Cervical discharge or mucus is normal during a woman's menstrual cycle and helps keep the vagina healthy. The mucus or discharge from the cervix has the function of eliminating bacteria and dead skin cells from the vagina to prevent infection. Under normal circumstances, cervical discharge looks like a clear or milky-white fluid that should not have a strong odor.
The type of cervical discharge or mucus changes throughout the menstrual cycle. For example, right after your period, the mucus or discharge may be thinner and watery and around ovulation it becomes thicker and stickier. Also, you may experience an implantation discharge that looks like light brown spots if you become pregnant.
It is also important to know about cervical discharge that shows signs of a vaginal infection. If your cervical mucus has a distinctive unpleasant odor or is unusual in color, it could show that you have a bacterial or yeast infection.
10 types of discharge or cervical mucus
Let's take a closer look at the 10 types of cervical discharge that you can observe during your menstrual cycle. You will also know when to see a doctor by detecting signs of abnormal discharge.
1. Thin and clear cervical discharge
Most women experience thin, clear cervical discharge shortly after their period or just before their next period.
Doctors from the National Health Service (NHS) say it is normal for older women and girls to have vaginal discharge. This can vary in quantity and texture during the menstrual cycle. Also, not all women have the same amount of discharge as part of the normal menstrual cycle. Doctors say that the color of normal cervical discharge is clear or white and is sticky for most of the menstrual cycle1.
Clear, watery cervical discharge can occur at different times in your cycle. You may also notice a thinner watery discharge in your underwear after strenuous exercise.
A thin, clear watery discharge is often noticed after being intimate. Sexual arousal increases the amount of vaginal discharge. The discharge will be thinner and more watery than usual.
2. Milky white cervical discharge
You may find that your vagina produces a white discharge that has a milder appearance towards the end of your menstrual cycle.
Around the third week of your cycle, many women notice that their cervical mucus thickens and appears cloudy or creamy. This is completely normal as the amount of discharge decreases after ovulation.
However, if you have become pregnant, you may notice some signs of implantation spotting and increased cervical discharge. The white milky discharge occurs because the walls of the vagina thicken in preparation for pregnancy.
3. Ovulation flow that looks like egg white
The mucus, or discharge from ovulation during the middle of your cycle, takes on a sticky appearance that can resemble egg whites.
Increased discharge around the time of ovulation is important to help sperm live long enough to fertilize an egg. In the days before ovulation, you will notice that vaginal discharge increases and that the secretions are elastic and moist.
Doctors from the American Pregnancy Association say that cervical mucus at ovulation is generally called egg white cervical mucus (EWCM). This happens when hormone levels fluctuate and the consistency of the discharge changes. The mucus will also take on a creamy appearance. At the time of ovulation, your cervical discharge is at its highest.
If you keep a regular menstrual calendar, keeping track of the amount and type of cervical mucus can also help determine when your chances of conceiving are at their highest. Aside from a thick jelly or egg white discharge at the time of ovulation, there are other ways to tell if you are about to ovulate, such as abdominal cramps, mild spotting, breast tenderness, and an increase in basal body temperature.
4. Implantation secretion
Implantation discharge looks like a pink or brownish discharge or spotty as a result of getting pregnant.
The slight spotting or discharge occurs when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. This can lead to implantation cramps and light spotting as the uterus contracts. The brown discharge usually occurs between 6 and 12 days after conception. This means that many women mistake this early sign of pregnancy for the start of their menstrual period.
Mild bleeding in early pregnancy is completely normal and nothing to worry about. Implantation bleeding only lasts for a short time and should not be heavy or painful.
5. Cervical mucus during pregnancy
If you are pregnant, you will notice an increase in cervical discharge that lasts for most of your pregnancy.
According to NHS doctors, cervical discharge during pregnancy occurs as the cervix and vaginal wall become softer. This increased discharge helps prevent bacteria from reaching the uterus and affecting you or your baby's health. Normal cervical discharge during pregnancy is a thin discharge with a milky white appearance.
You will also notice changes in cervical secretions towards the end of your pregnancy. For example, vaginal discharge increases and becomes very watery and could be mistaken for urine. During the last week of pregnancy, doctors say that cervical mucus can be thick and even bloody. This is normal and is a sign that your body is preparing for birth.
Signs of abnormal discharge during pregnancy include unpleasant colored discharge that has a strange odor along with vaginal itching or swelling. If this happens, you should always speak to your doctor or obstetrician for advice.
6. Bloody or brown cervical mucus
Depending on your menstrual cycle, you may occasionally have bloody or brown cervical discharge right after your period.
Brown or bloody discharge right after your period is old blood. This happens when your body cleanses any waste from your menstrual period. This is normal for many women. Brown discharge just before your period could also be a sign of implantation bleeding.
If you have irregular menstrual periods, you may have a brown discharge from time to time. This may be for the same reason that some women have brown discharge towards the end of their period.
In rarer cases, noticing brown discharge at other times during the menstrual cycle could be a sign of something more serious. An abnormal cervical discharge that is brown or tinged with blood could be a sign of cervical cancer.
Researchers from the American Cancer Society say that if you have an unusual brownish discharge between periods or are postmenopausal, you should schedule a checkup with your doctor.
7. White and lumpy vaginal discharge
A vaginal yeast infection is usually the cause of white, lumpy discharge that is also itchy around the vagina.
It is normal for your vagina to contain small amounts of healthy yeast and bacteria. Yeast infections in the vagina occur when there is an overgrowth of yeast due to an imbalance of "good" and "bad" bacteria. This imbalance can cause a thick white cervical discharge that resembles cottage cheese.
A yeast infection in the vagina is called a yeast infection. Yeast infections of the vagina cause thick white discharge. The other symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are swelling and pain around the vagina, severe itching, and pain during intercourse.
There are many natural ways to get rid of lumpy white vaginal discharge caused by a yeast infection. For example, coconut oil is a natural remedy for Candida because it contains antimicrobial properties that can help eliminate Candida pathogens. There are also many foods that can increase your vaginal health. Other natural treatments for yeast infection include apple cider vinegar and applying plain yogurt to the vagina.
8. Yellow or green cervical mucus
Cervical mucus that is yellowish or green and has an unpleasant odor can be a symptom of a bacterial infection.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal infection when harmful bacteria infect the vagina. Other types of vaginal infections that cause unpleasant discharge are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Common symptoms of a vaginal infection include yellow or green discharge, swelling and itching around the vagina, and a strong vaginal odor. You may also feel painful urination and bleed during sex. Infections of your reproductive organs can also be a reason for less pelvic pain.
Some natural remedies for bacterial infections that affect the vagina include tea tree oil for its antibacterial properties, apple cider vinegar, and probiotics.
9. Grayish cervical discharge
Some vaginal infections can also cause a grayish cervical discharge along with a burning sensation in the vagina.
Infections like bacterial vaginosis can cause a thin gray discharge that has a strong fishy odor. This can also cause discomfort when urinating and itching at the opening of the vagina.
It is important to promptly treat any symptoms of a vaginal infection since vaginal infections can cause more serious complications such as infertility or increase the chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
10. No cervical discharge at all
Some women find that they have little or no cervical discharge, which results in vaginal dryness.
The cervical mucus is stimulated by the hormone estrogen. Fluctuations in your hormone levels can also affect the amount of cervical mucus you secrete during your menstrual cycle.
Many women experience some type of vaginal dryness with little cervical discharge. This is very common in women after menopause when there are reduced levels of estrogen in the body. Also, giving birth or using some types of birth control can affect cervical discharge levels.
When to see a doctor for cervical mucus
If your cervical discharge or mucus generally turns clear and doesn't emit a strong odor, then you don't have to worry. Also, depending on your menstrual cycle, you will notice that the cervical mucus increases in volume and is sticky during ovulation. You may also experience some spots mid-cycle.
In some cases, abnormal cervical discharge can be a sign of a more serious condition that needs to be examined. You should see a doctor for an abnormal discharge in the following circumstances:
1. You notice that your cervical discharge has become thicker or smells different.
2. The mucus in your vagina is gray, yellowish, or green in color.
3. You also have itching, pain, swelling, or burning around your vagina.
4. Along with the abnormal vaginal discharge, you have pelvic pain.
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