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White Discharge Before Period: Should You Be Concerned

Written by Elizabeth Buescher, Gynecologist

White discharge is a common premenstrual symptom that affects many women, occurring 2 to 4 days before period. Sometimes, white vaginal discharge may even occur one week before period, going away once the period starts. Most of the time, the white discharge may be accompanied by very mild itching, partially resembling a yeast infection. This is especially normal for teenage girls who have not started their period yet.

However, there are times when white discharge before period is not normal. Any change in the hue, consistency, smell and amount of discharge may indicate the presence of an infection, especially if it  is accompanied by itching discharge, burning or pain at urination, pain during intercourse, swelling and/or redness of the vulva, and abdominal (pelvic pain).Is it normal to have white discharge before period, and how do you know whether there is something wrong down there?

White Discharge Before Period: How Does Normal Discharge Look Like?

Teenage girls and mature women who experience white vaginal discharge during period may notice that the mucus is either “dry,” creamy, egg white-like, watery, lubricating (slippery) and sometimes even slightly brownish. The color can range from clear discharge to milky white to pale yellow and sometimes even brownish. Outlines below are the main types of vaginal discharge you can expect to see throughout your menstrual cycle.

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1. Dry White Discharge

Dry discharge is usually produced at all times during your menstrual cycle except ovulation. This type of discharge is dry, pasty and impenetrable, and is associated with a vague feeling of dryness of the vagina. Dry whitish discharge is typically referred to as infertile due to occurring a few days after period and a few days before period. Since it’s very chunky and clumpy, the sperm has difficulty entering the uterus, and hence it’s very unlikely to get pregnant if you engage in unprotected sex during this period of your menstrual cycle.

2. Creamy White Discharge

Creamy white discharge is common between your dry days and ovulation days. Due to your estrogen levels rising during this period, your cervix produces a more fluid-like discharge. The discharge is creamy, making your vagina feel sticky, tacky and wet. While creamy discharge is significantly thinner than dry discharge, it’s still very dense, and its role is to catch and filter out some of the abnormal or poor-quality sperm cells before they reach the uterus. This ensures that only the strongest and most viable sperm cells will unite with your precious egg. If you have a 28-day menstrual cycle, you can expect creamy white discharge on days 7-11, for example.

3. Egg White-Like Discharge

As ovulation approaches, your cervix produces discharge that is stretchy and slippery, resembling uncooked egg whites. This type of discharge usually creates a wet sensation at your vulva, which is a clear sign of ovulation. It usually occurs during your ovulation days, 12 to 16 days before your next period, so if you are planning to get pregnant, this is the prime time to engage in unprotected sex. On the other hand, it’s also the time to avoid unprotected intercourse if you don’t want to get pregnant. Unlike creamy discharge, egg white-like discharge creates and facilitates pathways for sperm cells to travel to and unite with the egg cell.

4. Lubricating Discharge

When ovulation is imminent, the discharge loses its stretch and becomes very lubricating, creating a wet, slippery sensation in the vulva. The last day when this type of discharge is produced is the most fertile day of the whole cycle – e.g. the day before the egg is released, or the day it’s released. Lubricating discharge is the peak of the union of sperm and egg cells, as the sperm can vigorously pass through the cervix and to the uterus.

5. Watery Discharge

Watery discharge does occur frequently during (and specifically before) menstrual cycle. It’s very normal, and it is particularly heavy after exercising or engaging in any physical activity.

6. Brown Discharge

You may experience brown discharge right when your period stops. This usually occurs because the vagina is cleaning out, flushing out blood remnants, which tend to be light to dark brown.

White Vaginal Discharge Before Your First Period: Is It Normal?

About 6 months to 1 year before a girl has her first period, her body may start to produce white vaginal discharge. Sometimes, you may notice white discharge 2 days before period, or even 4 days before period, but this is absolutely normal and is caused by the changing levels of hormones in the body. The discharge usually has a sticky texture and whitish to clear color, but does not bear any smell. Many teenage girls report symptoms similar to a yeast infection as their first period approaches. These include mild to unbearable itching, a clumpy, cottage cheese-like consistency, and redness. The symptoms usually go away on their own once their first period starts, but may come back a few days before their next period starts. If you notice any of these symptoms before menstrual cycle starts, consider going to a GP and having them checked out. It’s not uncommon for girls who reach puberty to develop yeast infections due to the changing levels of hormones in the body, or even due to antibiotic use. Your doctor will take a sample of the discharge and send it to a laboratory where it will be analyzed to identify potential yeast or bacteria.

White Vaginal Discharge Before Period: Causes

While experiencing white discharge is absolutely normal, there are cases in which its presence may indicate a potential infection. If you notice other symptoms such as redness, swelling, itching, fishy smell or blood spots, you should seek medical assistance immediately. We have listed the most common causes of white vaginal mucus before period below.

1. Yeast Infection

Yeast infection is a type of vaginal infection caused by an overgrowth of Candida albicans, a specific stand of yeast that normally occurs as part of the vaginal flora. Good bacteria such as lactobacillus regulate the growth of yeast, maintaining balance. But when this balance is upset (say, by hormonal changes or antibiotic use), yeast may grow excessively, resulting in whitish discharge with a creamy, pasty or cottage cheese-like consistency and foul smell, itching, swelling and burning at urination. Yeast infections are caused by a wide range of factors, including unprotected sex (although it’s not considered a STD), antibiotic use, douching, feminine hygiene products, pregnancy, incorrect wiping, weak immune system, and more. Anti-fungal medications are needed to successfully treat the infection, which may come in either antibiotic or injection form. If the yeast infection is very mild, probiotic supplements may be enough for staving off the yeast overgrowth.

2. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis is a mild infection of the vagina that occurs when the balance of good and bad bacteria is upset. The infection is usually caused by unprotected sex, incorrect wiping and douching, which can both change the vagina’s pH and upset the balance. Bacterial vaginosis is mild and typically goes away on its own, but you may want to consult a specialist for appropriate treatment anyway, as leaving this infection untreated can have serious consequences.

3. Panty Liners

During the middle of your menstrual cycle, you may notice the amount of discharge increasing substantially. During this period, it’s very likely to accidentally wet your underwear and even your pants, so the use of panty liners may be a good way to avoid this. However, panty liners can mess with your vagina’s pH, causing abnormal discharge. If the panty liner is not changed frequently, bacterial vaginosis may occur. You should avoid the use of panty liners and tampons when you’re not on your period. Instead, you should wear specifically cotton underwear and change it frequently if wetness is an issue.

Is White Discharge Before Period a Sign of Pregnancy?

White vaginal discharge instead of period is oftentimes a sign of pregnancy, especially if you notice an increase in the amount of mucus your vagina produces. It’s important to remember that even if you’re pregnant, you may still have your periods during the first 3-4 months of pregnancy. Some women report cramps but no period at all, while others do have late periods. If you are pregnant and have noticed abnormal discharge coming out of your vagina, you should seek immediate medical attention to rule out the possibility of an infection. Due to the myriad of hormonal changes that occur in their body, pregnant women are oftentimes dealing with yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis, which can both result in whitish discharge with a fishy odor, itching, and swelling of the vulva. If you have had unprotected sex with a new partner, you may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease such as chlamydia, gonorrhea or trichomoniasis, which can lead to abnormal discharge. In case that you experience white vaginal discharge with blood streaks during pregnancy, you should call your doctor immediately and investigate the cause. While it’s common for women to lose a small amount of blood while pregnant (which many may mistaken for their period), it’s always worth checking out the cause to ensure that both you and your baby are safe and healthy.

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White Discharge and Missed Period: Should I Worry?

Every now and then, you may miss a period. This may happen due to a wide range of causes, some of which may be related to an infection. Missed periods are caused by lifestyle changes, such as new dieting habits or traveling, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, stress, and overdoses of pain killers (e.g. ibuprofen). Many women report late periods after having sex a few days before the period is supposed to start. If your discharge doesn’t bear an unpleasant smell and isn’t accompanied by itching, swelling or other symptoms that may indicate an infection, then you shouldn’t be alarmed. Missing periods is a normal happening, and you’d be surprised by how many women deal with this issue every few months due to reasons unknown. However, you should still check with your GP to make sure that there is no reason of concern. Many infections and sexually transmitted diseases may be asymptomatic, and you may not even know that you have them. Your doctor will take a sample of your discharge and analyze it to see whether there are any bacteria causing the discharge and late/missed period.

Hygiene Tips for Dealing with White Discharge

If you have white discharge, there are a couple of things you should do to keep your vagina clean and healthy. Unless it’s about an infection, you should not be too diligent about your personal hygiene. After all, vaginal mucus is the vagina’s way of cleansing itself and flushing out dead cells as well as bacteria.

  • In the first place, you should make use of baby wet wipes instead of regular toilet paper. Wet wipes have a neutral pH and utilize a number of ingredients such as chamomile and aloe vera, which can sanitize the vaginal area, keep bacteria away, partially remove the discharge and also soothe redness, swelling and itching, if any, Moreover, wet wipes will leave you feel cleaner, so you will not feel like washing down there every day.
  • Wear specifically cotton underwear. Unlike other fabrics, cotton is breathable and will allow your vulva to breathe, which may discourage potential infections. Even better, you should have your “no-underwear” days every now and then if possible. Make sure to change your underwear after engaging in physical activity, as this may cause your cervix to produce more discharge. Remove your swimming suit as soon as possible to prevent bacteria from festering.
  • Do not use panty liners or tampons to prevent the discharge from messing up your underwear, as they will alter your vagina’s pH, resulting in either bacterial vaginosis or even yeast infection. It’s best to change your underwear more frequently than use panty liners or tampons.
  • When using the toilet, you must wipe from front to back to avoid getting any fecal matter or bacteria from the anus in or close to the vagina. This can also cause an infection, not to mention that your vaginal discharge will probably increase at a great deal.
  • Consult your GP or a sexual health clinic frequently to have your intimate parts checked and rule out the possibility of an infection, even an asymptomatic one. As the old saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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