Why do you get white discharge during or after sex?

A woman having white vaginal discharge after sex

Vaginal discharge is a common occurrence, and is a significant indicator of a woman’s health. After having sex with your partner, you may have noticed white discharge. Don’t worry, as you may not be the only one. White discharge during or after sexual contact is a common concern that many women face. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including regular body activities and underlying medical disorders. It is similar to the mucus-like fluid that you may see on your underwear. It may be thicker and more translucent, or thinner and wetter, or something in between. Here’s everything you need to know about the causes of white vaginal discharge during or after sex.

What is vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is a fluid that is produced by glands inside the vagina and cervix. It serves several important functions, including cleaning and moisturising the vagina and helping to prevent and fight infections. The nature of vaginal discharge can vary in terms of colour, consistency, and amount, and these variations can be influenced by factors such as the menstrual cycle, hormonal changes, sexual activity, and health conditions, according to a 2020 study published in the Singapore Medical Journal.

Vaginal discharge is common. Image courtesy: Freepik

Normal vaginal discharge characteristics include:

  • Colour: Typically clear or milky white.
  • Consistency: Can range from thin and watery to thick and sticky.
  • Amount: Varies throughout the menstrual cycle, often increasing during ovulation, pregnancy, or sexual arousal.
  • Odour: Generally mild and not unpleasant.

What are the causes of white discharge during sex?

White vaginal discharge during sexual intercourse can be caused by several factors, most of which are normal and related to the body’s natural processes. Here are the common causes:

1. Lubrication

“Sexual arousal triggers the release of clear or white discharge from the vaginal glands to provide lubrication, facilitating comfortable intercourse,” says gynaecologist Dr Sriprada Vinekar.

2. Cervical mucus

The cervical glands produce cervical mucus that changes in consistency and amount throughout the menstrual cycle. Around ovulation, it can be more copious and white, according to a 2018 study published in the Encyclopedia of Reproduction.

3. Hormonal fluctuations

“Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can affect the amount and consistency of discharge. Plus, hormonal changes in pregnancy often increase vaginal discharge, which can be white and more noticeable during intercourse,” explains the expert.

4. Sexual activity

Sexual arousal increases blood flow to the genital area, stimulating the glands to produce more discharge. Also, during intercourse, mixed secretions of vaginal discharge and semen can appear white.

What causes white vaginal discharge after sex?

During sexual arousal, the vaginal glands produce clear or white discharge to lubricate the vagina, making intercourse more comfortable. This discharge may continue to be released for some time after intercourse. The mixture of semen and vaginal fluids can result in a white or cloudy discharge. This is a common and normal occurrence, especially if no barrier methods (like condoms) were used. Around the time of ovulation, cervical mucus can be more copious, clear, or white and stretchy. “This type of discharge can mix with sexual fluids and be more noticeable after intercourse, explains the expert. However, if you are secreting new and more white vaginal discharge, this could be signs of infections such as –

1. Bacterial vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) occurs when typical vaginal bacteria overgrow, as per research published in StatsPearls in May 2024. It occurs when the pH of your vagina is altered by sexual intercourse, douching, or frequent cleaning. While BV frequently affects sexually active persons, it is possible to develop BV without engaging in sexual activity. BV discharge might be off-white or grey. Other possible symptoms are:

  • Fishy odour
  • Increased discharge
  • Itching
  • Burning while urinating

Sometimes BV does not produce any symptoms as well.

A woman having burning sensation and white vaginal discharge after sex
Vaginal discharge after sex may be different due to an infection. Image courtesy: Freepik

2. Yeast infection

A yeast infection arises when Candida, a natural vaginal fungus, expands excessively. It’s also referred to as vaginal candidiasis. Yeast infections can spread during vaginal intercourse, according to a 2021 study published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health. However, similar to BV, a yeast infection can develop without sexual contact. Typically, yeast infection discharge is thick, white, and resembles cottage cheese. It normally doesn’t smell awful. Additional symptoms are:

  • Burning
  • Redness in the vagina and vulva
  • Painful urine
  • Painful sexual penetration

3. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Specific STIs such as trichomoniasis, gonorrhoea, and chlamydia are examples of STIs that can cause unusual vaginal discharge, including white or yellowish discharge, following sex. These infections may also cause itching, pain, or a peculiar odour.

What is the normal vaginal discharge in sex?

The amount of vaginal discharge during sex is unique to each person and influenced by hormones, menstrual cycles, and individual bodies. Arousal naturally increases lubrication with clear or white discharge, varying in amount but enough for comfort. Around ovulation, expect more, clearer, stretchier discharge. After ovulation, discharge may thicken and become creamier.

  • Consistency: Normal discharge can range from clear and watery to milky white and slightly thick. It should be smooth and not accompanied by strong odours or discomfort.
  • Quantity: While the exact amount can vary, it is generally normal for the discharge to be enough to provide lubrication. If it is excessively heavy or notably different from your usual pattern, it might be worth discussing with a healthcare provider.

How to prevent vaginal discharge during and after sex?

Preventing vaginal discharge during and after sexual intercourse is generally not advisable since it is a natural and healthy bodily function that serves important roles in lubrication, cleaning, and protecting against infections. However, if the discharge is excessive or uncomfortable, there are ways to manage and reduce it. Here are some ways as explained by the expert:

1. Gentle cleansing

Use mild, unscented soap and warm water to clean the genital area. Avoid douching, as it can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina. Pat the area dry with a clean towel after washing.

2. Post-intercourse hygiene

Urinate after sex to help flush out any bacteria that may have entered the urethra. Gently clean the genital area with water or a gentle wipe to remove any residual semen or lubricant.

3. Barrier methods

Using condoms can help minimise the mixing of semen and vaginal fluids, potentially reducing the amount of discharge noticed after intercourse. Condoms may also reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which may cause abnormal discharge.

4. Lubricants

Opt for water-based or silicone-based lubricants that are less likely to irritate compared to oil-based lubricants. Avoid lubricants with added fragrances or chemicals that can disrupt the vaginal flora.

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