Thick White Discharge: What It Means and Is it a Reason for Concern?

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Thick White Discharge: What It Means and Is it a Reason for Concern?

It is normal for most women to have some amount of thick white discharge during their menstrual cycle. The consistency of normal milky white discharge tends to get thicker around the time of ovulation. Thick white sticky discharge could also be an early sign of pregnancy or changes in your hormones. However, sometimes white creamy discharge that has a clumpy appearance could indicate a vaginal infection.

Depending on the cause of thick white vaginal discharge, the look and feel of discharge can change. For example, stretchy creamy white discharge could be a sign that your period is coming. But, chunky white discharge with no odor along with genital itching and pain may indicate a vaginal yeast infection. However, creamy white discharge may just be a normal part of your monthly cycle.


In this article, I will examine what it can mean if you have thick white creamy discharge. Noticing accompanying symptoms can help to know if the white discharge is a sign of pregnancy, infection, or something else.

What is Discharge?

Vaginal discharge that is clear to white is your body’s way of keeping your vagina clean and healthy. Cervical discharge (also called cervical mucus or cervical fluid) is produced by glands in the cervix during your menstrual cycle.

Doctors on MedicineNet say that vaginal discharge is normal for all women in their reproductive years. The color, thickness, and amount of cervical discharge varies during the menstrual cycle and also varies from woman to woman.1

According to Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on eMedicineHealth, normal discharge is usually a milky-white color with no noticeable or offensive odor.2

Usually, an increase in the amount of discharge, along with discharge becoming thicker or thinner, could be symptomatic of an infection. Vaginal discharge that indicates an infection will usually also be accompanied by itching, burning, and a bad smell from the vagina.

What is Thick Discharge?

Thick creamy discharge can also be a normal part of the menstrual cycle and doesn’t necessarily mean that there is something wrong.

Dr. Jacqueline Payne on Patient.info explains that fluctuations in hormone levels can cause thick discharge. For example, when estrogen levels are low, vaginal discharge will be thick and sticky. As hormone levels change in the monthly cycle, the vaginal discharge will get stretchy and clearer. Then white vaginal discharge before your period will again be thick and sticky.3

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Doctors from the National Health Service say that thick white sticky vaginal discharge is completely normal and nothing to worry about as long as there is no bad smell with it.17

Thick White Mucus Discharge

Although white discharge can be worrying for some women, in most cases, this type of discharge is completely normal. Hormonal fluctuations during your cycle mean that vaginal discharge will sometimes be thicker and sometimes thinner.

Some women also have thicker vaginal discharge than others, and being pregnant could also result in thick white mucus.

White Creamy Discharge

The most common type of white discharge is the type that is classed as white and creamy and regularly occurs around ovulation.

Ovulation discharge

The journal Fertility and Sterility reports that thick, creamy cervical mucus (CM) that looks white or yellowish tends to happen in the mid-cycle stage before ovulating. After ovulation, and as you approach your period, white creamy discharge takes on a “raw egg white” appearance and consistency. This type of white discharge feels stretchy.4 White discharge after ovulation then becomes thicker and stickier again.

Other signs of ovulation include:

Early signs of pregnancy

Apart from ovulation discharge, white discharge can be a sign of early pregnancy. The American Pregnancy Association reports that normal vaginal discharge (sometimes called leukorrhea) is milky white and may have a mild odor.5

Other signs of early pregnancy can include any of the following:

It’s important to remember that pink discharge associated with pregnancy usually happens in the first trimester. If you notice any unusual vaginal bleeding, you should speak to your doctor.

Stress

Stress can cause your body to produce more or less milky white vaginal discharge. For example, the International Journal of Epidemiology says that many women report an increase of vaginal discharge when under extreme stress and anxiety. This could happen because stress affects hormone production in the body and can interfere with your regular menstrual cycle.6

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If you are finding it difficult to cope with long-term stress or have anxiety issues, please read my article on the best ways to deal with stress naturally. You may also find that adjusting your diet helps to balance your hormones better and reduces the symptoms of stress.

Menopause

As you approach the menopause, you may find that some months you have thick white discharge and other months you have clear watery discharge.

The journal Endocrinology Metabolism Clinics of North America reports that estrogen fluctuates during the perimenopausal period.7 In the months where estrogen levels are high, you may find that you have heavy white vaginal discharge. Changes in hormone levels can also result in other menopausal symptoms like:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Mood swings and feelings of depression
  • Decreased sex drive

After the menopause it is common to experience symptoms of vaginal dryness. To help deal with physical and emotional changes during the menopause, you can try some of my natural remedies for the menopause.

Thick White Clumpy Discharge

The reasons for thick white clumpy discharge are usually to do with a vaginal yeast infection.

Candida infection

The presence of chunky white discharge that resembles cottage cheese is commonly seen in candidiasis. According to the book StatPearls, an overgrowth of Candida albicans yeast infection will cause a thick sticky white discharge with chunks or lumps.8

Some doctors describe this as a “curd-like” discharge that doesn’t have an offensive odor.3 Some other symptoms of a candida infection can include:

  • Vaginal itching
  • Swollen labia around the vaginal opening
  • Burning sensation in the vagina
  • Signs of redness and inflammation around the vagina

To help get rid of vaginal discomfort caused by a candida infection, you can try coconut oil for treating yeast infections. Other natural remedies to try are apple cider vinegar and raw plain yogurt. You can also boost the effectiveness of coconut oil by adding a few drops of tea tree oil for its antifungal properties.

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White Sticky Discharge or White Stretchy Discharge

As this article has shown, normal white cervical mucus can be sticky or stretchy as part of the normal menstrual cycle. The best way to know if white sticky discharge is normal for you is to keep a menstrual diary.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that normal vaginal discharge after your period starts becoming white and sticky. The discharge is sticky because there is not much of it and it may have a cloudy white appearance.

Discharge about 2 weeks before your next period will increase in volume and change in consistency. The discharge will change from feeling thick and sticky to becoming wet and stretchy. It is at this time when you are at your most fertile if you are hoping to conceive a baby.

The amount of white discharge in the week or so leading up to your period decreases and changes from being wet and stretchy to thick and sticky.9

Thick White Discharge and Pregnancy

Milky white discharge is one of the early signs of pregnancy. When implantation occurs, the lining of your cervix and uterus thicken to prepare your body for your growing baby. It’s around this time you may experience light abdominal implantation cramping and light pink spotting.

According to OB/GYN Dr. Trina Pagano, light implantation spotting may be accompanied by a milky white discharge. Usually, this thick white discharge continues for the course of your pregnancy and is normal. As long as there are no signs of a vaginal infection like itching, burning, or redness, you shouldn’t worry about white pregnancy discharge.10

Thick clumpy white discharge during pregnancy isn’t normal and is usually symptomatic of a yeast infection. If you notice that white discharge during pregnancy becomes clumpy, you should speak to your obstetrician.

White Discharge During Sex

Some women notice that they have an increase of white sticky discharge during sexual intercourse. There are a few reasons why this can happen.

Ovulation. Having sex around the time when you are ovulating increases your chances of becoming pregnant. However, because sticky “egg white mucus” is more abundant during ovulation, the white discharge may not necessarily be directly connected with sex. So, the white discharge during sex may just be your normal cervical mucus.

Sexual arousal. Your vagina produces more cervical fluid when you become sexually aroused. The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology reported that arousal increases the amount of vaginal fluid for lubrication.11

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Seminal fluid. If you have sex without a condom, you could mistake white discharge after sex for semen. The journal Infectious Diseases in Obstetrics and Gynecology says that semen is often found in vaginal fluid after sexual intercourse.12

Bacterial infection. If you have bacterial vaginosis (BV), you may notice thick white discharge with a bad odor after having sex. Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic say that grayish-white cervical discharge caused by BV is more noticeable after sex.13

Thick White Discharge Before Period

The increase of thick white cervical mucus before the start of your next cycle is usually due to ovulation. You should notice that this type of thick white vaginal fluid changes in consistency and volume as your cycle progresses.

Thick White Discharge with Odor

Vaginal discharge that is white, yellow, or green and has an offensive smell is usually caused by a bacterial infection.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial vaginosis is caused when there is an overgrowth of bacteria that disrupts that normal vaginal flora. Activities like sexual activity, smoking, or douching can alter the natural levels of good bacteria and cause BV.

Most doctors report that bacterial vaginosis usually causes a thin white watery discharge that smells bad. BV can also result in vaginal itching, a burning sensation when you pee, or pain during intercourse.14

If you have signs of a bacterial infection in your vagina, you can try some of my natural remedies for BV to soothe discomfort in your genitals.

Poor hygiene

A bad odor coming from thick white discharge could be connected to poor or bad hygiene habits.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that vaginal douching can actually cause white discharge with odor because it can irritate your vagina and upset the delicate balance of bacteria. Also, not washing your genitals, not wiping from front to back or leaving a tampon in for a long time can cause a thick discharge with a bad odor from your vagina.15

Thick White Discharge with No Odor

Thick white discharge that doesn’t smell may or may not be connected with your menstrual cycle.

White discharge that is thick and sticky with no other symptoms is usually due to ovulation or pregnancy.

Thick white discharge with symptoms like vaginal itching, burning, redness, and chunks in the discharge is usually due to a yeast infection.

When to See a Doctor

Secretions from the vagina that are clear to white and don’t smell are necessary to maintain the health of your reproductive organs. Even thick white discharge is normal in your menstrual cycle and is nothing to worry about.

You may need to see a doctor if you notice changes in the amount, consistency, or smell of your vaginal discharge. Dr. Laurence Knott on Patient.info says that signs of abnormal vaginal discharge include any of the following:16

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources:

  1. MedicineNet. Medical definition of vaginal discharge.
  2. eMedicineHealth. Vaginal discharge.
  3. PatientInfo. Vaginal discharge.
  4. Fertil Steril. 2013 Oct; 100(4): 1033–1038.e1.
  5. AmericanPregnancy. Vaginal discharge during pregnancy.
  6. J Epidemiol. 2005;34(4): 862-863.
  7. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2015 Sep; 44(3): 497–515.
  8. NCBI. Candidiasis, vaginal.
  9. MayoClinic. Cervical mucus method for natural family planning.
  10. WebMD. Pregnancy symptoms.
  11. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1995 Dec; 63(6): 891–906.
  12. Infect Dis Obstet Gynecol. 2008:820845.
  13. ClevelandClinic. How to decode your vaginal discharge.
  14. NCBI. Vaginosis, bacterial.
  15. MayoClinic. Vaginal odor.
  16. PatientInfo. Vaginal discharge.
  17. NHS. Vaginal discharge.
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