By BSc (biologist & science teacher).
Last Update: 03/31/2014

Vaginal discharge is the fluid that comes from the vaginal and cervical glands. Its main function is to prevent infections and contribute to the lubrication and cleaning of the female reproductive organ.

The amount and the appearance of the mucus produces changes throughout the menstrual cycle and depends on the quantity of estrogen released by the ovaries.

Observing the changes in texture and appearance of the vaginal discharge provided an idea of when the woman is ovulation and, thus, help determine the days the woman is at her most fertile. You can check this by looking at the toilet paper after cleaning yourself or by introducing a clean finger in the vagina and moving it closer to the cervix.

Types of vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharge can have a wide range of textures, colors, elasticity, etc. Thus, we classify it into four main groups:

Egg-white aspect

It indicates the most fertile period, since it allows the sperm cells to swim more easily inside the cervix. This type of discharge can be stretched between your fingers from 2.5 to 5 centimeters without breaking.

Watery

This is the second best vaginal discharge to conceive a baby. It allows the sperm to move forward, however less than in the previous one. It may look like urine leaks. It is light in color and it drips if you take it in between your fingers.

Thick and creamy

It occurs at an infertile stage, it impedes the movement of sperm cells. It may be of color white or yellow. When you rub it with your fingers, its texture is similar to that of a lotion.

Sticky

It is found during the least fertile period. It is thick and has lumps. Its texture is similar to that of glue, which makes sperm unable to swim through it.

Variations throughout the cycle

As for the amount of discharge, variations are also observed throughout the cycle. The usual amount of discharge can increase for several reasons:

  • ovulation
  • sexual excitement
  • stress
  • irritation
  • pregnancy
  • hormonal medication

Cervical mucus during ovulation

Ovulation is the process whereby an egg is released from the ovary into the Fallopian tubes, where it will wait for the arrival of the sperm in order for fertilization to occur. For this reason, the cervical mucus becomes fluid, thin and elastic  during the days right before ovulation.

These are the most fertile days for a woman and the cervical mucus is prepared for them. The purpose of its consistency is to allow the entrance of the sperm in the vagina and to facilitate its rise to the fallopian tubes.

Infections that alter the cervical mucus

Generally, it has the appearance of transparent and odorless mucus, which can turn whitish or yellowish when exposed to the air. When a sudden change of color, smell, consistency and amount happens, it may be indicative of a problem, for example an infection.

It is recommended to go to the doctor if abnormal vaginal discharge appears along with the following symptoms:

  • If the woman has fever and pelvic pain.
  • If the woman has had sexual contact with men with gonorrhea, chlamydia or another sexually transmitted infection.
  • If the woman experiences an increased thirst or appetite, weight loss, an increase of urinary frequency or fatigue. They may be signs of diabetes.

The diagnostic studies that are usually performed are: cervix culture, examination of a vaginal discharge sample under the microscope and smear test.

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Authors and contributors

 Iván Ferrer Durbà
Iván Ferrer Durbà
BSc
Biologist & Science Teacher
Bachelor's Degree in Biology by the University of Valencia (UV). Postgraduate Course in Secondary Education and Teaching by the University of Portsmouth. Teacher of Sciences at multiple British schools and high schools. More information about Iván Ferrer Durbà

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One comment

    1. Rajawiya

      Hemorrhoids from childbirth? This makes no sense to me. I had a very slight case of them after having my daughter 7 weeks ago. Some mild discomfort during bathroom trips, maybe 1 day of itching, and that was all. It stopped bothering me pretty quickly. I never even had to try using a product. I know they won’t just magically disappear, but now out of nowhere I’m experiencing horrible pain with my bowel movements. I’ve actually found my love for prunes and eat lots of them everyday, and added more fiber anyways after dealing with them the first time around so every stool is a soft one, couldn’t have made a cut or anything, and yet the past few times have been more painful then childbirth! Anyone else experience this? I don’t understand what’s going on.