What is vaginal discharge?
Vaginal discharge is a healthy part of a menstruator since the start of their cycle. The color and consistency of the discharge varies at different points of the cycle and is mostly clear, white or brown in color with a varied range of consistency.
However, if you notice a discharge that is yellow, green or grey in color, or if it smells foul, there may be certain underlying health conditions.
What is creamy white discharge?
White creamy vaginal discharge is one of the most common types of discharge experienced by almost all menstruating people at various points of their cycle. In most cases, it is a completely normal and healthy part of the bodily functions, but in some cases, it may indicate underlying health issues.
What does it indicate?
This type of discharge can occur at various stages and indicate different things:
- Before periods - If you have often mistaken creamy white discharge in your pants for blood before your periods, you are not alone. This is very common and in fact, it is usually odorless or has a slightly sour odor. The consistency is usually slightly sticky and doesn’t cause any itchiness. This indicates that the body is trying to keep sperm outside of the cervix in the absence of an egg to fertilize. Also, it can be a result of the vagina cleaning itself. The glands in the cervix produce the fluids that mix with the discharge, determining its consistency throughout the cycle. Apart from fluid, the discharge also consists of epithelial cells.
- After sex - There can be a variety of reasons why you may notice creamy white discharge post-sex. It can be a part of your natural lubrication or it can be indicative of female ejaculation. Sometimes, it is the male ejaculation inside your vagina that comes out with your vaginal fluids when you have had unprotected sex and your partner has ejaculated inside. Sometimes, your discharge may turn pink and creamy after sex, as a result of rough sex causing mild bleeding or residual period blood. When this mixes with white discharge, it turns creamy and pink in color.
- After ovulation - To facilitate the sperm entering the cervix to fertilize the egg, the discharge during ovulation turns clear and sticky, like egg whites. But, after your ovulation period is over, it marks the luteal phase of your cycle which brings a creamy white discharge that is harder for the sperm to penetrate.
During pregnancy - During pregnancy, the vagina increases its production of creamy white discharge that is usually odorless or has a mild odor. The discharge is termed leukorrhea and functions to keep the uterus safe from harmful bacteria that can damage the growing fetus. The pregnancy hormones are responsible for producing this type of discharge and in more quantities during this time. If you notice an unpleasant smell, immediately contact your doctor as any form of vaginal infection during pregnancy can give rise to complications like neonatal infections or premature birth.
How is it different from milky white discharge?
The consistency and color of your discharge change depending on the phase of the cycle you are in. The thin, milky discharge experienced in the beginning to mid-phase of your cycle is an indication that your body is preparing for ovulation and it is slightly sticky in nature.
The consistency changes as you near your period, becoming more creamy and opaque. Milky white discharge is also a part of the early stages of pregnancy when your body is preparing itself to bear the baby for the next nine months. It serves to keep the vagina clean and germ-free and forms a mucus plug to prevent bacterial infiltration into the uterus.
Should you be worried if your discharge is thick, white and clumpy?
While creamy white discharge is usually normal, you should check for any change in its consistency. If it becomes clumpy or clotted, it can be indicative of a yeast infection. While the vagina maintains its pH most of the time, sometimes, the balance is disrupted causing an overgrowth of certain bacteria or fungi that otherwise thrive naturally.
A particular fungus called Candida albicans can develop yeast infection when it starts growing in excess. The signs often include:
- Cottage-cheese like discharge that is thick and clumpy
- The white discharge may be converted to yellow or green
- The vagina starts to smell bad
- An itchy vagina or vulva
- Redness or swelling around the vulva region
- Urination that causes pain or burns
- Painful sex
You should consult a doctor if you suspect yeast infection and if it’s recurring more than once or twice a year, get checked for underlying health conditions causing vaginal infections.
Should you worry if there is an odor?
Usually, creamy white discharge is odorless or has a mild smell. But, if you notice a foul odor in the discharge itself, it could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV). If the pH of the vagina turns less acidic, it is more prone to bacterial infections, where the color of the discharge also slowly turns grey or yellow.
In yeast infections, however, there is no odor in the discharge itself, but the vagina turns foul-smelling. You should also look out for other signs of yeast infection and inform your doctor accordingly.
When should you consult a doctor?
Creamy white discharge is usually indicative of sound reproductive health and is nothing to worry about. However, if you notice any of the following signs, make sure to consult your doctor:
- Itchy vagina
- Discomfort in the area
- Bleeding or rashes
- Strong odor
- Burning sensation while having sex or urinating
If the discharge is not accompanied by any of the above, there is nothing to worry about.