Semen-like fluid outside of condom?

Q. I had sex with my girlfriend the other night with a regular latex condom. When we finished and pulled out, we noticed a white fluid on the outside of her vagina. Upon inspection of the condom, it was intact - no rips were present, and there was a good amount of semen at the tip. We aren't sure what this fluid was, but it looked like semen and we aren't sure how it got there. So the bottom line is, we had sex with a condom that was used properly, yet we found unidentified, semen-looking fluid after the fact. Is it possible she could become pregnant?

A. Firstly, it is always possible that any type of penis-to-vagina sex can lead to pregnancy! No method of Birth Control is 100% effective, except abstinence.

However, so long as you used the condom correctly and it was still in place after you pulled out, the most likely cause of this unknown substance is your girlfriend's regular vaginal discharge. A woman's discharge is meant to flush out her vagina and maintain a healthy pH level, and this bodily fluid can certainly change throughout her menstrual cycle. However, even women who have not begun their periods will sometimes notice a white or slightly yellowish stain present on their underwear, or on the bathroom tissue they use to clean with after urinating.

Discharge can change in color, scent, taste and consistency throughout a woman's menstrual cycle. What's normal to your girlfriend could be different for someone else, so it's best she monitors her own particular pattern to watch for inconsistencies to rule out any vaginal conditions that might be brewing.

In terms of what may be considered ‘normal’, her feminine emissions should generally:

  • appear clear or whitish in color, although it may appear yellowish if it has dried onto undergarments.
  • have a mild scent. Any odor that comes across as ‘fishy’ or foul usually indicates a pH imbalance or vaginal infection. Keep in mind that certain medications and/or pregnancy can impact her aroma.
  • feel sticky and look clear, or pasty and slightly cloudy. Clumpy or “cottage cheesy” discharge ought to be discussed with a health provider.
  • have a volume that can vary from a little to a lot, but you can expect more while she's aroused or during ovulation.
  • taste sweet or ever so slightly sour. A somewhat metallic taste may also occur if oral sex is conducted near the time of Menstruation.

The easiest way to get familiar with one's own brand of vaginal secretions is to perform regular self check-ups. It is a great habit to get into and requires only a few seconds during the day to carry through. Using the tips of the fingers and a small mirror, sweep the entrance to the vagina at different points throughout the monthly cycle and observe the unique characteristics mentioned above. It is best to record these findings on a calendar or in a journal.

Once she’s been able to do this self check-up over a few menstrual cycles, she'll have a much better idea of what her ‘normal’ looks like. This skill will also help in identifying any fluids that are unusual, ideally to help circumvent pH imbalances that lead to Yeast Infections and prevent uncomfortable vaginal conditions like Bacterial Vaginosis or Trichomoniasis from taking hold.

For more information about vaginal health, check out the Sexual Health and STD/STI areas of our Encyclopedia, as well as other related advice posts such as How do I improve the smell and taste of my vagina?