Harvard Women's Health Watch

Ask the Doctor: Should I worry about a heavy vaginal discharge?

Should I worry about a heavy vaginal discharge?

Q. I'm concerned about the heavy vaginal discharge I have been having lately. Could this be a sign of an infection?

A. Vaginal discharge is natural, and an increase may reflect normal changes in your body. However, it frequently raises concerns and is a common reason women decide to see a gynecologist.

Most women produce "normal" vaginal discharge daily—typically a white or clear discharge that may have a slight odor or may be odorless. The amount, consistency, and color of the vaginal discharge vary from woman to women. Vaginal discharge can also vary over the menstrual cycle and can be influenced by contraceptive use. It may decline or change following menopause.

Vaginal discharge is usually a sign that your body is normal, and it helps to keep you healthy. It protects women from vaginal dryness, provides lubrication during intercourse, and helps prevent vaginal infections and urinary tract infections.

Vaginal discharge isn't always good, however. A significant increase in the amount of discharge, a change in color or consistency, or a foul odor—especially if you also have vulvar itching or burning, pelvic pain, or pain with intercourse or urination—may signal a vaginal infection or other medical issue. If this is the case, you should see gynecologist for an evaluation.

- Hope Ricciotti, M.D. and Hye-Chun Hur, M.D., M.P.H.
Editors in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Learn more about our
health content.