Understanding Periods: What’s This Sticky Discharge?
Discharge is a fluid mixture from glands in the vagina and cervix, that clean, lubricate and protect the vagina. Discharge can vary in amount, color, consistency and smell, depending on the menstrual cycle.
Younger children can experience vaginal discharge before getting their first period.
Menstruation & Discharge:
- Estrogen is the main hormone that regulates fluid production and progesterone inhibits it. These hormones vary throughout the menstrual cycle.
- On the first day of the period, progesterone and estrogen levels are low. There is low fluid production.
- After the period, as estrogen levels rise, so do fluid levels.
- Ovulation is when an egg is released from the fallopian tubes. Closer to this phase, discharge can be white, cloudy, sticky, wet or creamy. Around ovulation, estrogen levels peak and discharge becomes more egg-like, clear and stretchy. This provides a ‘fertility window’ and filter, to allow the strongest and ‘best’ sperm to swim through to the egg.
- When a sperm and egg meet, it is called ‘fertilization’. After fertilization, an embryo is formed – this is the first stage of development of the baby. The embryo, then sticks to the uterus – this is called ‘implantation’. If implantation occurs, pink or orange discharge may be stimulated.
- If fertilization doesn’t happen, then after ovulation, progesterone levels rise and decrease fluid production. There is either dry and yellowish discharge or no discharge at all.
Causes of Abnormal Discharge:
As mentioned before, discharge is a normal and healthy bodily function. Factors such as sexual arousal, use of birth control pills, stress and allergic reactions can result in heavier-than-usual discharge.
Abnormal discharge is usually a symptom of infections or in rarer instances, cervical and endometrial cancers.
Below we have a chart with types of vaginal discharge and possible causes. Please remember that not everyone will experience these symptoms.