White Creamy or Milky Discharge: What Does It Mean?
White milky discharge or white creamy discharge is completely normal and helps to keep vaginal tissues healthy and free from infections. Normal milky discharge from the vagina changes in consistency during your menstrual period and has no odor. The vaginal discharge can range from clear and watery during ovulation to milky white and sticky at other times. Pregnancy and sexual arousal can also cause an increase in white discharge.
Any kind of change in consistency, color, and smell of the milky discharge from the vagina could be a sign of a vaginal infection. For example, fungal and bacterial infections can cause the white milky discharge to turn yellow, green, or brown. In some cases, the white creamy discharge could become lumpy if there is a yeast infection in the vagina. Abnormal vaginal discharge is often accompanied by a strong-smelling odor, itching, pain, and swelling around the labia.
In this article, you will learn about why normal vaginal discharge is milky white in color. You will also find out when white creamy discharge is a sign of an infection that requires treatment with either home remedies or medications from a doctor.
Why There is White Milky or Creamy Discharge?
A healthy vagina excretes a white milky discharge which can change during your monthly menstrual cycle. As long as there is no odor and you don’t have symptoms like pain, an itchy vaginal area, or redness and swelling, you have no cause for concern.
According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, the white milky discharge is a combination of fluid (mucus) and cells. The function of the whitish discharge is to protect your vagina from irritation and infection. Normal vaginal discharge has no odor. The amount, consistency, and color of vaginal discharge can range from a thin, clear watery fluid to a thick creamy white discharge with a sticky feel.1
Causes of Milky or Creamy Discharge
First of all, let’s look at causes of normal milky or creamy white vaginal discharge.
During ovulation, your cervix produces mucus that is of an egg white consistency and color. This helps the sperm to find the egg for conception and can be a sign when you are most fertile.
The American Pregnancy Association, says that an increase in estrogen hormone levels causes the discharge. This is also called “egg white cervical mucus,” or EWCM for short. This whitish clear sticky discharge creates the perfect environment for conceiving.2
If you notice that you regularly have pale milky white discharge around 12 to 14 days before your period, this could just be a sign that you are ovulating.
An early sign of pregnancy is a milky white discharge from your vagina. During this time, you may also notice spotting before your period and have abdominal cramps, which are sometimes mistaken for menstrual cramps.
Dr. Trina Pagano on WebMD says that the white milky discharge occurs because the walls of the vagina thicken in preparation for pregnancy.3
During the whole course of your pregnancy, you will probably have white vaginal discharge. This is called leukorrhea and is completely normal during pregnancy. The website, WhatToExpect.com says that the discharge is caused by the mucous membrane being more active during pregnancy. The white discharge usually starts from your second trimester and gradually gets thicker in consistency (creamy discharge) as your pregnancy progresses. The purpose of the thick creamy discharge is to protect your vagina from infection.4
If you notice changes in the color or smell of the discharge – for example, if the discharge turns from white to brown, green, or yellow, you should talk with your healthcare advisor. However, the American Pregnancy Association says that some light spotting during the first trimester of pregnancy is normal.5
Another reason for experiencing a white creamy discharge is being under extreme emotional or psychological stress. Although it’s not known exactly why the creamy discharge happens, scientists have linked psychological distress with an increase in white vaginal mucus production.
A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology reported that psychological pathways can affect the reproductive system of some women. In the study, one-third of women examined, attributed their discharge to stress and anxiety.6 Although the study mentioned that there could be other factors causing the white discharge, they said that more research needs to be done on the link between stress and vaginal health.
Another way that stress can affect your body is by releasing hormones which can affect your immune system and interfere with your menstrual cycle. These factors could all combine to disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria in your vagina and cause thick milky discharge.
Women who are in the perimenopausal stage of life (the time leading up to the menopause) may experience irregular vaginal discharge. This is because of changes in hormone levels and irregular periods.
According to Dr. Jack D. Sobel, a professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine, women who are menopausal usually only have very minimal discharge.7 More often than not, yellow-white vaginal discharge in the menopause is as a result of an infection.8
Infections that Cause White Creamy Discharge
Abnormal white milky discharge may have a consistency like cottage cheese, change color, or have a strong odor. Here are common reasons for irregular white discharge.
A white lumpy creamy discharge with no odor is one of the symptoms of Candidiasis, one of the most common types of vaginal infections. Candidiasis is caused by an overgrowth of the Candida fungus that naturally occurs in the vagina. Along with the thick white creamy discharge, you may have vaginal itching and burning in the vulva and notice swelling around the vulva.
Doctors at WebMD say that factors that can cause candida fungus to overgrow are using antibiotics, having high estrogen levels, diabetes, a poor immune system, or being overweight. The yeast infection results in white, clumpy odorless discharge from the vagina. This is more likely to occur just before your menstrual period.9
There are many natural home remedies to get rid of a yeast infection. For example, coconut oil contains antifungal properties that can help to reduce the number of fungi. Another natural remedy for Candidiasis is apple cider vinegar. The acidic properties of apple cider vinegar help to balance the pH levels in the vagina and reduce itching.
If the delicate balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted, you could develop bacterial vaginosis (BV) which produces a milky discharge with a strong odor. There can be a number of reasons why you get bacterial vaginosis. This could be caused by over-washing the genital area, using bubble bath, or have recently changed your sexual partner.
According to Dr. Tim Kenny on Patient.info, bacterial vaginosis will produce a whitish-gray colored discharge with a fishy smell.10 You may have a lot of this discharge and the infection could cause vaginal burning.
Bacterial infections with painful milky-grey discharge could also be a symptom of a sexually transmitted disease (STD). For example, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause vaginal discharge and a burning sensation when you urinate.
You can treat mild cases of bacterial vaginosis at home. Some of the best natural treatments for BV are probiotics to boost vaginal health, tea tree oil to kill off the harmful bacteria causing the discharge, or coconut oil for its antibacterial properties.
When to See a Doctor about Milky Discharge
White vaginal discharge is normal in women and it is necessary for a healthy vagina. Abnormal discharge is a discharge that is brown, green, yellow, or cloudy and has a strong odor. Also, abnormal white odorless discharge is thick and clumpy like cottage cheese.
You should see your doctor if you have the following symptoms along with your vaginal discharge:
- The discharge is any color other than white.
- You have itching and/or swelling around the vulva, labia, or vaginal opening.
- Your discharge has a strong smell.
- You have pain in the vagina and/or painful sexual intercourse.
- A burning sensation when urinating.
Read my other related articles
1. The Top 9 Home Remedies for Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
2. How to Get Rid of Vaginal Odor: The Best Natural Remedies
3. The Best Foods To Improve Your Vaginal Health
4. Swollen Vaginal Area: Causes and Natural Treatments
5. The Top 10 Home Remedies for Vaginal Itching