Is It Normal to Have Vaginal Discharge, Like, a Lot?

Here’s how to know when it warrants a doctor visit.

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As you sit on the toilet, you glance down and notice a bit of, er, something on your underwear. It’s mostly white in color with a hint of yellow, and kinda looks like … snot. If this is a new discovery, you may be wondering what this stuff is. For the veterans, you know that it’s just your vaginal discharge, doing its daily thing.

What’s a normal amount of vaginal discharge?

To put it simply, it's normal to have daily discharge. The vagina has to remain lubricated, and as a result, you may have secretions that end up on your underwear.

Vaginal discharge is naturally produced by glands in the cervix and the walls of the vagina. It starts off as a clear mucus, then often turns white or yellow when exposed to air.

The amount of discharge that comes out of your vagina can vary, depending on hormone changes in the body. This means you may see an increase in discharge during ovulation, pregnancy, and even when you’re sexually aroused. Vaginal secretions can be thicker or thinner depending on the timing of your cycle as well.

What are signs of abnormal discharge?

Even if you notice gook on your underwear on the regular, it’s important to know that not all vaginal secretions are created equal. If your discharge looks or smells different than usual, it could be a sign of an infection or other health issue. In general, vaginal discharge is considered abnormal if it’s:

  • Heavier than usual
  • Thicker than usual
  • Pus-like
  • White and clumpy (like cottage cheese)
  • Grayish, greenish, yellowish, or blood-tinged
  • Foul- or fishy-smelling
  • Accompanied by itching, burning, a rash, or soreness

These vaginal discharge symptoms could be signs of:

  • Sexually transmitted infection (STI): Green or yellow discharge — when accompanied with pain — could be a sign of a gonorrhea or chlamydia infection.
  • Vaginal yeast infection: Thick, white, and itchy discharge is a sign of a yeast infection.
  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV): Bacterial vaginosis is when there’s an overgrowth of normal bacteria in the vagina. This can cause discharge to be a gray color and have a fishy odor. Bacterial vaginosis is usually treated with antibiotics.
  • Menopause and low estrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness, which can trigger vaginal discharge and soreness, itching, or burning. Here are other causes of vaginal dryness.

When should you see a doctor?

If you notice any changes in your vaginal discharge, or if you’re feeling any itching or burning around your vagina (which could be a symptom of a UTI), see your doctor.