Creamy white discharge: What causes it, and should you worry?

    Updated 09 September 2023 |
    Published 07 March 2019
    Fact Checked
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Ruth Arumala, Obstetrician and gynecologist, gynecologic and cosmetic surgeon, Texas, US
    Written by Olivia Cassano
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    Your discharge can look creamy, sticky, white, or translucent, but what’s considered normal? Here’s everything you need to know.

    Key takeaways 

    What is creamy white vaginal discharge? 

    Vaginal discharge is your vagina’s way of keeping itself clean and expelling old cells and bacteria — it’s there to protect you! But what exactly is vaginal discharge? Well, the glands in your cervix and your vagina produce fluids throughout your cycle. This fluid can contain skin cells, bacteria, and mucus. 

    As your hormones fluctuate throughout your cycle, the consistency of your discharge can change. It might appear stickier or more watery, depending on the phase of your cycle. If your discharge looks a little bit like egg whites, it could be a sign that you’re about to ovulate (release an egg), whereas thick, white, pasty discharge usually shows up just before your period. You can use an app like Flo to learn more about ovulation and your cycle.

    Is it normal? 

    Creamy white discharge is one of the most common types of vaginal discharge. It can be caused by lots of different things (more on that below) and be slightly different in consistency. 

    Creamy white discharge vs. egg white discharge

    Typically, healthy discharge ranges from clear to white and can be thick or slippery. The color and texture of vaginal discharge can vary depending on hormonal changes throughout your menstrual cycle. As estrogen peaks just before ovulation (when you release an egg), your discharge might change from white and creamy to clear and stretchy, like raw egg whites.

    What are the types of white discharge? 

    Your vaginal discharge can give you insight into your vaginal health. So, knowing what’s typical for your own body can help you recognize when something might be off. 

    White discharge can look different depending on where you are in your cycle and whether you have an infection. 

    • Milky white discharge: This is normal and healthy. It’s only worrisome if the discharge looks watery and has a strong, foul, or fishy smell; if it does, it could be a sign of an infection like bacterial vaginosis (BV), so speak to your health care provider. 
    • Clumpy white discharge: This is most commonly a symptom of a yeast infection, especially if it’s accompanied by itching and/or burning. It’s best to get this checked out by your OB-GYN.
    • Sticky white discharge: You might notice creamy white vaginal discharge after your period in the days leading up to ovulation (when your ovary releases an egg). This is when estrogen levels rise, and your cervix starts producing more mucus to help sperm fertilize the egg. 
    • Thick, creamy, white discharge: This type of discharge is most common after ovulation and before your period arrives in the luteal phase of your cycle. Estrogen is lowest at this point, so your discharge might look dry, pasty, or thick.

    What your discharge can tell you?

    Learn about different types of discharge, what is means, and what health conditions it can indicate

    What causes creamy white discharge? 

    Period 

    Thick white discharge before your period is especially common. If the discharge is odorless, white or clear, thick, sticky, or wet and doesn’t cause itchiness, it’s probably a normal part of your menstrual cycle.

    Sex 

    Several things can cause creamy white vaginal discharge after sex. Some of these include:

    Some people also experience pink creamy discharge after sex. In some cases, this can be due to rougher sex causing light 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’s a good idea to book a checkup with your health care provider.

    Creamy pink discharge after sex is also more common during menopause. Why? Well, hormonal changes can cause dryness, so your vagina is more prone to friction. Using lube can help, but it’s a good idea to chat with your medical provider to rule out any other issues.  

    Ovulation

    Before and during ovulation, it’s normal to find clear, stretchy mucus discharge that’s similar to egg whites in your underwear. This discharge has an important job: it’s produced by the glands in your cervix to help sperm reach the egg in your uterine tube. Clever, eh?

    Once ovulation is over, you’ll probably notice that your vaginal discharge changes again. The phase immediately following ovulation is called the luteal phase of your cycle. During this phase, discharge becomes dry and thick like a paste.

    Pregnancy 

    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, then it’s completely normal — and there’s a good reason why our bodies produce it.

    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 experiencing discharge with an unpleasant odor or itchiness, you should see your health care provider to ensure the safety and health of both you and your baby. Vaginal infections during pregnancy can potentially lead to complications like preterm birth and neonatal infections, but prompt and proper treatment can help prevent these risks.

    What causes abnormal discharge?

    Although discharge is perfectly normal and healthy, in some cases, changes to the smell, consistency, and color of your discharge can also be a sign of infection. So, here are some of the most common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge. 

    Bacterial vaginosis

    Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria that is normally found in your vagina. The most common symptoms of the condition include: 

    • Discharge that smells strongly of fish
    • Discharge that is grayish-white in color and thin and watery 

    Yeast infection

    Yeast infections are known for causing thick, clumpy, white discharge that looks like cottage cheese. A yeast infection is caused by the overgrowth of the fungus Candida, which naturally lives in your body. Other symptoms include:

    • Vaginal itching or burning
    • Vaginal soreness and a rash
    • Genital redness or swelling
    • Pain when peeing
    • Pain during sex 

    STIs

    Several STIs cause abnormal vaginal discharge, including: 

    Creamy white discharge with odor — Is there a reason to worry?

    Thick white discharge will normally have a mild odor or no odor at all. If your vaginal discharge has a foul, fishy, or unusual odor, it could be a sign of a vaginal infection. A good general rule is to track your discharge using an app like Flo and get acquainted with what is typical for your body. That makes it easier to spot when something is off. 

    How is abnormal creamy white discharge treated?

    Before your health care provider can treat any abnormal creamy white discharge, they need to diagnose you. BV or other bacterial infections (such as STIs) may be treated with a course of antibiotics. If your creamy white discharge is the result of a yeast infection, it can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription antifungals

    Can I prevent it?

    You can prevent abnormal discharge caused by STIs or vaginal infections by practicing safe sex and always using a barrier method like a condom or dental dam when having oral sex. You should also stay away from heavily scented soaps or deodorants and douches. Although these products are marketed to “clean” your vagina, they can often disrupt your natural pH and put you at a higher risk of infections like BV and yeast infections.

    When should I speak to a 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. You should speak to your health care provider if you’ve noticed new symptoms (such as a foul smell, itching, and/or pain) or a sudden increase in the volume of your vaginal discharge. You should also reach out to your doctor if you’ve noticed bleeding or spotting outside your period. 

    FAQs

    What is the difference between pregnancy discharge and ovulation discharge?

    It can be tricky to tell the difference between ovulation discharge and early pregnancy discharge. When you’re ovulating, your discharge is typically clear, smooth, and stretchy, like raw egg whites. But when you’re pregnant, discharge tends to be thinner and creamy white, and there’s more of it. As there are slight differences between the two, if you’re trying to conceive, have had unprotected sex, or are concerned about pregnancy, consider taking a pregnancy test or speaking to your doctor. 

    When in your cycle is discharge creamy white?

    Creamy white discharge is normal at any point of your menstrual cycle, but it’s most common in the phase between the end of your period and before ovulation. This is when estrogen rises, and your body gradually starts producing more cervical mucus, making your discharge look more like lotion. 

    Can dirty fingers cause a yeast infection?

    You can develop a yeast infection for all sorts of reasons, such as taking antibiotics or hormonal birth control. However, yeast infections can be triggered by sex, including fingering and oral sex. That’s why it’s so important to wash your hands and thoroughly clean sex toys before engaging in any type of vaginal penetration. 

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    History of updates

    Current version (09 September 2023)

    Medically reviewed by Dr. Ruth Arumala, Obstetrician and gynecologist, gynecologic and cosmetic surgeon, Texas, US
    Written by Olivia Cassano

    Published (07 March 2019)

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