It is common for most women to experience some white discharge before their period. Usually, vaginal discharge is a clear to milky white color and it helps to keep and protect your reproductive system from germs and infection. However, any upset to the balance of normal bacteria in your vagina can affect the discharge before your period.
You may be concerned about milky-white discharge before your period if you have noticed a change in the color, odor, or sensation around your vagina. Abnormal vaginal discharge can occur if you are under stress, have an infection, are pregnant, or are starting to go through the menopause. Sexual arousal can also cause a white discharge.
For example, a bacterial infection may cause itching and redness around the labia and cause the white discharge to have a fishy odor. However, a yeast infection may cause the white discharge before your period to become lumpy and thick, but without a smell.
This article looks at why women have white vaginal discharge and why the discharge changes before menstruation. We will also look at various reasons when you should be concerned about white vaginal discharge before your period.
What is Normal Vaginal Discharge
The glands in your vagina continually produce cervical mucus that helps to keep your vagina healthy. Also, cells are shed through your vagina and they combine to create discharge which also acts as a lubricant to prevent irritation.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the color, consistency, and amount of discharge varies depending on your menstrual cycle. Discharge before your period can range from sticky clear to whitish and thicker.1 Before your period, normal vaginal discharge shouldn’t emit any odor or cause itchiness around the vaginal opening.
Doctors from the National Health Service say that normal vaginal discharge is white, thick, and sticky for most of the menstrual cycle, including just before your period. However, around the time of ovulation, you will have clear discharge that is thinner like raw egg white.2
Causes of White Discharge Before Period
First of all, let’s look in more detail at some conditions that can cause white creamy or milky white discharge before your period.
Ovulation usually happens around about 14 days before your period and most women notice a change in discharge color and consistency. This can increase the amount of cervical mucus before your period with your discharge becoming thin like egg whites.
According to Dr. Traci Johnson on WebMD, the usual white discharge before your period changes to a thinner discharge that is slippery like raw egg whites. This is an indication that you are at your most fertile time if you are trying to conceive.3
The American Pregnancy Association (APA) calls the type of discharge before your period “egg white cervical mucus,” or EWCM for short. The APA says that after ovulation and as you approach your period, the discharge will become thicker as the amount of mucus decreases.4
You may experience milky white discharge before you expect your period if you are pregnant. Many women mistake spotting before their period and abdominal cramping as signs that their period is about to start.
According to Gynecologist Dr. Trina Pagano who works at the Cleveland Clinic, the vagina walls start to thicken just after conception. This produces a thick milky discharge which may last for the term of pregnancy. Unless you have burning and itching along with the vaginal discharge during pregnancy, there is nothing to worry about.5
Being under emotional stress can increase the amount of creamy discharge before your period. Stress can have a negative effect on your body in so many ways and it seems that an increase in milky discharge before period is just one of them.
Some studies into the link between increased vaginal discharge before the menstrual period and stress indicate that the two could be connected. For example, the International Journal of Epidemiology published information showing that one-third of women attributed an increase in vaginal discharge to stress and anxiety.6
Other studies have shown that prolonged emotional and psychological stress can affect hormones and the menstrual cycle.7 This could also have an impact on the amount and type of discharge that your body produces.
As women approach the menopause they find that their periods become less regular and there are changes in the amount of vaginal fluid discharged before period.
The journal American Family Physician says that leading up to the menopause, women can experience vaginal discharge but will also experience more vaginal dryness.8
Also, after the menopause vaginal discharge may continue, but, according to Dr. Jack Sobel, white vaginal discharge after menopause when the menstrual period has stopped, is usually a sign of abnormal discharge that requires medical attention.9
Using harsh soaps
Another reason why any woman can suffer from an increase of discharge from their vagina before the period is using harsh soaps and feminine hygiene products. These types of cosmetics can interfere with the delicate balance of bacteria in the vagina and cause an increase in thick white discharge during the menstrual period.
Dr. Cynthia White on WebMD says that a reason for vaginal discharge along with itching is using cleaning products that contain certain chemicals. These can irritate the delicate tissue in the vagina and cause more mucus and discharge.10
Infections that Cause Vaginal Discharge Before Period
Some causes of excess vaginal discharge before your period and during your menstrual cycle can be caused by infections. This type of white vaginal fluid shouldn’t be ignored because it can lead to more serious infections.
If you notice thick white milky discharge that resembles clumpy cottage cheese before your period, this could be due to a vaginal yeast infection. Candidiasis is a common yeast infection of the vagina and the white discharge is different from discharge caused by a bacterial infection because there is no odor.
A yeast infection will generally cause a lot of discomfort around your genitals. According to Dr. Kathleen Romito on WebMD, the thick white vaginal discharge is more likely to appear the week before your period. Along with the increase of pre-menstrual fluid, you will probably suffer from extreme itching around the vagina. Also, swelling and redness of the vulva may cause burning when you pee and make intimate relationship uncomfortable.11
According to Dr. Romito, most vaginal yeast infections are caused by using antibiotics (which disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina), high estrogen levels, a weakened immune system, or being overweight.12
Thankfully, there are many ways to get rid of a yeast infection and reduce the amount of creamy white discharge before your period.
For example, the antifungal properties of coconut oil help to reduce the number of fungi. Yogurt is another great remedy for yeast infections because it helps soothe itching and restore balance to your vaginal flora. Natural yogurt with probiotics helps to increase the amount of “good” bacteria and help fight yeast infections.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a bacterial infection that could cause a discharge of white vaginal fluid with a strong odor before your period. When there is an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina, a milky-gray discharge is released as the body fights the infection. The causes of BV are over washing of the genitals, using bubble bath, or you may develop bacterial vaginosis if you have recently changed your sexual partner.
Dr. Mary Harding on Patient.info says that the main symptom of BV is a smelly white discharge. Although Dr. Harding says that the white vaginal fluid is more pronounced after your period, the smelly discharge from BV can occur at any time during the menstrual cycle. For example, you may notice whiter sticky vaginal discharge after being intimate with your partner.13
The difference between the white discharge that BV causes and candidiasis discharge is that bacterial infection discharge is thinner and doesn’t cause vaginal itching. However, you will notice a distinct fishy odor with the pale-colored discharge.
There are many natural remedies for BV that can help to reduce the number of bacteria causing the excess discharge. For example, tea tree oil has antimicrobial properties that can help to kill off any infection-causing germs. Also, adding apple cider vinegar to your bath can help to lower pH levels in the vagina to help reduce levels of bacteria.
Sexually transmitted disease (STD)
Bacterial infections that cause milky cervical mucus before your period with a fishy odor could be caused by a sexually transmitted disease. Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on eMedicineHealth says that STDs like trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia can all cause white vaginal discharge.14 As well as the whitish discharge, STDs can cause swelling around the labia and burning sensation when you pee.
If you suspect that an STD is to blame for smelly vaginal discharge before your period, you should visit your doctor for the appropriate treatment. Dr. Traci Johnson on WebMD says that sexually transmitted diseases are dangerous and contagious and you shouldn’t try to treat them at home.15
Discharge Before Period – When to See a Doctor
White vaginal discharge is vital for the health of your reproductive system and is completely normal. However, abnormal vaginal discharge that is white with a strong odor, white and thick with no odor, or is a brown, green, or yellow color, is a sign that there is a condition in your vagina that needs to be addressed.
In many cases, home remedies can help to get relief from the symptoms and also clear mild vaginal infection. Doctors from WebMD recommend visiting a health care professional if you have abnormal vaginal discharge before your period and the following symptoms:16
- The vaginal discharge is white, thick and cheesy or it is greenish or yellowish.
- There is a strong odor from the discharge.
- Your vulva is swollen and you have discomfort in the vagina from itching, burning, or redness.
- You have spotting before your period.
Read these related articles:
- MayoClinic. Vaginal discharge
- NHS. Vaginal discharge.
- WebMD. Am I ready to conceive?
- AmericanPregnancy. Cervical mucus and your fertility.
- WebMD. Pregnancy symptoms.
- Epidemiol. (August 2005) 34 (4): 862-863.
- J Psychosom Res. 2005 Apr;58(4):343-9.
- AAFP. Clinical guidelines on the management of menopausal symptoms.
- UpToDate. Vaginal discharge in adult women.
- MedlinePlus. Vaginal itching and discharge.
- WebMD. Vaginal yeast infections – symptoms.
- WebMD. Vaginal yeast infections – cause.
- PatientInfo. Bacterial vaginosis – symptoms.
- eMedicineHealth. Vaginal discharge.
- WebMD. Treatments for sexually transmitted diseases.
- WebMD. Vaginal discharge – when to see a doctor.