Vaginal Discharge Is Normal—How Much Is Too Much?

Vaginal discharge is a topic of conversation you've likely filed away under "Things that stay between you and your panties." But that doesn't mean you're not curious or concerned about what you find down there. It's an important body part to be concerned about, from why it itches to how it smells. You might also wonder if the vaginal discharge that yours is producing is normal or something you should be concerned about.

San Francisco-based ob-gyn Jen Gunter, MD, said that over the last five years, she's noticed an increase in the number of women who are worried about the amount of discharge they see in their underwear. "Some women even believe that any vaginal discharge is abnormal," she wrote in a blog post.

That's what prompted Dr. Gunter to clear up confusion on the subject: "Vaginas are meant to be wet," she explained in the post. "Discharge is the by-product of the process that keeps everything in working order. It's not gross, it's normal."

How Much Discharge Is Normal?

According to studies and textbooks, women generally produce anywhere from 1 to 3 ml of vaginal discharge in 24 hours. The amount tends to vary on a day-to-day basis, often affected by factors like ovulation and birth control.

Dr. Gunter filmed a short video to illustrate what qualifies as "normal." In the clip below, she fills a syringe with water mixed with iodine to simulate vaginal discharge. She then empties the liquid onto a panty liner, and it nearly fills the entire surface, showing that a healthy amount of daily discharge is probably way more than you thought.

When Vaginal Discharge Is a Problem

If you're producing more than 4 ml a day, however, that could be a sign of several different conditions.

  • A fistula—an abnormal connection between the colon and the vagina or the colon and the bladder
  • The STI trichomonas—from unprotected sex
  • Vaginitis—which causes itching due to a bacterial imbalance (an extreme and uncommon type of vaginitis is desquamative inflammatory vaginitis.)
  • A foreign object—such as a tampon or condom—is left inside the vagina. If this is the case, you'll likely have other symptoms as well, said Dr. Gunter, such as irritation, itch, strong odor, or pain with sex.

If you're experiencing an unusually great amount of discharge—3 to 4 ml—or think you may have one of these other conditions, check in with your healthcare provider, she said.

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