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Why Do Girls Cream? 8 Types of White Vaginal Discharge

Vaginal discharge plays an important role in the reproductive system. The secretions carry away bacteria in the vagina to maintain normal flora and a normal vaginal pH level, preventing infections. It’s normal for the vagina to secrete a discharge, and the color, smell, and consistency of the discharge can vary. There are many possible reasons for unusual vaginal discharge, including menopause, pregnancy, vaginal infection, and stress.

What causes abnormal discharge?

Cervical mucus is vaginal discharge that is produced by the cervical glands and changes throughout the menstrual cycle. Around ovulation, the discharge is stretchy and clear. After ovulation, the discharge may become white, thick, and creamy.

It is normal to have changes in discharge throughout a cycle. However, if the color, smell, or consistency appears different from the norm, this may be a sign of an infection.

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Normal discharge often appears white in color. It has no odor, and it is harmless. Abnormal discharge, on the other hand, may appear brown, green, yellow, or bloody. It may also be accompanied by a foul smell, which could be a sign of a bacterial infection. Although in some cases changes in color can be normal, if they’re not accompanied by these symptoms. For example, brown bloody discharge is normal before or after a period.

Abnormal vaginal discharge can also be a sign of pelvic inflammatory disease, sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia or gonorrhea, diabetes, or vaginal atrophy.

Douching can also alter normal vaginal discharge. 

How does a health care provider diagnose abnormal discharge?

It’s important to visit a health care provider in cases when vaginal discharge is unusual and comes with symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, and fatigue.

The health care provider may conduct a physical examination as well as a pelvic exam. They may also ask some questions concerning the symptoms such as:

  • When did you first notice the discharge was unusual?
  • What color is the discharge?
  • Does the discharge have an odor?
  • Are there any other symptoms such as pain, burning, or itching around or in the vagina?

The health care provider may also ask questions concerning sexual activity and menstrual cycle history.

If the health care provider is not able to diagnose the cause immediately, they may recommend more testing. The health care provider may take a sample of cells and discharge from the cervix to do a Pap test.

The health care provider may also examine the discharge under a microscope. Once the cause of abnormal discharge is established, they may prescribe medication or other treatment options.

How is abnormal discharge treated?

The treatment for abnormal discharge depends on the cause. For instance, if the cause of abnormal vaginal discharge is a yeast infection, the health care provider may prescribe an antifungal medication. If the cause is a bacterial infection, antibiotics can be prescribed.

To help prevent infections:

  • Avoid douching as it may disrupt the normal vaginal pH level, leading to an imbalance in vaginal discharge, which would make the vagina less protected. Instead, keep the vagina clean by washing it regularly with warm water.
  • Practice safe sex (use condoms).

Types of normal white vaginal discharge

White vaginal discharge may have different characteristics. The color and consistency of vaginal discharge changes throughout the menstrual cycle. 

A few days before ovulation, discharge is stretchy, clear, and similar to egg whites. This is because of the high levels of estrogen being produced at that time. 

During the second part of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation, you may notice creamy white discharge. Normal vaginal discharge during this time is typically white, creamy, milky, or cloudy and is sometimes thick. As long as the discharge is odorless and doesn't come with any symptoms such as itching or burning, painful urination, or painful sex, it is likely to be normal. 

Some people also experience similar discharge during the early stage of pregnancy.

What causes heavy white discharge?

Excessive vaginal discharge could be a normal part of the menstrual cycle, such as during ovulation, or a sign of an underlying condition. There are a number of potential reasons for excessive discharge, including:

Ovulation – Vaginal discharge often increases in volume just before ovulation. It may change from looking creamy to being more stretchy, clear, and similar to egg whites. This discharge is normal as long as there’s no strong smell and it doesn’t come with any uncomfortable symptoms.

Pregnancy – During the early stages of pregnancy, vaginal discharge may increase in volume and become thick and creamy in consistency, but it shouldn’t change color or smell.

Sexually transmitted infections – STIs may cause a change in vaginal discharge. For example, one of the potential symptoms of gonorrhea or chlamydia is vaginal discharge that appears green or yellow in color and may be accompanied by a strong foul smell.

Stress – Excessive stress can cause changes in the body, producing more discharge than normal. Whether it is emotional or psychological, stress can cause changes to vaginal discharge because of hormonal changes that alter the normal production of vaginal mucus. 

5 potential causes of abnormal discharge

Genital yeast infection   

A genital yeast infection (candidiasis) is a type of fungal infection characterized by white cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge as well as itching and burning sensations.

Some yeast in the vagina is normal. However, there are certain situations that can sometimes make it more likely for the yeast to multiply too quickly.

These include:

  • Taking birth control pills
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Taking medications such as antibiotics

Sexually transmitted infections

Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause discharge to have a different color (usually yellow or green) and may be accompanied by a foul smell. Other symptoms include painful urination, pelvic pain, and painful sex.

Atrophic vaginitis

Atrophic vaginitis is a thinning of the vaginal walls, which causes inflammation, abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal dryness, and genital itching. This condition occurs when estrogen levels drop significantly, and it sometimes occurs after menopause.

Vulvovaginitis

Vulvovaginitis is an inflammation of the vagina and/or the vulva. It is also referred to as vaginitis or vulvitis.

Vulvovaginitis can be caused by a yeast infection, sexually transmitted infections, or parasites. Symptoms include foul-smelling abnormal vaginal discharge, itching, irritation, and inflammation around the vaginal area.

Bacterial vaginosis  

Bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection that results from a change in the normal balance of vaginal bacteria. In some cases, it may not cause any symptoms. There may be an increase in vaginal discharge, and it may have a strong fish-like odor.

Final remarks

Vaginal discharge is a normal part of the body’s functioning, and it changes throughout the menstrual cycle. Vaginal discharge may change after ovulation and during pregnancy or sexual arousal. If there are unusual changes in vaginal discharge, especially when accompanied by other symptoms such as itching, burning, or pain, it could indicate an infection or other health condition. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to visit a health care provider.

There are different types of vaginal discharge depending on the phase of the menstrual cycle. If vaginal discharge is abnormal due to a health condition, the symptoms will depend on the specific cause. Be sure to visit a health care provider for an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

“Vaginal Atrophy.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2 May 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vaginal-atrophy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352288.

Spence, Des, and Catriona Melville. “Vaginal Discharge.” BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), BMJ Publishing Group Ltd., 1 Dec. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2099568/.

“Vaginal Discharge.” NHS Choices, NHS, www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginal-discharge/.

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