Watery discharge: What does it mean, and why does it happen?

    Updated 09 September 2023 |
    Published 21 March 2019
    Fact Checked
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Ruth Arumala, Obstetrician and gynecologist, gynecologic and cosmetic surgeon, Texas, US
    Written by Olivia Cassano
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    Everything you need to know about the look, smell, and texture of your discharge.

    Key takeaways 

    Main causes of watery discharge 

    Have you ever gone to the bathroom and noticed a watery discharge on your underwear? Or maybe you were going about your day and suddenly felt wetness in your vagina? Don’t worry, this is totally normal and something most of us will experience. When it’s not accompanied by a foul smell or itchiness, watery discharge is nothing to be concerned about. In fact, it’s a reassuring sign that your vagina is self-cleaning and healthy

    You might be curious about how you can tell anything about your vaginal health from discharge. Well it turns out that the vagina is a pretty amazing organ. Glands inside your vagina and cervix create fluid to flush out dead cells and bacteria. Healthy, normal discharge provides lubrication and protects your vagina and urinary tract from infections. 

    What your discharge can tell you?

    Learn about different types of discharge, what is means, and what health conditions it can indicate

    Watery vaginal discharge can happen for many reasons, including hormonal fluctuations that happen during ovulation and pregnancy or because you’re sexually aroused. So here’s the lowdown on watery discharge. 


    You might notice watery discharge in the lead-up to ovulation. So don’t worry if you feel wetter than usual around that time. Ovulation typically happens at the midpoint in your cycle. You can figure out when you might ovulate using an ovulation calculator

    You might have heard of ovulation but not be quite sure what it is. It’s when one of your ovaries releases an egg. This egg is viable for 12 to 24 hours, and if a sperm fertilizes it in that period, then it may move down the uterine tubes and implant into the wall of your uterus. This marks the beginning of pregnancy. 

    You might have noticed that the texture of your discharge is slightly different just before ovulation. It may appear wet, clear, and slippery — a consistency that helps the sperm on its journey to meeting the egg. 

    Sexual arousal

    Clear watery discharge can be a physical response to being turned on — what people commonly refer to as “being wet.” When you’re sexually aroused (or turned on), blood rushes to the vagina and pushes fluid through the walls of your vagina. This is your body’s way of self-lubricating in preparation for sex. That being said, keep in mind that not everyone gets wet when they’re aroused, and using lube can help make sex more comfortable and pleasurable.  


    While exercise doesn’t directly cause an increase in vaginal discharge, it can feel that way thanks to high-impact movements such as running or jumping that may help discharge come out. Additionally, sweating during exercise can also contribute to feeling wetter. 


    During pregnancy, your body experiences a lot of hormonal changes that can affect your discharge in many ways. You may notice a change in your discharge as early as two weeks after conception, including experiencing more discharge. Normal discharge, or leukorrhea, is thin, clear, and might have a mild smell.


    After menopause, some people may notice that their vaginal area feels a bit dry. It’s still possible to have some discharge during this time, but it might be thinner and more watery than usual. Menopause can also increase the chances of getting vaginal infections, which can cause discharge that’s different from what you’re used to. If you’re at all worried, book a checkup with your health care provider.

    What could cause a change in vaginal discharge?

    Clear, watery vaginal discharge is typically a sign that your vagina is healthy, but any sudden changes in color or smell could mean that something’s up. Here are the most common causes of discharge changes. If you have any of the symptoms, then speak to your health care provider for advice and, if necessary, treatment. 


    If you have excessive watery discharge that is accompanied by itching, pain, and an unpleasant smell, you may have an infection. Some common infections that cause watery discharge include the following. 

    Bacterial vaginosis

    Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition caused by an imbalance in bacteria normally found in your vagina. The main symptom of BV is grayish, excessive watery discharge that has a foul or fishy odor. The most common way to treat BV is with antibiotics. 

    Yeast infection

    In most cases, yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. Candida is a normal part of the vaginal flora, but when it overgrows or penetrates the deeper layers of your vaginal cells, it causes an infection. The main symptoms of a yeast infection are: 

    • Itchiness and irritation of the vagina and vulva
    • Pain or a burning sensation when you pee or have sex
    • A thick, white, and odor-free discharge that looks like cottage cheese 
    • Less commonly, white, watery discharge  


    Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis (sometimes called “trich”) can all cause changes to your discharge, including discharge that is clear, white, gray, or green and that has a foul smell. Other symptoms of STIs can include

    Everything about different types of discharge
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    Hormonal imbalance

    Since hormones play a big part in the consistency and amount of your vaginal discharge, any hormonal imbalance caused by a health condition or lifestyle factors like stress could potentially cause your discharge to look more watery. Tracking your discharge with an app like Flo can be a helpful way to spot when something might be wrong. 

    Hormonal birth control

    If you’re using hormonal contraception such as the combined pill or hormonal intrauterine device, you might notice an increase in vaginal discharge during the first few months. Don’t worry, this is completely normal and will likely only be a temporary side effect. 

    Why the timing of watery vaginal discharge matters

    It’s common for vaginal discharge to change in appearance and texture throughout your menstrual cycle. Keeping track of these changes can help you figure out which phase you’re currently in. Here’s what it can signal:

    Watery discharge before your period

    If you notice some watery discharge before your period, it could mean that you’re ovulating (preparing to release an egg from an ovary). This discharge typically looks clear and stretchy, quite similar to an egg white. As your period gets closer, the discharge may become cloudy and white. It’s entirely normal and nothing to worry about.

    Watery discharge after your period

    After your period, you may notice a slightly brownish color in your vaginal discharge. This is just your body expelling any remaining old blood from your vagina. It might look disconcerting, but it’s not a cause for concern. After a few days, this should stop.

    Tips on how to manage watery discharge

    Experiencing some watery vaginal discharge is actually a good sign. So, there’s no need to worry or try to stop it. However, if you’re dealing with a lot of discharge, it might help to use panty liners, pads, or period underwear to keep you comfortable throughout the day. That way, you won’t have to worry about any dampness or discomfort.

    Although you don’t have to worry about watery discharge, here are a few useful tips to keep your vagina — and your discharge — as healthy as possible:

    When to speak to your doctor 

    You should speak to your health care provider if your discharge is accompanied by any unpleasant symptoms, including:  


    Can stress cause watery discharge?

    You might not associate vaginal discharge with stress, but stress hormones may indeed impact your cycle. That’s because stress can affect your body’s natural hormonal cycle, which plays a big role in how your discharge looks.

    Can dehydration cause watery discharge?

    Dehydration is unlikely to cause watery discharge. Being dehydrated can make your vagina parched, too. 

    Is clear discharge something to worry about?

    Unless clear watery discharge is accompanied by a foul or fishy smell or any itching, burning, or discomfort, it’s nothing to worry about. Clear discharge is a healthy bodily function to keep your vagina clean or a sign that you might be ovulating. 


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    History of updates

    Current version (09 September 2023)

    Medically reviewed by Dr. Ruth Arumala, Obstetrician and gynecologist, gynecologic and cosmetic surgeon, Texas, US
    Written by Olivia Cassano

    Published (21 March 2019)

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