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The color and viscosity (thickness) of vaginal discharge can change from day to day and at different points in the menstrual cycle. Clear, sticky discharge is common in most women when they are ovulating and at other specific times, such as during sexual arousal.
This article will explain what causes clear, sticky discharge, management strategies, and when to see a healthcare provider.
The word “woman” is used in this article to refer to people who identify as women and have typical reproductive organs of a cisgender female. We recognize that some people who identify as women do not have the same anatomy as that depicted in this article.
What Causes Clear, Sticky Discharge?
Clear vaginal discharge is normal and can be due to several reasons. Clear discharge that is sticky may be due to ovulation, sexual activity, pregnancy, lifestyle factors and even stress.
When ovulating, the body produces a clear discharge that is stretchy, sticky, or slippery. The discharge may be similar in appearance to egg whites and is an indication of fertility.
There is also likely to be a higher volume of discharge during this time. In the lead-up to ovulation, vaginal glands produce up to 30 times more cervical mucus than in the period following ovulation.
Monitoring cervical mucus can help women understand when they are at the most fertile time of their cycle. Observing cervical mucus takes into account factors like:
- Appearance: This refers to color and consistency. During ovulation, discharge is typically clear and stretchy.
- Sensation: How mucus might feel at the vulva. During ovulation, it is typically wet and slippery.
- Fertile window: Tracking the menstrual cycle can offer clues as to when ovulation is likely to happen and how vaginal discharge changes at each stage of the cycle.
During pregnancy, the walls of the vagina and the cervix began to soften to make room for a growing fetus. The body will create more vaginal discharge to stop infections moving up the vagina to the womb. Increases in the hormone progesterone also contribute to an increase in vaginal discharge.
This is why some women notice they have more discharge while pregnant and may even mistake it for urine due to the volume of fluid. During most of the pregnancy, healthy discharge should be:
- Clear or white
Towards the end of pregnancy, discharge may change to include streaks of blood or mucus. This can be normal and not a cause for concern.
The body goes through many changes during menopause, and the vagina often becomes less moist during this time due to declining levels of estrogen and progesterone.
However, women still produce discharge, just in smaller amounts. Discharge should be clear and non-irritating.
If the discharge becomes yellow or white in color, it may be indicative of an infection and you may want to consult your healthcare provider. Disruptions to the vaginal flora, like thrush and bacterial vaginosis, are more common after menopause because less anti-bacterial mucus is produced in the vagina.
Sexual Arousal and Activity
When the body is sexually excited, glands in and around the vagina produce arousal fluid. Arousal fluid is created to lubricate the vagina and prepare it for potential sexual intercourse. Unlike other forms of discharge, arousal fluid often disappears within an hour. Arousal fluid is:
Clear, sticky discharge can be normal at any time during the menstrual cycle. A regular volume of discharge is roughly a teaspoon a day that ranges from clear to white in color. The discharge may also vary between thick and thin and odorless to musky.
Some women experience an increase in watery, clear discharge when exercising. This is normal and nothing to worry about.
Some medications, such as hormonal contraceptives (birth control pills) can impact vaginal discharge.
Combined oral contraceptives that contain both progesterone and estrogen can thicken cervical fluid. This helps stop sperm from entering the uterus and prevent pregnancy, but it can change the appearance of discharge. Some women on the pill may find their discharge becomes white consistently throughout the entire month.
When to See a Healthcare Provider
Clear, sticky discharge is normal and may happen at any time during the cycle. This is not a cause for concern. If the amount of discharge is bothersome, a panty liner may be worn.
However, sudden changes to discharge, or discharge accompanied by other symptoms, may be indicative of an underlying problem and warrants attention by a healthcare professional.
You should contact your healthcare provider straight away if you have abnormal vaginal discharge that is accompanied by other symptoms including:
- Pain in the pelvis
- Pain in the abdomen
You should also contact your healthcare provider if you have any of the above symptoms and think you have been exposed to an STI.
It is important to be aware of symptoms that could be indicative of an infection and seek out medical care. Speak with your healthcare provider if you experience persistent or intense irritation in the vagina or vulva or any of the following:
- Itching in the genital area
- Redness in the genital area
- Swelling in the genitals
- Sudden changes to discharge (in color, amount, odor or consistency)
- Symptoms that worsen
- Symptoms that persist for more than a week
- Burning with urination
- Blisters on the vagina or vulva
Clear, sticky discharge can happen any time during the menstrual cycle and is not a cause for concern. Clear discharge can be an indication of ovulation and pregnancy, but may also happen during periods of sexual excitement, during menopause, and even when exercising. If you are concerned about your vaginal discharge or if there are sudden changes to your vaginal discharge accompanied by symptoms like a fever or cramping, make an appointment to speak with your healthcare provider.
A Word From Verywell
The vagina is self-cleaning, and the discharge that it produces plays a big role in keeping the vaginal environment healthy. If you have a clear, sticky discharge, it's generally a sign that your vagina is working optimally. Having knowledge about what your normal discharge looks and feels like at different points in your cycle and what is a cause for concern is a good way to take control of your health.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is clear jelly discharge?
Vaginal discharge that is clear with a jelly-like consistency is normal and may be indicative that you are ovulating or about to ovulate. In the lead-up to ovulation, the body produces up to 30 times more discharge. It usually has the consistency of egg whites (or jelly) and may be stretchy or slimy.
- Does clear vaginal discharge mean pregnancy?
Clear vaginal discharge can be a sign of pregnancy, but it does not necessarily indicate pregnancy. Discharge is clear through most parts of a woman's menstrual cycle. But during pregnancy, the body ramps up the production of vaginal mucus to help prevent infections from traveling up through the vagina and into the womb where the fetus is growing.
- What is the difference between period discharge and pregnancy discharge?
During pregnancy, healthy discharge is clear or white and rarely smells. This differs from the fluid that exits the body during a period.
During a period, blood exits the vagina. This can happen for three to eight days. When a period is heaviest, the blood is usually red. On lighter days of the period, the discharge from the vagina may appear black, brown, or pink.