Milky vaginal discharge or white creamy discharge is completely normal and helps keep vaginal tissues healthy and free from infections. Normal milky discharge from the vagina changes consistency during your menstrual period and has no odor. The vaginal discharge can vary 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 change in the consistency, color, and odor of 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 creamy white discharge may become lumpy if there is a yeast infection in the vagina. Abnormal vaginal discharge is usually accompanied by a strong odor, itching, pain and swelling around the lips.
Why is there white or creamy vaginal discharge?
A healthy vagina excretes a white milky discharge that can change during your menstruation cycle. As long as there is no odor and no symptoms like pain, itching in the vaginal area or redness and swelling, you will not have cause for concern.
According to doctors, the white milky discharge is a combination of liquid (mucus) and cells. The function of 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 aqueous fluid to a creamy, thick discharge with a sticky feel.
Causes of Milky or Creamy Vaginal Flow
First, let’s take a look at the causes of milky or creamy vaginal discharge.
During ovulation, the cervix produces mucus that is of consistency and color of egg white. 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 levels causes the flow. This is also called “egg white cervical mucus”. This whitish clear sticky discharge creates the perfect environment for conceiving.
If you notice that you regularly have a pale milky white discharge around 12 to 14 days before your period, this could 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 confused with menstrual cramps.
White milky discharge occurs because the walls of the vagina thicken in preparation for pregnancy.
Throughout the course of your pregnancy, you are likely to have white vaginal discharge. This is called leucorrhoea and is completely normal during pregnancy. The secretion is caused by the mucous membrane that is most active during pregnancy.
The white discharge usually starts from your second trimester and gradually becomes thicker in consistency (creamy discharge) as your pregnancy progresses. The purpose of thick creamy discharge is to protect your vagina from infection.
If you notice changes in the color or smell of the discharge, for example, if the discharge changes from white to brown, green or yellow, you should talk to your gynecologist. However, some light spots during the first trimester of pregnancy are normal.
Women who are in the perimenopausal phase of life (the time leading to menopause) may experience irregular vaginal discharge. This is due to changes in hormone levels and irregular periods.
According to Dr. Jack D. Sobel, a professor at the Faculty of Medicine at Wayne State University, women who are menopausal usually only have a very minimal discharge. More often, the yellow-white vaginal discharge in menopause is as a result of an infection.
Another reason to experience a white creamy discharge is to be under extreme emotional or psychological stress. Although it is not known exactly why creamy secretion occurs, scientists have linked psychological distress with an increase in the production of white vaginal mucus.
A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology reported that psychological pathways can affect the reproductive system of some women. In the study, a third of the women examined attributed their flow to stress and anxiety. Although the study mentioned that there might be other factors that cause white discharge, they said more research needs to be done on the link between stress and vaginal health.
Another way stress can affect your body is by releasing hormones that can affect your immune system and interfere with your menstrual cycle. These factors could all combine, disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria in the vagina and cause gross milky discharge.
Infections that cause white creamy discharge
Abnormal white milky vaginal discharge, may have a consistency like a cottage cheese, change color, or have a strong odor. Here are the common reasons for an irregular white flow.
A creamy, lumpy white secretion without odor is one of the symptoms of Candidiasis, one of the most common types of vaginal infections. Candidiasis is caused by an overgrowth of Candida fungus occurring naturally in the vagina. Along with thick white creamy discharge, you may have vaginal itching and burning in the vulva and notice swelling around the vulva.
Doctors say the factors that can cause the candida fungus to grow, are the use of antibiotics, high levels of estrogen, diabetes, a poor immune system or being overweight. Yeast infection results in a white, lumpy, odorless discharge from the vagina. This is more likely to occur just before your menstrual period.
There are many natural home remedies for getting rid of a yeast infection. For example, coconut oil contains antifungal properties that can help reduce the number of fungi. Another natural remedy for Candidiasis is apple cider vinegar. The acidic properties of apple cider vinegar help balance pH levels in the vagina and reduce itching.
If the delicate balance of bacteria in the vagina is interrupted, bacterial vaginosis (BV) can develop, which produces a milky discharge with a strong odor. There may be a number of reasons why you have bacterial vaginosis. This could be caused by an excessive washing of the genital area, using a bubble bath, or you have recently changed your sexual partner.
Bacterial vaginosis will produce a whitish-gray discharge with a fishy odor. You may have a large amount of this secretion and the infection could cause vaginal burns.
When to see a doctor for vaginal discharge
White vaginal discharge is normal for women and is necessary for a healthy vagina. Abnormal discharge is a discharge that is brown, green, yellow, or cloudy and has a strong odor. Also, the odorless white abnormal discharge is thick and lumpy like cottage cheese.
You should consult your doctor if you present the following symptoms along with your vaginal discharge:
• The discharge is of any color other than white.
• There is itching and/or swelling around the vulva, lips or vaginal opening.
• The discharge has a strong smell.
• You have pain in the vagina and/or painful sexual intercourse.
• A burning sensation when urinating.