What causes white discharge (Leukorrhea) before period?

White Discharge (Leukorrhea) Before Period
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mehvish Khan

Key Takeaways

  1. White vaginal discharge before menstruation is typically normal, but any changes accompanied by symptoms like itchiness, pain, or an unusual odor may indicate an infection, necessitating immediate medical attention.
  2. Recognizing the causes of vaginal odor, such as bacterial vaginosis or sexually transmitted infections, is crucial for differentiating normal discharge from potential infections, emphasizing the importance of seeking medical guidance for any concerning changes.
  3. While white discharge during sexual activity is normal, an abrupt increase in discharge post-intercourse may signal infection, underlining the significance of understanding the potential causes, including bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, or STIs, and seeking timely medical evaluation.

Overview

If you’re curious about the causes of discharge before your period, you’ve come to the right place. In most cases, white discharge before your period is natural and expected. However, it’s crucial to recognize when it might signal something more serious. Our comprehensive list of the top causes of pre-menstrual white discharge is designed to equip you to identify changes your body is going through and to guide you on when to consider consulting a medical professional at a reliable clinic.

“Typical vaginal discharge is made up of vaginal squamous epithelial cells (these line the vagina), material from sebaceous, sweat, and Bartholin’s glands, and secretions from the cervix.”

Mary Jacobson, M.D., OB-GYN and chief medical advisor for Alpha Medical.

What is White Discharge?

White discharge, also known as vaginal discharge, cervical mucus, or leukorrhea, is a natural fluid produced by the cervix and vaginal walls. This fluid serves as a protective mechanism, ensuring the vaginal area remains moist and resilient against potential infections. Hormones are pivotal in orchestrating the variations you observe, offering insights into your reproductive health.

While white vaginal discharge is common, especially at the beginning and end of a menstrual period, its frequency may increase with the use of hormonal birth control. However, it’s essential to remain vigilant, as it can signal yeast or other infections, mainly if it manifests as lumpy or carries a strong odor.

Understanding the vaginal discharge is key, given its fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopausal phases. Changes in color or consistency can indicate underlying infections, emphasizing the importance of attentive self-awareness.

Every woman experiences vaginal discharge, a natural defence mechanism against infections. Depending on your day in the menstrual cycle, the appearance of this discharge varies—ranging from tiny amounts of odorless mucus to brown or white discharge. Hormones often lead to the observation of unusual discharge before your period.

Leukorrhea, specifically the white discharge noticed before periods, is filled with cells and fluids from the vagina. Occasionally, it may take on a slightly yellow hue. Understanding hormonal dominance is key—when progesterone reigns supreme during the luteal phase, the discharge becomes white and cloudy. Conversely, estrogen dominance produces a watery, stretchy, and clear discharge.

Recognizing your luteal phase is crucial, particularly for those tracking fertility. Some additional facts about the luteal phase, marking the latter part of the menstrual cycle:

  • The luteal phase commences after ovulation and concludes with the onset of menstruation.
  • Typically lasting up to 17 days, it may extend up to 14 days.
  • A luteal phase lasting less than ten days is considered short, potentially posing challenges for conception or prolonging the time to become pregnant.

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What causes white discharge before the period?

White discharge before periods can be completely normal or result from various causes like allergic reactions, stress, use of certain medications, cervical polyps, contraceptives, and pelvic inflammatory disease. Here are some of the possible causes of leukorrhea before periods: 

Pregnancy

The days preceding expected menstruation can exhibit varying characteristics in discharge. While some may experience dryness, others witness a notable increase in clear or white discharge due to the rapid hormone surge during early pregnancy. This phenomenon occurs as the cervix forms a thick mucus barrier to safeguard the uterus and support the developing embryo. 

In early pregnancy, elevated estrogen levels contribute to increased white or slightly yellow discharge, often accompanied by stickiness. Additional signs of early pregnancy encompass a missed period, breast or chest tenderness, nausea, tiredness, and heightened urination frequency.

Perimenopause

The transitional phase leading to menopause, known as perimenopause, can introduce irregular or lighter menstrual flow. Discharge before a perimenopause period may manifest in various colors—clear, white, brown, pink, or red—and may precede some periods while absent before others.

Spotting after Vaginal Activity

Engaging in vigorous intercourse or undergoing routine Pap smears can lead to light bleeding or spotting post-penetration, contributing to variations in discharge.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS, a prevalent hormonal condition, may result in irregular periods or spotting. Occasionally, discharge or light spotting occurs when a period is anticipated.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis, common STIs, can bring about changes in usual discharge. While chlamydia and trichomoniasis discharge may appear white, gonorrhea discharge may exhibit yellow or green hues. Symptoms may include pelvic pain, bleeding between periods, pain during urination, and after penetrative vaginal sex.

Period Flow

Normal period flow may sometimes commence with brown discharge, indicating oxidized blood due to a slow exit from the vagina. An increase in pink or white discharge is also considered normal before menstruation.

Birth Control

Hormonal changes induced by birth control, especially those containing estrogen, can elevate discharge levels. While generally not a cause for concern, any unusual symptoms should be addressed.

Yeast Infection

Thick, white discharge resembling cottage cheese, coupled with vaginal itching and burning sensations, signifies a yeast infection. Antibiotic use, birth control pills, and pregnancy can heighten the risk, with hormonal changes before the period exacerbating yeast imbalance.

Hormonal Imbalance

Progesterone’s increased presence, a hormone integral to the menstrual cycle and pregnancy contributes to hazy or white discharge before the period. The vaginal discharge tends to be clear before the period and watery during other phases with higher estrogen levels.

Bacterial Vaginosis

This infection arises from an imbalance in vaginal bacteria. Manifesting as thin or watery gray or white discharge with a fishy smell, bacterial vaginosis can be asymptomatic for some individuals. Those using harsh feminine products or undergoing recent changes in sexual partners are at higher risk.

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How do you get rid of White discharge before periods?

Addressing white discharge before periods involves targeted treatments based on the underlying cause. The approach varies depending on whether the issue is non-sexually transmitted infections, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or the presence of a foreign body.

Non-Sexually Transmitted Infections

  • Bacterial Vaginosis (BV): Antibiotics like metronidazole or clindamycin may be prescribed in the form of gel, cream (vaginally inserted), or oral tablets.
  • Thrush (Candida): Treatment often involves pessaries or creams containing clotrimazole, econazole, miconazole, or fenticonazole. In some cases, oral tablets may be recommended.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Tips for Prevention

  • Maintain Vaginal Hygiene: Clean the vagina using a gentle, mild soap and warm water externally. Avoid introducing soap directly into the vagina. Refrain from using scented soaps, feminine products, douches, sprays, and bubble baths.
  • Proper Wiping Technique: After using the bathroom, always wipe from front to back to minimize the risk of bacteria entering the vagina and causing infections.
  • Choose Breathable Underwear: Opt for 100% cotton underpants and avoid overly tight clothing to promote ventilation.

Thick, white discharge that occurs on a fairly regular basis is also nothing to worry about.

– Dr. Eilber

Foreign Body

  • Removal of a foreign body can usually be performed during a medical examination.
  • For larger objects causing discomfort upon removal, sedation or light anesthesia may be necessary, requiring hospital admission for a few hours. Antibiotics may be prescribed post-removal to prevent infection.

Ensuring proper diagnosis for the specific cause of white discharge before periods is essential for effective management. If experiencing symptoms or concerns, consult a healthcare professional for personalized guidance and care.

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When should you consult a doctor about changes in white discharge?

Understanding when to seek medical attention for changes in white discharge is crucial for maintaining reproductive health. If you experience any of the following, it is advisable to consult your healthcare provider:

  • Changes in Color, Consistency, or Smell: If your vaginal discharge undergoes noticeable changes in color, becomes unusually heavy, or emits a different odor than usual, it warrants medical attention.
  • Itching, Burning, Swelling, or Soreness: The onset of itching, burning sensations, swelling, or soreness in the vaginal area should prompt a visit to your healthcare provider.
  • Pelvic Pain: The development of pelvic pain, especially when associated with changes in discharge, requires professional evaluation.

Other symptoms to look for include the following:

  • Painful Urination or Increased Frequency
  • Bleeding Between Periods or After Sex
  • Abdominal Pain or Pain During Sex
  • Unexplained Weight Loss
  • Fatigue and Fever
  • Vaginal Irritation

Monitoring and addressing changes in white discharge in conjunction with these symptoms can contribute to the timely detection and management of potential reproductive health concerns. If ever in doubt or experiencing worrisome changes, consult a doctor as soon as possible for personalized guidance and care.

FAQs about white discharge before period

Is white discharge normal before the period?

White vaginal discharge release is natural and healthy, commonly observed before and after menstruation. However, if you notice any accompanying symptoms such as itchiness, pain, a burning sensation, an unpleasant odor, or any unusual changes in discharge, it’s advisable to consult a doctor, as these may indicate an infection.

What causes the vaginal discharge to smell?

Healthy discharge has a mild sour scent but is not unpleasant. In contrast, the abnormal discharge has a foul and pungent smell. Smell from vaginal discharge can be due to infections like bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis. Bacterial vaginosis, characterized by an overgrowth of bacteria typically present in the vagina, is a common condition that can result in vaginal odor. Trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection, may also contribute to an unpleasant odor. Notably, a yeast infection is typically not associated with vaginal odor.

How can I differentiate between normal discharge and an infection?

Women should consider seeking medical attention if their discharge displays a different color, a strong odor, or an irregular texture. Additionally, if any of the following vaginal symptoms are present—redness, itching, pain, or irritation of the vagina or cervix—or if the discharge takes on a foamy texture or appears lumpy, professional evaluation is recommended.

Can sexual activity affect white discharge?

It is normal to experience some white discharge during sexual activities, often attributed to sexual arousal and typically not accompanied by pain. However, the emergence of white discharge after sexual intercourse may be indicative of an infection. Common culprits include bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Can stress affect white discharge?

Stress may contribute to an increase in vaginal discharge. Various factors, including ovulation, pregnancy, infections, and stress, can influence the color, smell, or amount of discharge. If you observe a discharge heavier than usual, stress could contribute to this change.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

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