Every women experiences vaginal discharge at various points throughout her menstrual cycle. In most cases, discharge is perfectly normal, but depending on the color and consistency, discharge can also be an indicator of an underlying medical condition. White discharge is one of the most common types of discharge that women experience. Here are the top 9 causes of white vaginal discharge.
Table of Contents
1. Routine cleaning
In most cases, white discharge is merely the body’s way of keeping the vagina clean. The fluid is produced by glands inside of the vagina, and the cervix then carries away bacteria and dead cells. The purpose of this discharge is to keep the vagina healthy and free of infection.
The secretion of vaginal discharge decreases significantly just after your period, but picks back up in the few days after your menstrual cycle ends. Just prior to ovulation, the body produces more vaginal discharge. Many women are able to predict ovulation just by judging the amount of consistency of discharge.
If you’re ovulating, you may notice a creamy white discharge that has the consistency of egg whites. The body produces the greatest amount of this discharge on the day of ovulation. Just after ovulation, discharge becomes thicker gradually.
3. Yeast infection
If you’re seeing thick white discharge that resembles cottage cheese, this could be an indication of a yeast infection. Along with the discharge, you may also be experiencing itching, swelling around the vulva and pain during sexual intercourse.
Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of the fungus candida. Candida is a type of fungus that is normally found in the vagina, but when candida growth gets out of control, it leads to a yeast infection.
Yeast infections can be caused by:
- Antibiotic use
- Untreated diabetes
- Weakened immune system
4. Bacterial vaginosis
If you’re experiencing discharge that’s white, gray or yellow and has a fishy odor, it may be bacterial vaginosis. A mild infection, bacterial vaginosis is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. To create a healthy environment, the vagina requires a balanced mix of both bacteria and yeast. When bacteria growth gets out of control, bacterial vaginosis occurs.
In many cases, this type of infection is mild and will go away on its own in just a few days. However, it can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
Doctors are still unsure of what causes bacterial vaginosis, but they believe that a few factors contribute to the overgrowth of bacteria, including:
- Having sexual intercourse with multiple partners
Avoiding douching and limiting your sexual partners can help reduce your chances of developing bacterial vaginosis.
5. Your period
If you’re expecting your period in the next few days, you may see milky white discharge. Milky white discharge before a period is perfectly normal. In the days leading up to your period, the cervix and uterus produce more fluid to clean out the vagina before menstruation.
Many women experience more discharge than usual during pregnancy. Milky white vaginal discharge may be a sign of pregnancy, especially if it appears in greater quantities. Pregnancy discharge is odorless and mild-smelling.
While pregnant women experience more discharge than normal, it’s important to remember that this is not a tell-tale sign of pregnancy. A home pregnancy test or a visit with the doctor are the only reliable ways to confirm a pregnancy.
If you see discharge that is foamy and smells foul, you may have contracted trichomoniasis. Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by Trichomonas vaginalis. This condition affects more women than men, but it is possible to pass the infection on to your sexual partners through sexual contact.
The good news is that trichomoniasis is a common STD that’s easy curable. Along with abnormal discharge, you may also experience:
- Vaginal irritation and itching
- Painful urination
- Discomfort during sex
Some women may also experience pain in the lower abdomen, although this is rare. A simple oral antibiotic is all that’s needed to treat the infection.
If your discharge is cloudy or has a yellow hue, it may be a sign of gonorrhea. Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease, and is common among people who have multiple sexual partners. The infection is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhea, and it can easily spread in the mucus membranes of the body.
Other symptoms of gonorrhea include:
- Bleeding in between periods
- A burning sensation during urination
- Pain in the pelvic area or lower abdomen
- Spotting after sex
- Burning and swelling in the throat after oral sex
- Swelling of the vulva
Oftentimes, symptoms are mild in women and easily go unnoticed. Unfortunately, many women mistake gonorrhea discharge for a yeast infection and attempt to treat the condition with over the counter medications. To prevent complications, be sure to visit your doctor if you notice discharge that is out of the ordinary.
9. Irregular periods
If your normally white discharge starts turning a bloody or brown color, it may be an indication of irregular periods. In rare cases, it’s also a sign of endometrial or cervical cancer.
There are numerous things that can cause irregular menstrual cycles, but a hormonal imbalance is generally the main issue. Endometriosis, PCOS, birth control, lifestyle factors and a host of other thing can lead to hormonal imbalances that cause irregular menstrual cycles.
If you normally experience normal white discharge, but are now seeing brown or blood discharge, see your doctor as soon as possible. Changes in discharge color, smell or consistency can be a sign of a medical condition, or in some cases, pregnancy.
Every women experiences vaginal discharge, and in most cases, the discharge you are seeing is perfectly normal. However, changes in color, consistency and odor can be an indication of a medical problem. See your gynecologist if you experience a change in your discharge, or if you suspect you might be pregnant. Discharge can be a sign of pregnancy, and it’s important to start taking measures to support a healthy pregnancy early on.