Why Do I Have So Much Discharge? A Few Possible Causes

By Nena Luster DNP, MBA, FNP-BC
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
May 5, 2022

Discharge is a normal part of vaginal health.

It’s also totally normal for the amount of vaginal discharge to increase or decrease and for the texture, smell, and color to change throughout the menstrual cycle.

However, some infections and other medical conditions can also lead to abnormal changes in discharge.

Knowing the difference between what’s normal and what may be concerning can help you decide when to seek treatment and how to prevent health problems from escalating into serious issues.

First we’ll detail common and more serious causes of heavy vaginal discharge.

Then we’ll discuss how to know the difference between what is normal and what is cause for concern.

Lastly, we’ll go over tips for managing heavy discharge and when to see a healthcare provider.

Why Do I Have So Much Discharge?

Vaginal discharge serves several purposes. 

It helps to clean the cervix and vagina but also plays a role in becoming pregnant.  

Not everyone produces the same amount of mucus, and the amount of discharge you notice may vary throughout your menstrual cycle.

It can be normal to have cervical mucus that creates small wet spots on underwear or that requires an extra wipe when going to the bathroom.

But if you notice an increase in discharge accompanied by other symptoms, it may be a sign of something more concerning.

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Signs of excessive vaginal discharge

A normal amount of vaginal discharge in a 24-hour period ranges from 1-4 milliliters.

This is just under a teaspoon at the most. You may notice more discharge before or during ovulation.

Otherwise, consistently seeing a lot more discharge is considered excessive and you should investigate it further.

Causes of Heavy Vaginal Discharge

There are many reasons why you may experience heavy vaginal discharge.

Some are common and not cause for concern while other reasons may require treatment from a medical provider.

Common causes

  • Arousal: The vagina produces clear, watery secretions for lubrication during sexual arousal. There is not a set normal amount of secretion during sexual arousal.  Some will have a larger amount of discharge while others may require additional lubrication with sexual activity. Also, if you have unprotected intercourse with someone who has a penis, semen may remain in the vagina and slowly leak or suddenly gush out after sex. This may seem like  a sudden heavy vaginal discharge but it is not.
  • Ovulation: Before ovulation, the body increases the production of cervical mucus. This makes the acidic nature of the vagina friendlier to sperm, which makes conception possible. Even if you are on birth control, your body will still produce this discharge. Some people with vaginas may have several days of watery mucus prior to ovulation. Others may have only 1-2 days of clear or egg-white cervical mucus or have no noticeable mucus around ovulation. The reason for this change is because menstrual cycle changes affect hormones which regulate how much cervical mucus your body produces, as well as its color, texture, and thickness. 
  • Pregnancy: Even before a missed period, vaginal secretions can change in response to pregnancy hormones. Many describe feeling a sudden increase in clear or white discharge. This discharge often continues throughout the entire pregnancy. 
  • Yeast infection: Candida, or “yeast”, lives in the body all the time. Changes to the vaginal environment can allow the normal “yeast” in the vagina to overgrow.  This can happen when taking antibiotics or using strong body products.  Changes in the vaginal environment can also occur with medical conditions such as diabetes and issues that depress the body’s immune system. A yeast infection can cause thick white or cottage-cheese-like discharge that may or may not have a mild odor. Vaginal itching is common.
  • Bacterial vaginosis: Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a bacterial infection of the vagina but it is not a sexually transmitted infection.  Similar to how a yeast infection develops, bacterial vaginosis can occur when the balance of the vagina is off.  When the balance is altered, the good bacteria in the vagina overgrows. BV may lead to a sudden increase in white, gray, or green discharge.   A strong, fishy odor is commonly noted. It can also cause itching, burning during urination, and other discomfort.
  • Hormone imbalances: Hormone changes can take place at anytime but are most common during the perimenopause and menopause periods.  Perimenopause is theperiod of hormonal change before menopause. During this time, estrogen levels can drop, which can lead to different discharge patterns. Estrogen levels continue to decrease into menopause however, vaginal discharge often decreases during menopause.  In addition, hormonal contraceptives, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hormonal-related conditions, and certain prescription medications can also cause hormone imbalances. Let your healthcare provider know if you have concerns about unusual discharge patterns.

More serious causes

  • Sexually transmitted infections: If you notice an increase in vaginal discharge that is yellow, gray, or green, it may be a sign of a bacterial infection or sexually transmitted infection (STI). The discharge may be thick or thin.  A foul odor may be present but not always. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis are all sexually transmitted infections that can cause discharge, painful urination, and other painful symptoms. It is important that you are screened for STIs on a regular basis because STIs can be present even without symptoms. 
  • Cervical cancer: An ongoing increase in discharge that is not due to a known cause may rarely indicate cervical cancer. This is typically associated with other signs such as pelvic pain, painful intercourse, bleeding after sex, heavy period bleeding, or bleeding between periods. 

What Is Considered Healthy Vaginal Discharge?

Vaginal discharge lubricates the vagina and cervix, clears old cells, and helps prevent infection.

Healthy discharge varies from person to person and can look and smell different depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle in addition to other personal factors. 

Normal vaginal discharge is generally clear, but when it is exposed to oxygen, it may appear white, off-white, or pale yellow.

If normal discharge mixes with menstrual blood, it may have a pink or brown appearance. 

Healthy discharge may have a slight scent, but it should never have a fishy, foul, or pungent odor. 

Normal vaginal discharge should not cause symptoms such as vaginal pain.

Tips for Managing Heavy Vaginal Discharge

Depending on the cause of your heavy vaginal discharge, there are several ways to help manage it.

Treatments and home remedies

If you experience healthy but heavy vaginal discharge at times during your cycle, you can help manage this by: 

  • Wearing cotton underwear and breathable clothing
  • Avoiding tight pants and polyester fabric
  • Wearing a pantyliner
  • Keeping the vagina clean by using a gentle, unscented soap and warm water 

If you believe your heavy vaginal discharge is caused by a yeast infection, you may want to try an over-the-counter (OTC) vaginal cream treatment. 

It is important that you read all of the information that is included with the vaginal cream before using the treatment. 

If the yeast infection is not cured with the OTC vaginal cream, you should see your healthcare provider. 

If your heavy vaginal discharge is being caused by another reason, your healthcare provider may prescribe additional treatments based on the cause. 

While treatments will vary from person to person, some examples include:

  • Antibiotics for STIs or bacterial vaginosis
  • Oral yeast infection medications
  • Hormone replacement or birth control

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When to See a Healthcare Provider

There are many normal causes for an increase in discharge.

However, if you notice a sudden, unexpected increase or discharge with other symptoms such as changes in the color, odor, or texture of the discharge, see your healthcare provider. 

Your provider can perform tests to determine the cause and prescribe any necessary treatment.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can access online urgent care with K Health?

Check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes. 

K Health’s AI-powered app is based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it normal to have a lot of discharge everyday?
Normal vaginal discharge amounts vary throughout the menstrual cycle and also vary from person to person. An average daily amount of discharge is less than a teaspoon. If you have more than this amount on a daily basis, it may be your normal but it is still a good idea to discuss it with your healthcare provider. Having a large amount of discharge everyday that is yellow, green, or gray or has additional symptoms such as odor or discomfort is not normal.t Check with a healthcare provider for guidance.
What causes too much discharge?
Increases in discharge happen in response to pregnancy, infection, and hormone changes throughout a normal menstrual cycle. You may also notice a temporary increase in vaginal fluid during sexual arousal. Discharge that is clear or white with no odor or other symptoms is usually normal. If discharge appears to be like cottage cheese, or is yellow, gray, or green and is accompanied by itching, burning, or pain, it could be a sign of an infection and you should see your healthcare provider for further evaluation
How can I stop so much discharge?
The best way to address discharge depends on what is causing it. If it is caused by ovulation, it will typically resolve a couple of days after ovulation. If discharge is caused by pregnancy, you will likely notice increased amounts of discharge throughout the pregnancy but be sure to discuss it with your pregnancy provider. If you are not ovulating or pregnant and you notice a lot of discharge, this may be a sign that something else is going on. Addressing the cause of the discharge with your healthcare provider is usually the treatment.
How much discharge is too much discharge?
This depends on your normal discharge pattern. If you notice more than your usual discharge amount and you are not ovulating, you may be producing excess discharge. If at any time your normal vaginal discharge changes color or odor, or you suddenly notice a lot more, check with your healthcare provider.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Nena Luster DNP, MBA, FNP-BC

Nena Luster is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 14 years of experience including emergency medicine, urgent care, and family practice. 

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