If you’re experiencing clear, watery fluid coming from your vaginal opening, you might feel uncomfortable or confused. This fluid is called “discharge” and comes in many different colors and forms.
Every healthy vagina has discharge. Most discharge is white or clear and neutral-smelling; but if you’re seeing discharge with a green tinge or horrible smell, you will want to see your gynecologist right away.
If clear, watery discharge is normal, what purpose does it have?
Vaginal discharge might make you feel icky, but the truth is it’s often a sign that everything is working as it should.
Your vagina is a self-cleaning wonder. Every month the amount and type of discharge you observe coming from your body depends on where you are in your cycle, gives you clues about your health and fertility, and keeps bacteria and other invasive particles out of your vagina.
Clear, watery discharge during pregnancy has different causes than when you experience this type of discharge outside the context of a pregnancy.
Fertile or Not: Clear, Watery Discharge As Part of Your Cycle
Keeping track of your cycle is a crucial part of understanding your overall health as a woman, even if you are using birth control.
Birth control hormones sometimes alter the amount of discharge you notice, but your body should balance itself and return to a normal cycle soon after taking it.
Everyone’s body is a little different.
Watery discharge is the most common kind you will see. It’s the fluid that flushes out bacteria and keeps your vagina clean and healthy.
Combined with healthy bacteria living in your vaginal canal, watery discharge can kill bad bacteria, prevent infection, and keep the pH levels in your vagina at a healthy level.
You can expect to have about a ½ teaspoon of vaginal discharge per day during the most fertile time of your life. Exceptions include pregnancy, ovulation, and when you are on birth control.
All of these situations increase estrogen levels, which increases the amount of vaginal discharge you might experience.
So what does clear, watery discharge mean, and at what point in your cycle should you expect to experience it?
Clear discharge that is slippery (like egg whites when you rub it between your fingers) is an indication that you are ovulating2.
Ovulation is when an egg releases from one of your ovaries and makes its way down the Fallopian tube into your uterus, where it will either be fertilized by your partner’s sperm or sloughed off during your period in the following weeks.
This type of discharge provides the sperm with the easiest path to the egg for the optimal chance at fertilization.
This mucus becomes more sticky or stretchy as the ovulation period comes to a close.
If you notice clear discharge that is odorless, you may be ovulating. Track these changes on a fertility chart and you may notice a pattern every month that will give you important clues about the length of your cycle and the possibility of pregnancy.
Unless you’re actively trying to get pregnant, you should use hormonal birth control or some other form of barrier protection to prevent pregnancy while having sex during ovulation.
It’s important to note that you can get pregnant any time during your cycle if an egg gets released from your ovaries, which can occasionally happen outside of the ovulation window. And since sperm survive about five days3 after being released, there’s quite a large window of time in your cycle when you can get pregnant.
You can get pregnant on your period, too.
Even when you are ovulating, however, there is only about a 33% chance of pregnancy in each cycle. You can time your intercourse when you see clear, watery discharge, but it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get pregnant.
In a healthy fertility cycle, ovulation will be followed by a bout of dryness and then a period.
If you are sexually active, you may experience clear, watery discharge during or after sex.
This kind of discharge can come from both you and your partner.
If your partner is male and does not use a condom, the clear fluid you are seeing is most likely semen.
When condoms are used, the whitish clear semen fluid is contained within the rubber after ejaculation.
If you are on other forms of birth control or trying to get pregnant, this fluid enters your vagina and may leak out when you stand up after sex.
About 20-54% of women (depending on the study being referred to) “squirt” during orgasm. So-called “female ejaculation” used to be considered a myth, but science has proven it does occur4.
This fluid is discharged from a peri-urethral gland in the vagina. It is clear and sometimes confused with urine. It mostly comes from direct stimulation to the G-spot when a woman is especially relaxed and uninhibited during orgasm.
It’s a good thing if you experience it, and you are perfectly healthy if you don’t!
Started Birth Control
Hormonal birth control can cause an increase in estrogen; it’s one way it works to prevent pregnancy.
Estrogen encourages fluid output in your body, so you may experience more vaginal discharge than usual.
As long as it’s clear and watery with no bad smell, it’s well within the range of normal and nothing to be concerned about.
Why Do I Get Watery Discharge During My Period?
There’s no clear reason why some women notice watery discharge during their period. It could be nothing to worry about, or it may indicate a problem such as fibroids, hormonal imbalances, an STD, or Polyps.
If you are concerned about watery discharge during your period, talk with your doctor about receiving testing.
When Is Watery Discharge Abnormal?
If your vaginal discharge ever smells “fishy”, changes textures to become like cottage cheese, changes colors to a dark yellow or green, or if you have a burning pain or itching sensation, it’s time to see your well-woman specialist or gynecologist5.
You may have a bacterial or yeast infection, or an STD. Your doctor can test for all of these and get you back on the road to recovery.
If you’ve experienced an increase in clear, watery discharge with no odors and you’ve been having unprotected sex, you might be pregnant.
Pregnancy is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, cramping or spotting (blood).
A pregnancy test can confirm your suspicions and a trip to your local midwife or obstetrician will help you figure out the rest.
Did My Water Just Break?
The egg you released during ovulation was fertilized and you’ve discovered that you’re pregnant.
You might not have to worry about the same hormone-cycle fluctuations or period from before you got pregnant, but pregnancy comes with its own host of hormone and body changes.
One of these changes is an increase in estrogen, which thickens your uterine lining and allows for the fertilized egg to implant, which often results in a successful pregnancy.
This increase in estrogen also starts a new flow of clear, watery discharge. If your discharge is streaked with a small amount of bright red blood (also called “spotting”), this is usually a sign of “implantation bleeding”, where the egg is embedding itself in the uterine lining6.
This light bleeding at the beginning of pregnancy is nothing to be concerned about, but if your bleeding becomes heavy, you may need to see a doctor or go into the emergency room to rule out miscarriage.
Watery, clear discharge is normal at the beginning of pregnancy, will gradually thicken up and create a mucus plug in your cervix.
This plug protects your baby from bacteria until it’s time for him or her to be born.
Somewhere between 36 weeks and when you go into labor, your body will release this mucus plug in unnoticeable bits, long slimy pieces, or all at once in a big glob.
Losing your mucus plug is one sign labor is near, but this plug can regenerate and is not a sure sign that you’ll meet your baby soon. Labor could come within a few days or within a few months after you lose your mucus plug7.
Sometimes you will see your mucus plug, other times it will leave your body without you noticing, or a big gush of amniotic fluid will wash it out as your water breaks.
Your water can break in a tiny trickle, can start and stop, or can come in a big gush either before or during labor. So how can you know if that clear, watery discharge you have during pregnancy is your water breaking?
Preterm VS Full-Term
If you are less than 39 weeks along (preterm) it’s less likely your water broke and more likely to be excessive, but normal, vaginal discharge, unless you had a larger gush of fluid. If you had a larger amount of fluid that soaked your underwear, pants, and/or the place you were sitting, it very well could be your water.
If you’re less than full term, you may have cause for concern, as you might be going into preterm labor. Studies show the normal variation for the length of human gestation to be between 37 and 42 weeks8.
You should contact your midwife or doctor if you think your water broke early. You may need to go to the hospital, where they will either try to stop your preterm labor with medication or assist you while you have your baby.
If you’re full term and think your water broke, remember that this is a normal part of labor and not a time to panic. Relax and enjoy this time in early labor before you meet your baby.
Contractions might start up right away or they might take a while. It’s all normal, and as long as your baby is moving and you are feeling okay, you can continue to labor at home until it’s time to go to your birth place, whether that’s the hospital, the birth center, or whether you’re staying at home and having your midwife come to you for a home birth.
Remember T.A.C.O. if you think your water has broken. TACO stands for time, amount, color, and odor – and will help you determine if your water broke and if you need to be concerned.
This is more for your doctor or midwife; he or she will want to know what time of day or night you think your water broke.
Most mainstream medicine agrees that the majority of women will deliver their babies within 24 hours after their water breaks.
This isn’t always the case, and as long as you don’t have sex, ask for fewer vaginal exams, and keep your vaginal area clean, there’s a very low risk of infection and you should be able to have your baby without being induced, even if your labor takes longer than 24 hours9.
Are you experiencing small trickles when you move? Did you have a gush that soaked your underwear? Are you wondering if you just peed your pants?
If you soaked through your pants and onto whatever surface you were sitting or laying on, that’s a good sign your water broke.
If you experience more trickling every time you change positions, that’s another indicator that you are leaking amniotic fluid.
Amniotic fluid should be completely clear or have a slight milky tint.
It may have tiny white flecks in it, which is just vernix from your baby’s skin and is perfectly normal.
If the fluid seems yellow, green or brown, or leaves a residue in your underwear, your baby may have passed meconium in the womb and may be stressed.
You should call your midwife or doctor right away if you noticed your water had a color to it so they can give you instructions and are better prepared to help your baby when he or she is born.
Amniotic fluid should have a neutral, pleasant odor. Some women say it smells like their period.
This is the main thing that separates amniotic fluid from urine, as urine will have a typical, slightly unpleasant ammonia-type scent.
If there is a foul smell, you may have an infection and should talk to your doctor.
If your water breaks, labor is usually not far behind.
The best thing you can do is to relax and inform your midwife or doctor and the rest of your birth team. You’re going to meet your baby soon!
If you have watery discharge during pregnancy, the only times you should be concerned are:
- if it comes in large amounts and you are less than 37 weeks pregnant
- if it’s foul-smelling or accompanied by pain or itching, or
- if the discharge is red, which indicates internal bleeding and may be a sign of a more serious condition such as premature labor, placental abruption, uterine rupture, or another complication. Any time you see a disconcerting amount of blood during pregnancy, it’s better to be safe and see your health care provider.
Treatment for Clear, Watery Discharge
Hopefully you understand by now that clear, watery vaginal discharge is normal and not something that needs to be “treated”.
It can be uncomfortable to walk around feeling wet all day, however, so here are some tips for feeling clean while your vagina’s busy keeping itself clean as well.
A light-day panty liner will keep you feeling dry during those times in your cycle when you experience clear, watery discharge.
You might be tempted to use a tampon – however, you should avoid using tampons outside your period due to the risk of toxic shock syndrome.
Though not necessary for keeping clean, using a baby wipe when you use the toilet might help you feel better about your cleanliness.
Find a brand without harsh fragrances to avoid irritating your vaginal opening, and never use one to wipe inside your vagina. Remember, it cleans itself!
It’s the new craze and women are raving about this new lined underwear that you can wear on your period without a tampon or pad.
It would be perfect for keeping your vaginal area dry when you’re experiencing watery discharge.
You can also just change your regular underwear more often if that is comfortable for you.
The key is keeping the area dry because a dark, moist environment is more inviting for bacteria that can cause infection in your vaginal area.
Clear, watery discharge by itself is often not a cause for concern, but excessive discharge can sometimes lead to an infection.
You can head it off by drinking unsweetened cranberry juice, increasing vitamin C intake, or taking a D-Mannose supplement.
Wrapping It Up
Now you know a little more about your vagina and what clear, watery discharge can mean whether you’re just tracking your fertility cycle or are pregnant at the time.
Your “lady part” is a wonderful, incredible part of you that keeps itself clean and healthy as long as you take care of it and the rest of your body.
The best thing you can do is be aware of your own “normal” and take note of any changes.
- Period Tracker App – Eve. https://appadvice.com/app/period-tracker-app-eve/1002275138.
- What to know about cervical mucus and fertile discharge. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323503.php.
- Determining Your Fertility Window. https://americanpregnancy.org/getting-pregnant/fertility-window/.
- What is female ejaculation? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323953.php.
- What is bacterial vaginosis? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/184622.php.
- What Is Implantation Bleeding? https://americanpregnancy.org/getting-pregnant/what-is-implantation-bleeding/.
- Mucus Plug: Bloody Show. https://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/mucus-plug/.
- Length of human pregnancy and contributors to its natural variation. Jukic AM, et al. Hum Reprod. 2013 Oct; 28(10): 2848–2855.
- Premature Rupture of the Membranes (PROM). https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/women-s-health-issues/complications-of-labor-and-delivery/premature-rupture-of-the-membranes-prom.