re living with excess discharge.
- Use a sanitary pad to catch excess watery discharge and keep underwear dry.
- Don’t use tampons, which can bring germs into the birth canal.
- Wash your vulva with a wet washcloth to freshen up.
- In the bathroom, be sure to wipe from front to back.
- Avoid douching, which can flush germs and irritants into the vagina. Studies have shown that douching is linked to preterm birth.
- Avoid scented sprays and deodorants, which can be irritating.
If you’re feeling the need to freshen up, you can wash your vulva with a wet washcloth. Scented sprays and other irritants should also be avoided during this time.
When to tell a doctor about your watery discharge?
In general, watery discharge is totally normal and it’s not something you need to tell your doctor about. But sometimes watery discharge can be linked to vaginal thrush or a yeast infection. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should let your doctor know:
- Discharge that accompanies redness, itching, or swelling around your vagina
- Any discharge with a strong odor
- Pain in your pelvis that happens after sex or between your period
- A significant change in the odor or color of your discharge
Meanwhile, there are some kinds of vaginal discharge considered wholly unhealthy. This discharge can be an indication of sexually transmitted infections, like chlamydia or gonorrhea, and is a sign that you may need medical intervention.
Tell your doctor about discharge that is:
- Strong smelling
- Of cottage cheese consistency
- Green or yellow-colore
- Clear, watery discharge is generally normal, and can happen at any time in your cycle.
- More liquid discharge is typically linked with ovulation, sexual arousal, or pregnancy.
- Even excessive watery discharge is typically normal, and it isn’t necessarily a sign that you’re pregnant.
- Discharge changes and typically increases in volume throughout pregnancy.
- While watery discharge is normal, pay attention to discharge that comes with pain, swelling, or strong odors.