Is white discharge a sign of pregnancy? We’ll show you how you can really interpret your white flow in early pregnancy.
Discussions get heated in fertility forums when a woman observes whitish discharge. Is white discharge really a sign of pregnancy? Why and when does this whitish cervical mucus appear? We would like to answer these and other questions in today’s article and show you how you can safely recognize a pregnancy.
What is discharge anyway?
The discharge is also often referred to as cervical mucus, white discharge, leucorrhea or fluor vaginalis. It is a secretion that is produced in special glands in the woman’s cervix. The amount, appearance, consistency and color of discharge can vary greatly over the course of the cycle.
Why is there discharge during the cycle?
The amount, appearance and consistency of discharge are controlled by the ovarian hormone oestrogen, which is produced during the maturation of follicles. The discharge – also known as cervical mucus – is intended to nourish, protect and transport the sperm on their way to the egg. It also filters out pathological and malformed sperm so that a healthy child is always conceived. A side effect of the discharge is that it also protects the uterus from the penetration of pathogenic bacteria and germs.
Cervical mucus is an important sign of ovulation
The cervical mucus or discharge changes particularly markedly before ovulation. The water content increases significantly before ovulation and decreases again after ovulation. White discharge can usually be observed at around the beginning and end of the cycle. During the ovulation period, many women experience spotting and watery discharge due to the high water content. We have written more about this topic in our article “Discharge before ovulation – what does it look like?”.
If you want to determine your ovulation with the discharge and basal body temperature with 91% accuracy up to four days, we recommend our Fertility Starter Set. It provides you with everything you need to correctly determine your fertile days.
Watery discharge after sex
Discharge (cervical mucus) from the cervix should not be confused with the natural lubricant during sex – the so-called vaginal lubrication – also known colloquially as arousal mucus. This is not produced in the cervix, but in the Bartholin’s and Skenes’ glands in the vagina. It serves the vagina as a natural lubricant, is pleasant during sex and allows sperm to swim faster towards the fallopian tubes.
In the vast majority of cases, discharge is normal or natural. However, if there is itching, a foul odor, fever, burning when urinating, pain or similar, something may be wrong and it is probably a pathological discharge. A vaginal fungal infection is often the cause. In rare cases, a chlamydia infection or an HPV infection can also be the cause. Get expert advice and have your discharge examined by a doctor. However, if your discharge smells normal and you don’t have any of the symptoms mentioned above, you are healthy and don’t need to worry.
What does white discharge consist of?
As already mentioned, white discharge is produced in the glands of the vaginal mucosa. In contrast to normal cervical mucus, this contains lactic acid bacteria. These produce a slightly acidic vaginal environment (pH value of 3.8 to 4.2) by fermenting sugar into lactic acid. This acidic environment is intended to keep harmful intruders such as fungi and bacteria away. It also prevents sperm from entering the uterus on infertile days (far away from ovulation). Strictly speaking, white discharge is therefore a mixture of normal cervical mucus from the cervix and the mucus produced by the glands of the vaginal mucosa.
Is white discharge a sign of pregnancy?
Every NFP user who regularly monitors their cervical mucus knows, of course, that white discharge can also occur during a normal menstrual cycle. This means that you do not have to be pregnant to observe white discharge in the menstrual cycle during the luteal phase. The amount of whitish cervical mucus is also not decisive here. For this reason, white discharge shortly before your period is not a sign of pregnancy.
White discharge in early pregnancy
At the end of the first trimester or at the beginning of the second trimester, a regular white discharge usually occurs. This increased whitish discharge is observed by many women in early pregnancy. It is true that this type of white cervical mucus is really distinctive and memorable and is already a sign of pregnancy at the beginning of the second trimester. However, at this point, any pregnancy test would have shown positive many weeks ago. At this point, you would probably have long since determined a pregnancy based on the basal body temperature curve or with a positive pregnancy test. It therefore makes little sense to consider white discharge as a sign of pregnancy because there are simply better methods to determine whether you are pregnant more quickly and accurately. I have therefore summarized my 11 first signs of pregnancy for you, which told me that I was really pregnant.
White discharge before your period
White discharge is particularly common before your period. The purpose of the discharge here is to prevent sperm from making their way to the cervix in the direction of the fallopian tubes. The mucus plug on the cervix also usually loosens here so that menstruation can take place undisturbed. A woman is not fertile shortly before her period, so this cervical mucus is not about helping the sperm to survive. On the contrary, it is more about preventing pathogens, sperm or fungi from entering the uterus shortly before the period. It is therefore a useful physical protective barrier.
White discharge – when do I need to see a doctor?
Normally, white discharge is no reason to see a doctor. However, if the following signs occur, you should consult your local gynecologist.
An early sign of a fungal infection is usually whitish and crumbly discharge. In this case, the discharge looks similar to cottage cheese. You can find out more about this topic in my article “Friable discharge – what does it mean?”
Severe itching and burning
White and crumbly discharge usually occurs in combination with itching and burning. However, normal and healthy discharge does not burn or itch. Itching is therefore mainly a sign of a bacterial infection, sexually transmitted disease or fungal infection. Your gynecologist will take a smear test in the doctor’s office, which will reveal which pathogens are the culprits. Afterwards, you will be given good and effective medication and the itching and burning will quickly disappear.
Sudden discoloration of the whitish discharge
Healthy discharge is transparent to whitish in color. However, if the whitish discharge turns greenish or yellowish, you should be vigilant and visit a gynecologist.
Pain and bleeding during sex
Bleeding during menstruation is normal. However, if the intermenstrual bleeding occurs during or shortly after intercourse, it is usually caused by an injury or serious illnesses such as polyps, cysts or cervical cancer. Please consult a doctor quickly to clarify the causes.
White discharge before your period is not a sign of pregnancy, but something that happens in many cycles. White discharge at the end of the first trimester of pregnancy is already a prominent sign of pregnancy. However, a pregnancy test would show positive weeks earlier and signal a pregnancy. Therefore, white discharge as a sign of pregnancy makes little sense in practice. It is interesting to note that the white discharge is often a mixture of the cervical mucus in the cervix and a secretion from the vaginal wall, which provides the acid for the vaginal entrance. It is generally intended to prevent sperm and pathogens from reaching the uterus. Nevertheless, the appearance of whitish mucus does not automatically make you infertile. Also in the white cervical mucus the sperm can usually remain capable of fertilization in the woman’s body.
 Malteser Arbeitsgruppe NFP, Natural & Safe: The Handbook: Family Planning with Sensiplan Paperback – CycleForth LLC (15 July 2019)
 Dr. Anna M. Flynn (Author), Melissa Brooks (Author), The Manual of Natural Family Planning Paperback – Thorsons; Second edition (17 Jun. 1996)