Ever noticed that your body produces white discharge when you’re enjoying some solo pleasure or having sex with a partner? Then you’re not alone — one of the most common Google searches is “white discharge during sex.” So what is it? And why does it happen?
Getting “wet” during sex is a term you’ve likely heard in sex education, pornography, or while chatting with your friends. However, the white discharge that your body releases during sex is the same mucus-like substance that you might find in your underwear as you go about your day-to-day life. It might be thicker and more translucent, thinner and wetter, or something in between.
Whatever your white discharge looks like, it’s a totally normal part of having sex. In fact, it’s your body’s natural response to being aroused or “turned on” to help with lubrication.
Just remember that, when it comes to intimate health, there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all. So your white discharge will probably look different from a friend or partner’s. Consistency and color can also be affected by lots of different things, which we’ll go into below.
Understanding what healthy discharge looks like can help you spot when you may be experiencing an infection and when you may need to speak to your health professional. Here’s what you need to know.
As mentioned above, healthy vaginal discharge can be slightly different in look, texture, and color from person to person. Before we get into what it looks like, let’s go over what it does.
Well, the vagina (or the internal part of your genitals) is actually self-cleaning, thanks to discharge. Fluid is released from glands within your cervix and vagina to flush out any bacteria and old cells that might lead to infections. Think of discharge as the body’s own shower gel, which means you don’t need to clean it with anything other than water.
It’s normal to start producing discharge in the months before your first period. And the production of discharge slows as you transition into menopause.
There’s no such thing as “normal” discharge because everyone is different. However, the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K. says that healthy vaginal discharge is white or clear and doesn’t have a strong or unpleasant smell.
Similarly, if your discharge is thick or sticky, it’s nothing to worry about. Discharge can also be more slippery and stretchy, kind of like egg whites — this signals that ovulation is about to happen, which is when an ovary releases an egg.
Don’t panic if your discharge leaves a slight yellow or white stain in your underwear or sheets — this is perfectly normal, and lots of us experience this (even if we aren’t talking about it).
You may be wondering how the vaginal discharge you produce as you go about your everyday life is linked to the natural lubrication your body produces when you’re turned on.
Simply put, the primary purpose of any discharge is to moisturize the vagina. But, even around ovulation — when you probably notice more discharge in your underwear than usual — there might not be enough lubrication for comfortable sex.This calls for even more moisture.
That’s why when you’re sexually aroused a few different things happen to create more lubrication. Arousal increases blood flow to your vulva, causing the blood vessels to swell and allowing fluid to pass through its walls. The Bartholin’s glands (in the vulva just outside the vaginal opening) and Skene’s glands (around the urethra) both produce extra fluid to help reduce the friction and irritation from penetrative sex. Often this fluid is white.
There’s no amount of discharge you “should” be producing when you’re turned on. Nor is there such a thing as being too wet. But if you’re not producing enough natural lubrication during sex to feel comfortable, your hormone levels, any medication you’re taking (such as hormonal birth control), or the kinds of sexual activities you engage in could all be having an impact.
Speaking of hormone levels, where you are in your menstrual cycle can also play a part. Estrogen levels are lower at the beginning of your menstrual cycle, so you might notice less white discharge during sex.
Your period, the discharge you experience throughout the month, and the white discharge you produce during sex might feel like separate occurrences, but they’re actually inherently linked.
Puberty causes hormonal changes to happen in your body, including the production of discharge in the run-up to your first period.
During your period, your body sheds the lining of your uterus, which comes out as blood, but there’s also a little bit of discharge mixed in there. About a week after your period, a few days before ovulation, discharge is stretchy, clear, and similar in consistency to egg whites. High levels of estrogen are at play here, as your ovaries prepare to release an egg.
In the middle of your cycle, during ovulation, your discharge may feel slippery or thinner. Then during the second part of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation, you may notice creamy, white discharge. Healthy vaginal discharge during this time is typically white, creamy, milky, or cloudy and is sometimes thick.
As long as your discharge doesn’t have a strong, unpleasant smell and isn’t accompanied by symptoms like itching, burning, painful urination, or pain during sex, it’s likely to be normal.
It can be tricky to spot slight changes in your vaginal discharge. However, if you do notice that the colour and consistency of your discharge changes, don’t panic.
Factors such as where you are in your cycle and whether you’re turned on are usually at play and often nothing to worry about.
For example, if changes to your discharge happen just before or during, sex, then it may just be your body’s natural response to being turned on. As more blood flows to your genitals, discharge is pushed to the surface to help aid lubrication. You may notice you feel wet after sex.
Similarly, your body releases more estrogen in the days leading up to ovulation, which also causes vaginal discharge to change during ovulation as your body releases more estrogen. It can be handy to track your menstrual cycle with apps like Flo to help you understand what’s going on.
Your estrogen levels are also high during early pregnancy, which means that you may produce more discharge than normal. This is one way that your body protects the fertilized egg from infections. Healthy discharge during pregnancy should look the same as your discharge when you’re not pregnant.
There are a number of signs or changes that you can look out for in your vaginal discharge or overall well-being that may indicate that you have an infection:
- A change in color
- A change in smell
- Other symptoms such as pain, burning, or itching around or in the vagina
A change in color
While the consistency of white discharge you produce during sex may change throughout your menstrual cycle, when you’re pregnant, or when you’re sexually aroused, the color should always be clear or milky white.
If your discharge appears to have a red tinge or be bloody or brown during your period, that’s totally fine. However, if you notice a lot of spotting or bleeding between your periods, it could be a sign of other conditions.
Uterine fibroids, which are growths within your uterus, can cause bleeding between periods. Similarly, cervical polyps (growths on your cervix) can trigger spotting. Both of these conditions are treatable and your doctor can advise you on the best treatment to manage your symptoms.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
If your discharge appears yellow or green in color and starts to smell, it’s a sign something’s off. Some STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, can cause discharge to look yellow or green.
Other symptoms can include painful urination, pelvic pain, and pain during sex. It’s worth noting that some people don’t experience any symptoms when they have chlamydia or gonorrhea, so it’s important to practice safe sex by using condoms or similar barrier methods of contraception. If you suspect that you’ve been exposed to an STI, schedule an appointment to get tested.
Trichomoniasis, or trich, is another STI that may cause your vaginal discharge to appear yellow or green. The NHS outlines that the infection is caused by a tiny parasite called Trichomonas Vaginalis (TV), and symptoms often present within a month. However, up to half of all people don’t present any symptoms at all. If you think you have trich, definitely get tested.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
If you notice that your discharge is grey or has developed a strong “fishy” smell, bacterial vaginosis could be the culprit. BV is an inflammatory infection that is caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria that lives in your vagina. This can be caused by douching or intensively washing your vagina.
For most people, BV is easily treatable with a course of antibiotics, creams, or gels. See your doctor or health care professional for a checkup if something seems off.
Yeast infections (candidiasis or thrush) is another really common condition that can cause a change in your vaginal discharge. You may notice that it’s thicker, whiter, and has a cottage cheese-type texture. This is indicative of a yeast infection which is often accompanied by burning or itching.
See your doctor who can prescribe antifungal medication, either in the form of a pessary or a tablet you take orally. You may also be given cream to soothe the irritation you’re experiencing.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection that occurs if bacteria spreads up the vagina to the cervix. It can affect your uterus, uterine tubes, and ovaries. You may notice that your discharge becomes yellowish in colour. Other symptoms include heavy or painful periods, pain in your lower abdomen, and discomfort during sex.
If caught early, PID is easily treated — antibiotics and over-the-counter pain medication is usually all it takes.
White discharge during sex is healthy and normal. It’s your body’s natural response to pleasure that helps with lubrication. So, the more turned on you become, the more your body might produce.
However, if you notice that the white discharge you produce during sex changes color or smell — or you start to experience symptoms like fatigue, pelvic pain, bleeding between your periods, burning, or itching — schedule an appointment for a checkup.
Tracking discharge changes and symptoms in a period tracking app like Flo can help your doctor get up to speed quickly and narrow down what’s going on. They might also do a pelvic exam and ask you questions about your sexual and general health history.
If a diagnosis isn’t immediately clear, they might conduct a Pap smear (swab your cervix to take a sample of cells for testing) or take a sample of your discharge to examine under a microscope. It’s crucial to remember that you’re totally in control during any consultation; whoever’s treating you should outline what they’re going to do during the procedures before they begin them.