Vaginal discharge can be completely normal, or it can be a symptom of certain health conditions such as a yeast or bacterial infection.
Creamy white discharge is one of the most common types of vaginal discharge, and most women will experience it at some point in their lives. This type of discharge can have many causes, some completely normal and others suggesting potential health issues.
Thick white discharge before your period is especially common. If the discharge is odorless or has just a mild sour odor; has a normal color, volume, and consistency; and doesn’t cause itchiness, it’s probably a normal part of your menstrual cycle.
In many cases, vaginal discharge is your body’s way of keeping itself clean. It’s there to protect you! The glands in your cervix produce fluids throughout your cycle. The amount of fluid these glands secrete might make your discharge stickier or more watery, depending on the phase of your cycle. In addition to cervical fluid, vaginal discharge also contains vaginal squamous epithelial cells and can come out of your sebaceous, sweat, and Bartholin’s glands.
There are several things that can cause vaginal discharge after sex. Some of these include:
- Natural lubrication
- Female ejaculation
- Male ejaculation, if you didn’t use a condom
Some people also experience pink creamy discharge after sex. In some cases, this can be due to rough intercourse causing light cervical bleeding. This can also happen if you have sex right before, during, or after your period. Though pink creamy discharge after sex can be completely normal, bloody discharge after sex can sometimes be a sign of a more serious issue. If you experience bloody discharge outside of your period, it might be a good idea to check in with your health care provider.
It’s also common for menopausal people to experience creamy pink discharge after sex. During menopause, hormonal changes can cause vaginal dryness. This can make you more likely to experience vaginal bleeding after sex, because your tissues are more prone to injury.
Before your period, your discharge will probably be a little more sticky. This happens because your body is trying to prevent sperm from swimming up your cervix during these days. Without a fertile egg around, sticky creamy discharge is meant to keep sperm out.
White creamy discharge before your period is also full of dead cells, white blood cells, and bacteria. Discharge helps cleanse the vagina of unwanted substances and microorganisms.
Because of this, it’s normal to see lots of creamy white discharge a few days before your period. After your period, you may also experience some creamy pink discharge. This happens when white discharge is tinged with blood from your period.
You can predict when you're likely to ovulate using an ovulation calculator, and then you can compare the signs in your body. During ovulation, it’s normal to experience clear, stretchy, mucus discharge that’s similar to egg whites. This discharge is meant to help sperm reach the viable egg in your uterine tube.
Once ovulation is over, vaginal discharge usually changes again. The phase immediately following ovulation is called the luteal phase of your cycle. During this phase, discharge becomes stickier and less penetrable.
Most people experience an increase in vaginal discharge during pregnancy. As long as this white creamy discharge has a mild smell or no smell and doesn’t cause itching, the increased volume is perfectly normal.
This creamy white discharge is known as leukorrhea. Rising hormone levels during early pregnancy increase your body’s production of fluid and discharge. This keeps your uterus safe from bacteria that could harm the growing fetus.
If you’re pregnant and notice discharge with an unpleasant odor or itchiness, make sure to see your health care provider. Vaginal infections during pregnancy can lead to complications like preterm birth and neonatal infections.
Thick white discharge will normally have a mild odor or no odor at all. If your vaginal discharge has a foul odor, it could be a sign of a vaginal infection.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a condition characterized by a pH shift in the vaginal flora that makes it less acidic, causing vaginal discharge. The discharge produced by BV is often yellow or gray. This discharge often has a fishy smell that becomes more noticeable after sex.
Yeast infections are common, affecting three out of four women at some point in their life. Yeast infections are caused by a fungus called candida, which is a normal part vaginal flora. However, candida can cause unpleasant symptoms when it grows excessively.
You’re more likely to have a yeast infection if you take oral contraceptives or antibiotics, or have diabetes or an immune deficiency. Yeast infections cause white creamy discharge that is clotted and looks similar to cottage cheese. Symptoms of a yeast infection can also include:
- Vaginal itching or burning
- Genital redness or swelling
- Painful urination
- Painful intercourse
The thick creamy discharge that accompanies a yeast infection is usually odorless.
There are many reasons why your body produces creamy discharge. If you’re experiencing unusual vaginal discharge, using an app like Flo can help you keep track of your symptoms. Tracking your symptoms can help you understand when your discharge is normal — for example, when it happens around your period — or when it’s time to call your health care provider. As long as your white creamy discharge has a mild odor or no odor and isn’t accompanied by other symptoms, it’s probably just a normal part of your cycle.
If you’ve noticed new symptoms or a sudden increase in the volume of your vaginal discharge, your health care provider can help determine the cause of these changes. If a hormonal imbalance or infection is causing your vaginal discharge, they’ll be able to prescribe the right treatment to make you feel better.