Everything you need to know about white discharge
As a menstruating person, we sometimes have the unpleasant feeling that there are billions of things happening in our panties. The rules, which we necessarily think of when approaching this subject, are not the only ones to be invited. White discharge also often leaves traces. Less known than the rules, they leave us doubtful. Lack of hygiene, sign of infection, link with the menstrual cycle? What are white losses and what are they used for? How to manage them on a daily basis? In this article we tell you everything about white discharge.
The different types of white discharge
The terms “white discharge” and “vaginal discharge” refer to non-bloody discharge from the vagina. Coming from different origins and responsible for different roles in our body, they must be differentiated. Let's discover together the different types of white discharge that exist.
White, yellowish or even translucent, cervical mucus is produced by the endocervical canal, between vagina and uterus . Its role is particularly linked to the menstrual cycle and fertility: in fact, it prevents or promotes the passage of sperm to the cervix. For this varies in texture and color depending on the phase of the menstrual cycle in which you are.
Bartholin's glands are responsible for lubricating the vagina. When you are sexually aroused, for example during masturbation or sexual intercourse, they secrete a colorless liquid called love juice. This develops inside each gland and travels to the vagina through an excretion duct. It facilitates the insertion of the penis into the female genital organ and promotes sexual pleasure.
The Skene glands secrete a liquid at the time of orgasm . This is female ejaculate . It can be non-existent, very abundant, very translucent in color or slightly white: each person is different. People who release it in very large quantities are called “fountain women” but this term is sometimes negatively connoted. However, there is no need to feel guilty or worry: it is completely natural. Skene's glands are the equivalent of the prostate in men.
What about leukorrhea?
Leukorrhea is the medical name given to non-bloody vaginal discharge . They are of two types: physiological leucorrhoea (and therefore “normal” and necessary for the proper functioning of the body) and pathological leucorrhoea (signs of an infection, injury or disease).
All of these secretions contribute to the natural hydration of the surface of the vagina . They are the physiological mechanism by which the vagina cleans itself . If cervical mucus is linked to the menstrual cycle, this is not the case for other losses.
🌸 In everyday language, we tend to speak indifferently about white discharge and vaginal discharge , in reference to the whitish color of the deposit which aggregates at the bottom of our panties from puberty to menopause. Cervical mucus and other non-bloody vaginal discharge are often mixed. In the rest of the article, we will regularly use the term “white loss” but will take care to specify what type of losses we are talking about!
Understanding white discharge throughout the menstrual cycle
Cervical mucus is one of the white discharges : it is intrinsically linked to the menstrual cycle. Its appearance (its color and texture) changes enormously during the latter.
Follicular phase (before ovulation)
During this phase, cervical mucus is scanty, thick and white in color. Like a stopper, it closes the cervix to prevent the passage of sperm.
At the time of ovulation
The mature egg is released by one of the ovaries: this is ovulation. Just released, the egg advances through the fallopian tube towards the uterus where it will settle in the event of fertilization. The fertility of the menstruating person is then at its maximum.
24 to 72 hours before ovulation, the discharge changes texture. It abandons its role as a plug for the uterus and prepares to let the sperm pass through. This becomes more abundant, fluid and stringy.
During ovulation, its texture is similar to egg white . Abundant, fluid, shiny, elastic and translucent , it facilitates the passage and advancement of sperm to the egg.
Luteal phase (after ovulation)
The lifespan of the egg is approximately 48 hours. After this period of time, the cervical mucus resumes its role as a plug: either the egg is fertilized or the egg is dead; in both cases, the menstruating person is no longer fertile.
Thus, during the luteal phase which follows ovulation, the discharge dries up and thickens again. According to menstruators, they are white/light yellow in color and have a thick, even sticky texture.
As your period approaches
As your period approaches, begins and ends, the mucus may take on a pinkish or brownish tint . It is pink when a little blood mixes and flows from it. Conversely , it becomes brownish when the blood flows slowly and has time to oxidize inside the vagina before being expelled.
And on hormonal contraception?
If you are on hormonal contraception (pill, implant, patch or even vaginal ring), the functioning of your natural menstrual cycle is modified . The hormones released throughout your body lock you in a false state of pregnancy.
The discharge thus takes on the same consistency as during pregnancy: it is thick and whitish . It thus forms an airtight plug between the vagina and the uterus, with a very tight mesh, throughout the cycle. This is one of the reasons why some women suffer from vaginal dryness under hormonal contraception: part of the natural vaginal hydration is slowed down.
White discharge evolves throughout a woman's life
Because cervical mucus is linked to the menstrual cycle and the sex hormones that organize it , it changes enormously during key moments in a woman's life. The other white losses also tend to be modified: let's see that together!
During puberty, as breasts begin to grow, acne appears, and hair turns black, menstruating people may begin to experience white discharge . This is the cervical mucus which begins to activate under the role of hormones, generally before the arrival of the first period .
The Bartholin glands, responsible for lubricating the vagina on a daily basis and more specifically at the time of sexual arousal, also begin to be functional at puberty.
We mentioned it: during the menstrual cycle, cervical mucus changes texture and color. During pregnancy, and therefore when the egg is fertilized, it takes on the role of plug that it has during the follicular and luteal phases : it thus protects the embryo, then the fetus, from infections. This does not mean, however, that you will not have white discharge during pregnancy: the other glands of the uterus and vagina continue to work, in particular to hydrate it under the effect of high estrogen levels. during pregnancy !
At the end of pregnancy, mucus may “fall”, a few days or even weeks before the start of labor. This is called the mucous plug and takes the shape and texture of a sort of undercooked egg white. This phenomenon should be differentiated from cracking of the water bag : the latter corresponds to the loss of a liquid similar to urine and requires seeing a professional quickly. Consult your healthcare professional if you have any doubts.
At menopause, several changes, both hormonal and physiological , generate a reduction in white discharge and, consequently, vaginal dryness.
- cervical mucus dries up. It becomes more fluid depending on ovulation, but menopause corresponds to a period where ovulation no longer systematically takes place: in the absence of ovulation, cervical mucus retains its role as a plug.
- The drop in estrogen in the body of people close to menopause or in menopause leads to a decline in the functioning of the glands which are responsible for natural hydration of the vagina.
- Bartholin's glands, responsible for lubricating the vagina, begin to atrophy at menopause. This degeneration also explains the vaginal dryness felt during this period.
In other words, it is common for white discharge to slow down significantly during menopause . These are, in general, more liquid and transparent.
Please note: different pathological reasons (infections, illnesses) can be the cause of white discharge during menopause: do not hesitate to speak to your doctor if you observe any changes.
The different textures of white discharge
White discharge can take on several aspects – texture and colors – during the menstrual cycle and in the event of a health problem. In this part, we will discuss the texture of white discharge and in the next part, we will focus on the colors that vaginal discharge can take.
Vaginal discharge can be liquid on different occasions:
- Cervical mucus is, in some women, very liquid at the time of ovulation. It facilitates the passage of sperm to the uterus for fertilization;
- At the time of orgasm, the Skene glands can generate a liquid similar to water, liquid and translucent, in greater or lesser quantities: this is female ejaculate – not all women have it. not ;
- White liquid discharge can also be, in some women, a sign of pregnancy. Under the influence of hormones, produced in large quantities during pregnancy, the vagina produces a lot of whitish, translucent or yellowish secretions approximately 3 weeks after fertilization;
Milky and lumpy
If your vaginal discharge is very white and looks like curdled milk , with lumps, this is not normal. This may be a sign of vaginal yeast infection or candidiasis. Vaginal yeast infection is caused by a fungus called candida albicans : while it is normal to find it in the vagina, it can grow in too large a proportion, disrupting the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina.
Beyond the appearance of your vaginal discharge, other symptoms can alert you to a vaginal yeast infection: it is often accompanied by itching, or even dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse).
If this is the first time you encounter this health problem, consult a doctor to prescribe treatment. Generally, it is easy to treat with ovum and antifungal cream that you can find in pharmacies.
Creamy and thick
If your white discharge is very white, creamy and thick , and it tends to become more and more abundant , this is generally not normal: it is often a sign of a pathology and, more precisely, of vaginitis.
Vaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina which can result in:
- either a vaginal infection due to a fungus (vaginal mycosis or candidiasis, we talked about it in the previous paragraph), a bacteria, a virus or a parasite;
- or non-infectious irritation of the vagina (approximately 1 in 3 cases).
It is very often accompanied by irritation of the vulva – we then speak of vulvovaginitis. Also, if your white discharge is accompanied by an itching or burning sensation in the vulva and vagina, it is very possible that you are suffering from vaginitis.
Vaginitis is not serious and it affects a majority of women (even little girls). Consult your doctor: he will prescribe additional tests to determine the cause of your condition as well as treatment.
White gooey discharge, even a little sticky, similar to the texture of egg white , is completely normal. Cervical mucus takes on this texture as ovulation approaches and during ovulation. It then tends to run when you wipe yourself with toilet paper and to create small sticky and translucent clumps on your underwear.
Foamy, airy white discharge is not normal. They are most often a sign of vaginitis of parasitic origin. You may also experience other symptoms, such as itching and burning in the vulva. This pathology is not serious but will require diagnosis and medical treatment: talk to your doctor.
The white discharge is particularly abundant :
- As you approach ovulation and on the day of ovulation: cervical mucus is produced in large quantities by your body and you may have the feeling that it is flowing (much like when you feel blood flowing during your period);
- During pregnancy: under the effect of the increase in hormones that fill your body, the glands of the uterus, vagina and vulva produce a lot of secretions. If the cervical mucus forms a plug, you may experience normal discharge and other forms of white discharge;
- In case of vaginitis: white discharge can also be present in abundance pathologically, because the body tries to naturally get rid of what is affecting it. In addition to the abundance of your white discharge, you may have other symptoms such as itching, a burning sensation or even a reddened vulva. Vaginitis is not serious: consult a doctor, he will be able to find its cause and prescribe a suitable treatment to get rid of it.
The different colors of vaginal discharge
Although it is often called “white discharge,” non-bloody vaginal discharge can come in different colors. Just like the different “textures” of vaginal discharge are sometimes healthy and sometimes not, the different colors can also be a sign that everything is okay, or not.
Translucent and whitish
The main vaginal discharge is transparent or whitish . Every menstruator is different and your losses may change with your cycle. Generally, your discharge will be rather whitish during the follicular and luteal phases, and rather translucent at the time of ovulation.
Light yellow, dark yellow or green
Yellow discharge is quite difficult to decipher. In fact, they can be completely healthy or, on the contrary, a sign of an infection.
If the discharge is normally white or translucent, exposure to air may tend to oxidize it: it then takes on a light yellow tint . Also, light yellow discharge is most often completely normal and healthy.
However, if they are a dark yellow color , which can even be greenish , you may have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), called Trichomonas vaginitis .
Other symptoms of this condition include:
- your losses are abundant,
- they have a foamy appearance,
- they are smelly,
- sensations of irritation when urinating and during sexual intercourse.
This STI is transmitted during unprotected sexual intercourse and the first symptoms appear approximately one month after contamination. This infection is neither very widespread nor very serious, but it requires antibiotic treatment: consult a doctor to make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment. If you have been infected with trichomonas, it is important to inform your recent sexual partners.
Pink, brown or black
Pink vaginal discharge means that a few drops of blood have mixed with your vaginal secretions. Brownish or even black vaginal discharge is similar, except that the blood present has oxidized because it took longer to be expelled from your body.
This doesn't necessarily need to worry you because it can be completely normal:
- blood linked to the phenomenon of ovulation (the release of the egg ruptures a small vessel and causes a small flow of blood);
- start or end of periods;
- small wound in the vagina (related to sexual intercourse, the insertion of a sex toy, a means of contraception or even a means of hygienic protection).
Also, if your white discharge is pink, brown or black at times close to your period or ovulation, there is no reason to worry. If you observe this color outside of this period, however, it may be necessary to consult a doctor: spotting and metrorrhea (flow of blood from the vagina outside of menstruation) are phenomena to watch out for because they can be pathological .
What is “normal” and “abnormal” vaginal discharge?
It is completely normal for your white discharge to change over the course of your cycle and your life: we have mentioned this several times in this article. However, if you notice changes in texture, color or smell that are sudden and far from what you are used to, it is possible that this is a sign of a pathology. Let's find out together
Normal white discharge
Normal white discharge is present continuously from puberty to menopause but varies in abundance throughout your menstrual cycle. They are translucent, whitish or light yellow in color . Their texture is a little dry during the follicular and luteal phases of your cycle. As ovulation approaches, the white discharge becomes more abundant and takes on a gelatinous, slightly elastic texture . Finally, when the periods appear or on the contrary end, we can see some traces of blood in the vaginal discharge , which then takes on a pinkish, brownish or blackish tint.
Abnormal white discharge
If your vaginal discharge differs from the previous statement, we can consider that it is abnormal. Generally, their appearance will be accompanied by various symptoms such as vulvar affection, itching, burning sensations or even discomfort during sexual intercourse.
- Milky, grainy, foamy, thick or even creamy texture: these aspects are generally not normal for white discharge. They are most often linked to vaginitis;
- Pinkish, brown or black color outside periods of ovulation or periods: metrorrhagia (bleeding from the vagina and uterus outside periods) generally requires consultation. The causes are not necessarily serious but it is important to talk to a doctor;
- Dark yellow or green color: While your vaginal discharge may be yellowish, dark yellow color is often associated with the STI Trichomonas vaginitis;
- Smelly smell: Vaginal discharge is odorless or may have a slight odor. If your discharge is smelly, you may have vaginitis.
Conditions that are linked to abnormal white discharge
Pathological leukorrhea can be a sign of different conditions. We have cited most of them during this article but here is a list which is intended to be exhaustive of the pathologies which may be linked to variations in your white discharge.
- Yeast infections (vaginal candidiasis).
- Bacterial infections, such as bacterial vaginosis.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, genital herpes and syphilis.
Infections of the cervix or uterus
- Cervical infections caused by bacteria or viruses.
- Endometritis, an inflammation of the lining of the uterus
- Hormonal imbalance, especially in cases of thyroid disorders or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Cervical or uterine polyps.
- Uterine fibroids.
- Cervical cancer.
- Uterus cancer.
Other factors that can change your vaginal discharge
In addition to illnesses, various external factors can impact and modify your vaginal discharge. This, over a short or longer period of time.
Sexual intercourse has different effects on vaginal discharge.
First, during sexual intercourse (or masturbation): Bartholin's glands play an important role in lubricating the vulva and vagina to facilitate penetration. With sexual arousal, vaginal discharge is increased. Skene's glands can also, in certain women, come into action as they approach orgasm or during orgasm: they generate another vaginal secretion, female ejaculate.
Then, sexual intercourse is one of the major causes of the circulation of infections and sexually transmitted diseases (STIs and STDs). However, the latter are, as we have mentioned, one of the main causes of abnormal vaginal discharge. This is why it is essential to protect yourself with a condom: this will limit the risk of infection!
By putting the bodies of menstruating people on pause – plunging them into a sort of false state of pregnancy, hormonal contraception has the impact of modifying the “normal” flow of vaginal discharge.
In the absence of ovulation and fertility, cervical mucus does not become fluid again and plays less of its role as a natural cleanser of the cervix and vagina. This is one of the reasons you may experience vaginal dryness while on hormonal birth control.
During pregnancy, vaginal discharge increases. Cervical mucus acts as a plug between the vagina and the uterus to protect the growing fertilized egg. It hardens and dries out to the point of forming what is called a mucous plug. It may even “fall” at the end of pregnancy, a few hours or weeks before the start of delivery.
However, this change in the role of cervical mucus does not mean that pregnant people do not have vaginal discharge. On the contrary ! With the influx of hormones in their body linked to the state of pregnancy, the vagina naturally hydrates and generates abundant white discharge .
We talked about it in particular in our article on hormones and the menstrual cycle : stress, chronic or occasional, strongly impacts our body's production of hormones. However, hormones are largely responsible for the secretion and organization of our white discharge: changes in cervical mucus are linked to fertility and ovulation, while the increase in estrogen leads to hydration. natural vagina. By having the action of blocking hormones, stress can therefore tend to modify your vaginal discharge.
Contrary to what one might believe, intimate hygiene that is too thorough and too harsh is inappropriate and can destabilize the proper functioning of your private parts and your white discharge. Douching as well as the use of soaps that are too strong and perfumed should therefore be avoided. It is normal to have slightly odorous white discharge and bacteria within your vagina (this is the vaginal flora): wanting to get rid of it at all costs will only destabilize your body and stop the natural functioning of your white discharge. Vaginitis can thus be one of the consequences of this type of practice. Find in the final part of this article our tips for cleaning your privacy without attacking it.
Clothing has no impact on white discharge. These are part of the normal functioning of your uterus and vagina and clothing has no impact on these parts of your anatomy.
That being said, very tight clothing can help compress the white discharge expelled by your body against your vulva and thus irritate it. During periods of abundant white discharge (especially when your ovulation is approaching), loose cotton or linen panties should be preferred to better ventilate the area and make you feel cleaner.
Contrary to what is often shared and told, no scientific study supports the idea of a food favoring or disfavoring white discharge. No food hydrates your vagina better than another. In general, good hydration and a balanced and varied diet will help your body function well and therefore help your vaginal discharge to fulfill its role and evacuate normally.
Vaginal flora and white discharge, what is the relationship?
Vaginal discharge and vaginal flora are closely linked , because the role of vaginal discharge is to regulate the vaginal flora.
The vaginal flora , also called the vaginal microbiota , is a set of microorganisms naturally present in the vagina . These microorganisms are mainly bacteria: in a healthy body, “good” bacteria, called lactobacilli, represent 90% of the vaginal microbiota. They develop at the start of puberty to line the vaginal mucosa to protect it from the development of pathogenic germs, bacteria and fungi.
The white discharge , generated by the different glands of the vulva and the uterus, has the role of naturally hydrating and cleaning the vagina . They remove germs and bad bacteria in order to balance the vaginal flora. This is why abundant white discharge can, in certain situations, be a sign of a proliferation of bad bacteria and thus, of an infection or disease.
To help you, discover Dijo's 100% natural probiotic treatment , it helps strengthen the vaginal microbiota, limits the risk of infection and the growth of pathogenic germs.
Tips for managing white discharge on a daily basis
The white discharge is not dirty. Like periods, they suffer from a bad image but are healthy and natural, and are important players in the proper functioning of the body of menstruating people .
However, it's not always pleasant to find residue of white discharge at the bottom of your panties or around your vulva. Not to mention the smell of waste which can sometimes be annoying. To feel fresh throughout the day, here are our recommendations for you:
- Clean your vulva with water or a suitable intimate product: promote good hygiene by cleaning your private parts once or twice a day. Washing with water is sufficient. You can use an intimate product for better sensoriality. 🌈 Our favorite in store is the gentle and organic intimate cleansing gel from the Jho brand. Use it in the shower by applying it with your fingers: generally, avoid gloves which contain many germs;
- Do not practice vaginal douche: this practice is far too aggressive for your vaginal flora! The role of white discharge is to clean the vagina of dead skin and other remains of periods and sperm present;
- Use intimate wipes to carry out your intimate cleansing: if you have residue of white discharge in certain areas of your vulva, you can clean your intimate area with wipes in addition to toilet paper. You will feel fresher;
Wear a panty liner: thinner than a menstrual pad, the panty liner protects your underwear and makes you feel fresher! You can easily change it during the day to avoid streaks.
🌈 In store, our favorite panty liners are those from the Jho brand : organic, ultra-thin and very sticky to avoid moving around, they are perfect for feeling good!
- Limit clothing that is too tight during periods of heavy discharge: very tight clothing compresses your white discharge against your vulva. This can irritate him. When you have heavy discharge, choose cotton or linen underwear and wear clothes that are not tight around your crotch. You can also avoid clothes that have a seam at the crotch to avoid unpleasant chafing.
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