Milky white discharge or white creamy discharge can make many women worried. Whenever a woman has vaginal discharge she starts pondering if it’s normal or abnormal. Her worries about white milky discharge are justified because there are many causes of abnormal vaginal discharge.
So, if you don’t have a proper idea about what causes thick white discharge, and how to differentiate it from abnormal vaginal discharge, it can make you very worried. So, let us try to explore the exact causes of milky vaginal discharge in this article. We shall also try to talk about other types of abnormal vaginal discharges so that you can be warned about the symptoms and visit your doctor promptly for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Milky white discharge or white milky discharge causes:
All the healthy women have vaginal discharge without any reasons behind it. It is a completely physiological process which keeps your vagina healthy. This discharge which is normally produced in the women appears like milky vaginal discharge. This physiologic creamy white discharge protects the vagina from an attack of various vaginal infections.
But, the thickness or consistency of this milky white discharge can change during various conditions like stress, ovulation, pregnancy, etc. The amount of white creamy discharge secreted also increases during these events in a woman’s life.
But, whatever is the cause of milky white discharge, there are no symptoms like painful urination or dysuria, painful sexual intercourse, change in color of the white vaginal discharge to green or brown or yellow color, foul odor of the vaginal discharge, etc. If any such symptoms occur, it indicates that you are suffering from a vaginal infection. These symptoms should prompt you to consult your doctor and get yourself treated.
Milky white discharge is produced due to ovulation. There are many hormonal changes in a woman and these changes occur based on different phases of the female menstrual cycle. This white creamy discharge is produced due to an increase of female hormones like estrogen and progesterone during ovulation.
The white vaginal discharge produced during ovulation is called cervical mucus or Egg white cervical mucus (EWCM) or fertile quality cervical mucus. This cervical mucus appears like egg white, so it is called Egg white cervical mucus.
This cervical mucus protects the sperm during its passage through the female reproductive tract until it reaches the female egg and gets fertilized. It also provides nutrition or nourishment to the sperm during its travel through the female reproductive tract.
Ovulation occurs 10 to 14 days just before the onset of your menses. Before the onset of menses, white creamy discharge is increased in quantities. It makes the vagina moist. During ovulation, the consistency of the vaginal discharge becomes like egg white.
When a woman has this cervical mucus like egg white, she is most fertile during the menstrual cycle. There is a method for planning pregnancy called cervical mucus method. In this method, a woman keeps track of her vaginal discharge every day. When she feels that her vaginal discharge is excess and like egg white or white milky and thick, she plans sexual intercourse. This makes fertility or conception of the baby more likely due to coinciding sexual intercourse with ovulation.
After ovulation is over, the quantity of the cervical mucus decreases and becomes like more thick white vaginal discharge. So, having milky white discharge during ovulation is definitely very beneficial for conceiving and completely normal part of the female menstrual cycle.
Before the onset of Menses:
After the ovulation is over, the quantity of the white creamy discharge reduces but becomes thick. Again, before the onset of menses, you will notice an increased quantity of vaginal discharge that is milky and white in color.
During pregnancy, there is an increase in the hormone called Progesterone in the blood of the pregnant woman. This progesterone hormone is required to maintain a healthy pregnancy. So, it is also a type of pregnancy hormone.
This increased progesterone in the blood leads to secretion of ample amount of vaginal discharge which is white or milky or creamy in color and thin in consistency. It has a very mild odor. During pregnancy, the walls of the cervix and the vagina become very soft. This can facilitate the entry of infections into the uterus through the vagina.
So, there is an increased secretion of milky white discharge during pregnancy to protect the uterus and vagina from infections. This creamy white discharge prevents the entry of infections through the vagina. This physiological secretion of white vaginal discharge during pregnancy is called leucorrhea. It most commonly occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy.
During the last trimester of pregnancy, a pregnant woman needs to be really cautious as vaginal discharge can be due to PROM or premature rupture of membranes or breaking of waters. Also, if the vaginal discharge is stained with blood during last trimester, it can be due to conditions like Placenta previa and abruptio placenta and they are emergencies needing an urgent admission of the pregnant woman.
Stress is a predisposing factor and precipitating factor for many different ailments. The majority of illness like Idiopathic illnesses and autoimmune disorders are caused by stress. Psychological health plays a pivotal role in maintaining physical health as well.
If you are fit mentally, physical health automatically follows it. But, in a person with any psychological disorders like anxiety or depression, etc, many health disorders can occur. This includes vaginal discharge too. Increased secretion of white milky discharge can be seen in people with psychological stressors as per research conducted by several scientists or researchers.
The results of these studies are published in International journals like International Journal of Epidemiology. So, women need to be stress-free in order to avoid development of health ailments including white creamy discharge.
As we already noted hormonal changes in a woman’s body can lead to increased production of thick white discharge. This can occur during phases in woman’s life like ovulation which occurs every month, during pregnancy, and also during menopause.
Menopause is the time when there is cessation or stoppage of menses in the woman. It occurs in women around 50 years of age mostly. Before the time menopause occurs or during the perimenopausal time, there is fluctuation in the hormonal levels in the body of the woman. This leads to having irregular periods just before the complete cessation of the periods. Also, there is increased secretion of milky white discharge.
When you are involved in sexual intercourse, the vagina needs to be wet or moist. This is achieved by increased secretion of the white creamy discharge. This lubricates the vagina and facilitates the easy entry or penetration of the male genital organ. The increased secretion of white vaginal discharge during sexual arousal or excitement is absolutely normal and you need not worry about it.
There are yeast cells like candida albicans in the normal healthy woman’s vagina. They live as commensals without causing any problems. But, sometimes, they can divide and increase in numbers and lead to problems like vaginal candidiasis.
This increased susceptibility of vaginal candidiasis is seen in people who are immunosuppressed, people taking steroids for a long time, people taking antibiotics, people suffering from diseases like Diabetes and HIV.
Symptoms of vaginal candidiasis:
- Milky white discharge or thick white creamy discharge or cottage cheese like discharge or curdy discharge
- Burning urination or dysuria
- Pruritus or intense itching in the vagina or the other parts of the female genitalia like labia majora and labia minora
- Swelling of the vulva or the female genital area
- Dyspareunia or pain during sex
- Redness or Erythema of the vaginal walls
Treatment of vaginal candidiasis:
People with vaginal candidiasis are treated with systemic or oral antifungal drugs like Fluconazole. They are also prescribed Clotrimazole ointment to be applied inside the vaginal canal and vulva area. They also might be given pessaries made of clotrimazole to be inserted into the vaginal canal. Maintaining vaginal hygiene is absolutely important to prevent candidiasis from occurring and also in getting rid of it.
Other causes of abnormal or pathological vaginal discharge:
We have discussed all the possible causes of white milky discharge. Let us talk about other disorders which can cause abnormal vaginal discharge. They are mostly infections. But, sometimes, abnormal vaginal discharge can also be caused by disorders other than infections.
Bacterial vaginosis is a vaginal infection caused by protozoan parasite Gardnerella vaginitis. In this condition, the color of the discharge can be white or gray or yellow. The discharge is frothy and has a fishy or foul smell or odor. Also, there is swelling or inflammation of the vagina and vulva. There is dysuria or burning during urination. The patient also has to itch in the vaginal area. This disorder is not transmitted sexually. It is treated with drugs like Metronidazole.
This disorder is caused by a protozoan called Trichomonas vaginalis. It leads to the production of a yellow or green discharge with a foul smell or bad smell. The patient has pain in the vaginal area. Also, there is severe pruritus or itching in the genital areas. This infection can be sexually transmitted to the partner of the woman. So, both the woman affected and the sexual partner needs to be treated with a drug like Metronidazole.
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection or STI caused by a bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhea. A woman suffering from Gonorrhea has yellow or green thick discharge. It also causes symptoms like pain in the pelvic area. It can be spread to the sexual partner, so both of them need to be treated. Gonorrhea is treated with drugs or antibiotics like Ceftriaxone.
Apart from infections of the vaginal region, cancers like endometrial cancer can also cause abnormal vaginal discharge. The discharge produced by endometrial cancer is brown or bloody or blood stained. These women can also have intermenstrual spotting or spotting between the periods. They can also have pain in the pelvic region or lower abdomen.
Other causes of abnormal vaginal discharge:
- Atrophic vaginitis
- Cervical cancer
- Chlamydia infection
- Pelvic inflammatory disease or PID
When to consult a doctor if you have milky white discharge:
Milky white discharge is mostly harmless and physiological in most of the patients. But, sometimes, you might have some other symptoms accompanying the white creamy discharge. These symptoms might warrant consultation with a gynecologist for further diagnosis and management. Let us look at the symptoms which should make you consult a doctor.
- If the color of the discharge is not white and has any color like yellow, green, brown or blood stained.
- If you have swelling of the vagina, vulva, labia, etc.
- If you have severe pruritus or itching in the vaginal area
- If you have burning sensation while urination or dysuria
- If the smell of the vaginal discharge has foul odor or fishy odor
- If there are many bubbles or froth in your vaginal discharge
- If you have pain while having sexual intercourse or dyspareunia
We have seen all the different causes of white milky discharge. In most of the cases, you need not worry much about it. But, if you have any of the above-mentioned warning signs in addition to white creamy discharge, do visit your doctor for proper treatment.