Is white discharge normal, or a sign of something serious? If you’re seeing white or creamy discharge, don’t panic. In most cases, this type of discharge is perfectly normal – especially if it’s odorless. Let’s take a closer look at the three most common types of white discharge to help you determine if your case is normal, or if it’s time to see your doctor.
Table of Contents
- 1. White Milky Discharge
- 2. Thick White Discharge
- 3. Excessive Discharge (Is yours brown?)
- So What Causes White Discharge, Exactly?
1. White Milky Discharge
Creamy white discharge is perfectly normal, and can be an indication of a few things. Many women experience this type of discharge during ovulation. If the discharge is stretchy and thick, it’s likely just a sign that you’re ovulating.
In some cases, however, creamy discharge can be an early sign of pregnancy. For some women, this is the first sign they notice, and it’s referred to as leucorrhea. This type of discharge is either completely odorless or carries a very mild odor.
2. Thick White Discharge
White discharge can be very concerning for some women, but in most cases, this type of discharge is also quite normal. As your cycle progresses, your vaginal discharge will begin to thicken.
Women may experience thick discharge during different stages of their menstrual cycle or during pregnancy.
Thick White Discharge during Pregnancy
Women undergo a lot of changes during pregnancy, and an increase in vaginal discharge is perfectly normal. Most women experience thick, creamy white discharge in the early stages of their pregnancy.
During this time, your vagina is working overtime to create more discharge. Why? To keep the cervix healthy, moist and sealed. Body heat can sometimes liquefy the discharge, which causes it to come out in larger quantities than you’re used to.
Thick discharge can also be normal during the third trimester of your pregnancy.
As long as the discharge is white or clear and odorless, it’s likely normal and your body is just doing its job to keep your cervix clean and healthy.
Thick White Discharge Before Period
Thick discharge just before your period is perfectly normal. This type of discharge is perfectly normal at the beginning and the end of the menstrual cycle.
Just before ovulation, the vagina produces a lot more mucous (up to 30 times more mucous than after ovulation). During this time, your discharge may be watery or elastic. However, there are a few methods you could use to make your period lighter.
At the end of your cycle, just before menstruation begins, you may also see thick white discharge. This is perfectly normal and is no cause for concern, provided there is no itching accompanied with the discharge and that the color is white.
Thick White Discharge No Odor
Discharge that’s completely odorless is perfectly normal. You may experience this type of discharge at the beginning of your cycle, during ovulation and at the end of your cycle.
Thick, creamy discharge may also be a sign of pregnancy, so pay attention to the timing. If your period is late, consider taking a pregnancy test (click here if you want to take a homemade pregnancy test, or check out the most 5 reliable products on the market) or seeing your doctor to confirm your pregnancy. The discharge may be an early sign of pregnancy.
Thick White Discharge After Sex
Seeing white discharge after sex can be alarming, but in most cases, is perfectly nor mal. There are a few different reasons why you’re seeing this right after sex:
- Vaginal Lubrication: When a woman is aroused, a creamy fluid is sometimes secreted to aid in sexual intercourse. In most cases, the fluid is watery and clear or white in color. The body may continue to produce this discharge after sex.
- Cervical Mucus: The cervix produces mucus at different stages of your menstrual cycle. The purpose of the mucus is to help the sperm make its way up to the egg for fertilization. Depending on the stage your menstrual cycle is in, you may see thick, dry mucus after sex. This usually indicates that you’re at the end of your cycle. If the mucus is clear and stretchy, it may be a sign that you’re ovulating. If you don’t wish to get pregnant, be sure to take extra precautions at this time.
- Male Ejaculate: It’s possible that the discharge you’re seeing is not discharge at all. If you and your partner are having sex without a condom, what you may be seeing is male ejaculate. Semen is creamy and sometimes thick, and can easily be mistaken for vaginal discharge.
Thick White Clumpy Discharge
More often than not, white discharge is perfectly normal – provided it’s smooth and odorless. If your discharge is clumpy and its texture resembles cottage cheese, it may be sign of an infection.
Discharge that’s slightly yellow or green and clumpy may be an indication of a yeast infection or Bacterial Vaginosis. If the discharge carries a foul smell, it’s time to see your doctor. Bacterial Vaginosis and yeast infections can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription medications, but only your doctor can diagnose the condition.
3. Excessive Discharge (Is yours brown?)
An excessive amount of thick white vaginal discharge can be normal, but it may also be a sign that it’s time to see your doctor.
The 4 most common causes of heavy discharge include:
- Ovulation: Most women experience an excessive amount of discharge during ovulation.During this time, progesterone levels in the body are high, which causes the body to secrete more discharge than normal. If you’re seeing heavy discharge 10-14 days after the first day of your period, this is likely just a sign of ovulation and is nothing to be concerned about.
- Pregnancy: It’s also perfectly normal for women to secrete an excessive amount of discharge in the early stages of pregnancy. During this time, the vagina is producing more mucus to keep the cervix sealed, moist, clean and healthy.
- Sexual Excitement: Vaginal discharge can act as a natural lubricant for sexual intercourse. The same hormones that cause you to become aroused are the same ones that create a steady secretion of discharge. If you’re sexually aroused, you may notice an excessive amount of discharge for this reason.
- Stress: If you’re under a lot of stress, you may notice more discharge. Stress can create hormonal imbalances, which can affect the amount of discharge you secrete. Excessive discharge caused by stress is harmless, but you may consider taking steps to de-stress in order to prevent future health issues.
So What Causes White Discharge, Exactly?
If your thick white discharge is abnormal, you may be wondering what the cause is. Only your doctor can properly diagnose any medical-related issues that may be causing your discharge, but some of the most common conditions associated with this type of discharge include:
1. Yeast Infection
Vaginal infection is one of the most common causes of abnormal discharge. Yeast infections occur when there’s an overgrowth of bacteria in the vaginal area. Yeast, the Candida genus in particular, is commonly found in the vagina, but when its growth gets out of control, it leads to infection.
Nearly all women will experience a yeast infection at some point in her life, so don’t panic if this is the cause – it’s very common. However, keep in mind that once you get one yeast infection, you’re more likely to get another one in the future.
Yeast infections typically produce a white discharge that’s thick like cottage cheese. You may also experience itching and burning.
Some of the most common causes of yeast infections include:
- Prolonged antibiotic use
- Birth control pills
If your doctor determines that a yeast infection is the cause of your discharge, you’ll either be prescribed a medication, or you can purchase over-the-counter treatments at your local drug store.
Wonder if having a yeast infection? Read the signs, causes, risks, treatment, tips and FAQs
2. Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)
A sexually transmitted disease, such as trichomoniasis, chlamydia or gonorrhea may also cause thicker discharge.
Trichomoniasis is also a type of infection, but is caused by a protozoan, or a single-cell organism. This STD is spread through sexual contact, but it can also be contracted through the sharing of bathing suits or towels. Typically, trichomoniasis produces a green or yellow discharge with a foul odor, but the yellow color may be so light that the discharge appears white. Common symptoms of this STD include inflammation, pain and itching.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two other STDs that can also cause abnormal discharge. In this case, the discharge is usually green, yellow or cloudy. However, even if you’re seeing clear vaginal discharge, these two STDs may still be the cause.
If you suspect that you may have one of these STDs, it’s important to see your doctor right away. Your physician will be able to properly diagnose your condition and prescribe an appropriate treatment. All three of these STDs are usually treated with a course of antibiotics.
Atrophic vaginitis typically occurs after menopause, and is caused by the thinning of thevaginal walls. After menopause, estrogen levels decrease, which leads to the thinning of these walls. Although there are rare exceptions, most women will go through menopause between the ages of 45 and 55.
Vaginal atrophy can increase your chance of developing chronic vaginal infections and urinary tract infections.
Common symptoms of this condition include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Thick white discharge
- Thinning of the vaginal walls
- Spotting after sex
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Urinary incontinence
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Shortening of the vaginal canal
Although menopause is the most common cause of atrophic vaginitis, there are other circumstances that can cause a woman’s estrogen levels to decline, including:
- Surgical menopause (the removal of the ovaries)
- Hormonal therapy breast cancer treatment
- Pelvic radiation therapy
Atrophic vaginitis can be diagnosed by your doctor through a few simple tests. The most common treatment is estrogen replacement therapy, and this treatment is recommended if symptoms are severe. Topical estrogen and oral estrogen are possible treatment options, but oral estrogen can lead to the development of endometrial cancer if it is not combined with progestin to balance your hormone levels.
Vulvovaginitis is another type of infection that effects the vulva and vagina. It is a common condition that affects women of all ages and can be caused by a variety of different things, including:
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Chemical irritants
- Environmental issues
Bacteria and yeast are the most common causes of this infection, although human papillomavirus (HPV) and parasites, like lice and pinworms, are also common.
Some of the most common symptoms of vulvovaginitis include:
- Genital itching
- Irritation in the genital area
- Foul odor
- Increase in discharge levels
- Painful urination
Vulvovaginitis can cause you to secrete more discharge, and that discharge is usually thick with a foul smell.
If you have any of the symptoms above, see your doctor immediately. He or she can diagnose your condition through a pap test. If you do have vulvovaginitis, your doctor will prescribe you an appropriate treatment, which may include oral antibiotics, antifungal pills, antibiotic or antifungal creams, or oral antihistamines.
5. Bacterial Vaginosis
As its name implies, bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal infection caused by bacteria overgrowth. Bacterial vaginosis is one of the most common types of vaginal infections in women between 15 and 44 years of age. In fact, 1 million pregnant women develop bacterial vaginosis every year.
The good news is that this condition is mild and easily treatable. However, if left untreated, it can increase your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection or experiencing complications during pregnancy.
Roughly 50% to 75% of women with bacterial vaginosis never experience any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, the most common ones include:
- Abnormal discharge
Typically, the discharge is white or dull gray in color and thin, although it can appear to be thick in some cases. The discharge is usually accompanied with a fishlike, foul odor.
Bacterial vaginosis can be caused by a number of different things, including:
- Overuse of antibiotics
- Unprotected sex
- Having multiple sex partners
- Overuse of vaginal medications
To diagnose this condition, your doctor will perform a pelvic exam and ask about your medical history. Treatment usually comes in the form antibiotics, such as tinidazole, metronidazole, clindamycin. In addition, your doctor may also recommend a new personal hygiene routine to prevent future infections and allow the current one to heal properly.
Although thick white discharge can be perfectly normal, there are instances when an underlying medical issue is to blame. In this case, it’s important to see your doctor right away to ensure that your condition is properly diagnosed and treated. If left untreated, these medical conditions can lead to complications later on down the road.
In conclusion, thick white discharge is normal in most cases. However, if you notice that your discharge is clumpy and carries a foul odor, see your doctor right away. This may be a sign of an infection and will require treatment.