Discharge Before Your Period: What You Need to Know

It is normal to have egg white discharge before your period. This discharge, known as leukorrhea, consists of cervical mucus made in response to the hormone estrogen. It helps remove old cells and keeps the uterus free from bacteria and other organisms.

As hormone levels rise and fall throughout your menstrual cycle, so will the quantity and appearance of discharge. Depending on where you are in your cycle, there might be a little or a lot. It can also be thick and pasty or clear, gel-like, and stretchy.

This discharge also plays a role in fertility. It can help keep sperm from meeting an egg (when the mucus is thick and pasty) or increase the chances of conception (when the mucus is wet and slippery). After pregnancy, it may increase and change color or consistency.

This article will discuss the appearance of cervical mucus before your menstrual period and throughout your cycle.

Types of Discharge Before and After Period

Your discharge can change in the amount, color, and consistency before and after your period. This is usually due to hormonal changes throughout your menstrual cycle.

Cervical mucus is more than 90% water. The rest is made up of compounds such as amino acids, proteins, and oils. At different times in your menstrual cycle, your cervical mucus (also called cervical fluid) will look and feel different. 

People tend to get the most mucus right before and at the time of ovulation. Some people even use what’s called the cervical mucus method to help them determine when they’re most fertile.

Cervical mucus is stimulated by the hormone estrogen, which ebbs and flows during a person’s menstrual cycle.

When estrogen reaches its peak, your cervix produces a fluid that typically has an egg white consistency. When the hormone levels start dipping, you may have no mucus or mucus that’s thick and pasty. 

Here’s a typical timeline of changes that occur to your cervical mucus:

  • During menstrual bleeding, mucus mixes with blood. It will be nearly impossible to note the amount and consistency of cervical mucus.
  • Three to four days after menstrual bleeding ends, there’s little to no mucus.
  • The next few days into your cycle you might notice a discharge that’s cloudy and white. This is normal.
  • As you near ovulation (the point about midway through your cycle, when an egg is released from the ovary into the fallopian tube), you’re apt to see more mucus. It tends to be thin, slick, and wet. You can often stretch it between your thumb and forefinger. 
  • After ovulation, when estrogen drops and progesterone (another sex hormone) rises, there’s less mucus, and what’s there tends to be thick and dry. Some people may not notice any mucus at all.

Some hormonal forms of birth control can alter cervical mucus. For example, the minipill, a birth control pill that uses only progestin (a synthetic progesterone), thickens cervical mucus, thereby making it harder for sperm to get to an egg.

What Causes Discharge?

The production of cervical mucus is strongly correlated to the rise of estrogen in a person’s body. Estrogen rises before and at ovulation to help build up the lining of the uterus so a fertilized egg can implant and grow.

When there’s little estrogen circulating (typically at the start of the menstrual cycle), there’s little to no cervical mucus. 

But when estrogen peaks at mid-cycle (around day 14 of a typical 28-day menstrual cycle), cervical mucus becomes more abundant. It also changes from thick to creamy and then slippery and transparent as estrogen increases. 

This more elastic fluid helps move the sperm through the reproductive tract, where it can fertilize an egg released at ovulation.

Discharge and Pregnancy

After ovulation, cervical mucus becomes drier and less noticeable—in fact, you may not produce any at all as you get to the end of your cycle.

But if pregnancy occurs, estrogen levels remain high to nourish your uterine lining and increase blood flow to your developing fetus. That means you may notice more cervical mucus throughout your pregnancy. 

An increase in discharge can be a sign of early pregnancy. This discharge may look similar to the discharge you experience when you aren't pregnant, but it may be slightly more yellow and have a sticky texture.

Just as when you’re not pregnant, the cervical mucus will help protect your uterus from bacteria, viruses, and other substances that can cause infections and other problems.

When to Talk to a Doctor

Cervical mucus and vaginal discharge are both completely normal. The mucus/discharge should be clear, milky, or slightly yellow. It’s also often odorless or has a very mild odor.

When to See a Doctor for Discharge

Verywell / Jessica Olah

Cervical mucus that has a strong smell or an atypical color is a sign of infection or other problem. Talk to your healthcare professional if you notice any of the following:

  • An increase in the amount of discharge
  • A change in the color and smell of the discharge (A vaginal yeast infection, for example, can produce a cottage cheese–like discharge. Bacterial vaginosis, a type of vaginal infection, can cause a fishy odor and a thin gray discharge.)
  • Discharge with blood in it (when your period isn’t nearing)
  • Pelvic pain (This may be a symptom of cervicitis, among other things. Cervicitis is an infection or inflammation of the cervix.)
  • Vaginal itching or burning 
  • Painful intercourse

Changes in Mucus

If you notice a change in the amount, color, or odor of cervical mucus that’s out of the ordinary for you, contact your doctor.


Cervical mucus is naturally produced by the cervix. It has a protective function for the cervix and vagina. It is typical to see fluctuations in the amount and appearance of cervical mucus throughout the menstrual cycle since it is influenced by estrogen levels.

Depending on the thickness of the mucus, it can impede sperm or help them along in their journey to an egg. Cervical mucus may also change color, odor, or amount with a vaginal yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, and other infections.

A Word From Verywell

Cervical mucus is common and normal and serves several purposes, including helping to wash debris, bacteria, and irritants from your cervix and vagina. But definitely talk to your doctor if you notice changes, such as an off odor or color to your discharge. These can be signs of an infection or another issue that needs medical attention.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should vaginal discharge look like before your period?

    The texture and amount of vaginal discharge will vary throughout your menstrual cycle. If an egg remains unfertilized after ovulation, estrogen drops and vaginal discharge changes from looking like raw egg white to being thick and dry as you near your period.

  • How much vaginal discharge is normal?

    The amount of vaginal discharge varies from person to person and can be altered by many factors. 

    Some of these factors include:

    • How close (or far away) from ovulation you are in your cycle
    • Whether you’re menopausal (people in menopause have little to no discharge)
    • The kinds of personal hygiene products you use (douching, for example, can lead to vaginal dryness) and other factors 

    In general, premenopausal people produce about 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of discharge a day.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dubaissi E, Rousseau K, Hughes G et al. Functional characterization of the mucus barrier on the Xenopus tropicalis skin surface. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2018;115(4):726-731. doi:10.1073/pnas.1713539115

  2. Planned Parenthood. What's the cervical mucus method of FAMs?

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Cervical mucus. Updated October 24, 2021.

  4.  Stanford Children’s Health. Contraception/birth control.

  5. Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Vaginal discharge. Updated 2020.

  6. Familydoctor.org. Vaginal disharge. Update Febriary 2021.

  7. UpToDate.com. Vaginal discharge in adult women (Beyond the bascis). Updated March 8, 2021.

Additional Reading

By Donna Christiano Campisano
Donna Christiano is an award-winning journalist, specializing in women and children's health issues. She has been published in national consumer magazines and writes frequently for leading health websites.