Supervisor：Specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology Dr. Ayako Shibata
Have you ever noticed your discharge seems different than usual? In fact, the state of your discharge can be a useful indicator of your current health status and even your ovulation cycle.
Table of Contents
What is Discharge?
The Connection Between Discharge and Health
Self-Checking Discharge During the Menstrual Cycle
What is Discharge?
Discharge is the acidic secretion from the vagina. It varies in amount, smell, and color depending on the individual and their menstrual cycle. Discharge serves several important functions, such as keeping the vagina moist, protecting the mucous membranes, and preventing bacteria from entering the uterus.
Monitoring your discharge regularly is important for understanding your health.
Health Insights from Discharge
To monitor your health, it's essential to distinguish between normal discharge and signs of infection.
Normal discharge is typically semi-transparent to whitish, resembling egg white with some stickiness. The amount of discharge can vary due to hormonal influences, often increasing during ovulation and menstruation.
Abnormal Discharge and Potential Illnesses
Increased discharge outside of ovulation or menstruation might indicate infection or inflammation. Some conditions that can be suspected based on the discharge include:
Discharge mixed with blood (pink or brown) can signal abnormal bleeding (normal if it's just after menstruation or during the follicular phase). Possible conditions include cervical cancer, chlamydia cervicitis, gonorrhea, or cervical polyps. Repeat occurrences should be checked by a gynecologist.
Watery discharge could indicate sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia or gonorrhea, or bacterial vaginosis. Fever and lower abdominal pain can occur if the infection worsens. It can lead to infertility if it spreads to the fallopian tubes.
Yellow-green, snot-like discharge might be a sign of gonorrhea, E. coli, or other bacterial infections. Gonorrhea may require antibiotic drip treatment.
Cottage cheese-like discharge with itching might indicate vaginal candidiasis. While it can heal naturally, repeated or severe itching may require medical attention and medication.
A fishy odor could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis. If it doesn't improve in a few days or symptoms are severe, seek medical attention.
Creamy, frothy discharge with strong itching might be trichomoniasis. Early consultation is advisable.
Can Discharge Reveal Your Menstrual Cycle?
Next, let's discuss how discharge changes throughout your cycle. Self-checking can help predict not only your ovulation but also when your period is due.
Post-Menstruation to Follicular Phase (Proliferative Phase)
After menstruation ends, the pituitary gland secretes follicle-stimulating hormones, stimulating the development of a primary follicle in the ovaries. As the follicle develops and secretes estrogen, the uterine lining thickens.
During this phase, discharge is usually light and reduces temporarily, increasing gradually as ovulation approaches.
This phase marks the peak of follicle-stimulating and luteinizing hormone secretion. A mature follicle releases an egg from the ovary.
Discharge reaches its peak in amount during this period. It's generally clear and jelly-like, lasting for 2-3 days. Occasionally, blood may be mixed in (mid-cycle bleeding).
Luteal Phase (Secretory Phase)
After ovulation, the leftover follicle turns into the corpus luteum, secreting progesterone. This hormone further thickens and softens the uterine lining, preparing for possible fertilization.
Post-ovulation discharge gradually decreases and becomes cloudy and sticky. As menstruation approaches, the odor may intensify.
If fertilization occurs, the egg and sperm combine to form a zygote, which implants into the uterine lining, resulting in pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur, the secretion of estrogen and progesterone decreases, leading to the shedding of the uterine lining along with blood. This process constitutes menstruation.
Thread Test for Discharge
A useful method to check the changes in your discharge is the "thread test." Using clean fingers, collect some vaginal discharge and see how much it stretches between two fingers. Just before ovulation, the discharge becomes more abundant and stretchy, possibly extending up to 10 cm. Around ovulation, it resembles egg white and stretches around 4-5 cm. Post-menstruation, it barely stretches at all.
Understanding your usual discharge can not only help identify your ovulation period but also early signs of potential illnesses. Take this opportunity to start self-checking.
Dr. Ayako Shibata
Specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Perinatal Maternal and Fetal Medicine at Yodogawa Christian Hospital
After graduating from Gunma University Faculty of Medicine in 2011 and completing her initial training in Okinawa, Dr. Shibata joined her current position in 2013. She is actively involved in prenatal care, gynecological outpatient services, health information dissemination, and seminars.
Publications: "Emergency Outpatient Care for Women: Diagnosis in Progress!" (Chugai Igakusha, 2017), "Obstetrics and Gynecology Pocket Guide" (Kanpo-do, 2020), "Essence of Women's Medical Care 100" (Japan Medical News, 2021)