What is vaginal discharge?
Vaginal discharge is necessary to protect the health of a woman´s body
Vaginal discharge is a combination of cervical mucus and vaginal secretions.
It has an important protective function by keeping the vagina lubricated and preventing bacteria and other germs from entering the uterus. This is a part of the self-cleansing mechanism of the vagina.
The amount of discharge increases most during the ovulatory phase
The amount of vaginal discharge is directly affected by the woman´s levels of female hormones and it fluctuates with the phases in her menstrual cycle.
In general, the amount of discharge continues to increase after the end of a menstrual period until it peaks during the ovulatory phase, when the discharge becomes clear and elastic, like jelly.
Its volume then decreases following ovulation, and the discharge becomes sticky and yellowish-white. Such changes in vaginal discharges indicate healthy hormone levels. You occasionally find some blood in the discharge during the ovulatory phase, but this is usually explained by a physiological phenomenon called intermenstrual bleeding.
The amount of discharge varies greatly between individuals
Is the amount of vaginal discharge I have too much? Does my discharge smell too strongly? Being unable to compare your discharge with others´ means the issue of vaginal discharge can be a cause for worry. However, the amount or the smell of vaginal discharge varies greatly between individuals. Some with a fair amount of discharge will feel it flowing out and even wetting their panties around the time of ovulation. This is nothing to worry about; it only proves that you have decent levels of female hormones.
On the other hand, women with little discharge may have low levels of estrogen. However, this should also not be much of a problem as long as you have regular periods. Sometimes a vaginal inflammation also causes temporary fluctuations in the amount of discharge because it reduces your body´s defenses. If this is the case, get some rest and try keeping your private parts clean.
The amount of vaginal discharge changes depending on a woman´s age
Vaginal discharge varies according to levels of female hormones, so its amount is also affected by your age. In addition, the amount of discharge may increase during pregnancy due to the increased estrogen levels.
From menarche to the end of your teens
The amount of vaginal discharge gradually increases around the time of menarche. The amount can fluctuate due to female hormone imbalances often experienced during these years in a woman´s life.
From your twenties to menopause
The levels of female hormones peak during women´s twenties and thirties, after which the amount of discharge mostly levels out. The amount then decreases along with the reduction of female hormone production.
After two or three years following menopause, women experience vaginal dryness as discharge declines when estrogen secretion more or less stops.
A woman´s cycle and changes in basal body temperature and vaginal discharge
Female hormones influence a woman´s cycle
A woman´s body goes through cyclical changes under the influence of female hormones. This is referred to as the menstrual cycle. This cycle is tied to the levels of estrogen and progesterone in our body. Estrogen levels peak when ovulating, followed by an increase in progesterone levels. Levels of both hormones gradually decline if pregnancy does not occur after ovulation, and then the next menstrual period begins.
The follicular phase (proliferative phase)
During this phase, a primary follicle begins to grow in the ovary, induced by a follicle-stimulating hormone secreted from the pituitary gland. The uterine lining gradually starts to thicken as the follicle matures and estrogen is secreted.
The ovulatory phase
The ovum bursts out of its follicle when the levels of the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and the luteinizing hormone (LH) reach their peak, stimulating the matured follicle. This is referred to as ovulation. Some women experience lower abdominal pain at this time.
The luteal phase (secretory phase)
Following ovulation, the follicle develops into a corpus luteum which secretes progesterone. This induces the uterine lining to further thicken and form a cushion, preparing the endometrium for a fertilized egg to be implanted in it.
The menstrual phase
During the menstrual phase, pregnancy occurs when an ovulated egg is fertilized by a sperm and implants itself in the lining of the uterus. However, the corpus luteum shrinks until it disappears if pregnancy does not occur, causing estrogen and progesterone levels to drop. The uterus will then shed its unused lining and expel it along with blood. This process is referred to as menstruation.
What you can learn about your menstrual cycle from vaginal discharge
Changes in vaginal discharge follow a certain cyclical pattern. Many of you probably sense an increase in the amount of vaginal discharge as you approach your ovulation day. Recognizing the pattern of changing vaginal discharge you have will help you understand your menstrual cycle, enabling you to predict when you are about to ovulate or have your period.
From immediately after a period to the follicular phase (proliferative phase)
Your vaginal discharge darkens or turns brown, combined with old blood immediately after your periods. The amount of vaginal discharge then declines temporarily and it becomes watery.
The ovulatory phase
The amount of vaginal discharge increases most during this phase. You will continue to have clear and elastic, jelly-like discharge for two to three days. Although occasional blood may be found in your discharge, it should not have a strong smell.
The luteal phase (secretory phase)
The amount of discharge declines gradually as it turns white and sticky like glue. It may appear yellowish on your underwear.
The amount of vaginal discharge starts to increase again. The color of discharge is white, which may appear yellowish on the underwear. The smell gradually becomes stronger. You may start finding a small amount of blood in the mucus a few days before menstruation.