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What Are the Common Causes of Excess Vaginal Discharge?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2014
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Vaginal discharge is normally secreted to keep the vagina clean, but some events can cause the typical amount to increase, often resulting in discomfort. One of the most common causes of excess vaginal discharge is ovulation, during which time the cervical glands secrete mucus to help achieve pregnancy. Once this occurs, the excess vaginal discharge does not go away, because increased blood flow to the vagina during pregnancy combines with increased progesterone to make extra secretions. Preventing pregnancy, however, is not a surefire way to avoid increased discharge, because the progesterone in birth control pills can have the same effect. While most cases of excess vaginal discharge are the result of hormones, the issue sometimes is caused by a treatable condition such as a yeast infection or a more serious condition, such as cervical or vaginal cancer.

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Women who pay attention to their menstrual cycle often notice a sudden increase in vaginal discharge toward the middle of the cycle, 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 progesterone during ovulation leads to the extra lubrication, because the point of it is to make sexual intercourse go smoothly so pregnancy is likely to occur. An additional cause of excess vaginal discharge during this time is sexual excitement, which is most likely to occur in women during ovulation, though it can happen at any time in the cycle.

Once ovulation has passed and pregnancy is achieved, the issue does not disappear. In fact, vaginal discharge tends to increase as a result of the high levels of progesterone during this time. The increased blood volume in the body often leads to more blood flow to the vagina, which is another reason for excess discharge at this time. While pregnant women are advised not to wear tampons, panty liners are often suggested to keep the underwear dry as the pregnancy progresses. Pregnant women should also know that while clear or white discharge is considered normal, they should be checked by a doctor if it is streaked with pink or red.

Some women may assume they can avoid this issue altogether by stopping ovulation and preventing pregnancy via hormone-based birth control. Birth control that contains the hormone progesterone can cause excess vaginal discharge, because it may trick the body into assuming it is pregnant. Thus, women who are bothered by this problem may consider birth control without this hormone.

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 cause of their abnormal vaginal discharge.

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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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