Thick White Discharge – What Does It Mean?

Seeing a creamy white discharge might be very unpleasant or even scary if you haven’t noticed it before. However, in most cases, there’s no need to panic. This is a completely normal part of vaginal health, so there’s not much reason for concern.

Still, this can sometimes be a sign of an underlying problem. So, how do you know whether it’s time to pay your gynecologist a visit? Keep reading to find out.

What Is It?

This discharge is known as leukorrhea, and it’s a sign that you’re ovulating. Not only is this completely normal, but it can also be great news if you’re trying to get pregnant, as it signifies that it might be the right time to conceive.

If it’s a couple of days before you start ovulating, the discharge might look thin and slimy. This usually happens when the egg gets released. As you get closer to ovulation, the discharge starts to thicken and becomes mucus-like during ovulation.

Once the mature egg gets released down the fallopian tube, one enters the so-called luteal phase. This is a post-ovulation period that lasts until the start of the menstrual cycle.

During this period, one might notice that the discharge changes its color and consistency. Since it consists of fluid and old cells that are being removed from the vagina, it might even look yellowish. The discharge consistency depends on the dominant hormone of the time.

During the luteal phase, progesterone reaches its peak and the discharge might look white or cloudy. Estrogen, on the other hand, produces a clear and watery discharge, which usually occurs before ovulation.

What Causes It?

There are multiple causes of thick white discharge. Aside from the normal reproductive system function, there are two other common reasons why it might happen:

  • Pregnancy – White discharge that occurs before the menstrual cycle can be a sign that the person is pregnant. There’s really no way to tell whether this is the case, or if the reproductive system is just doing its job, since both kinds of discharge look almost exactly the same. Still, in some cases, pregnancy-related discharge can look creamier and thinker than usual.
  • Birth Control – Contraceptive methods cause changes to hormone levels. This change in progesterone and estrogen might cause vaginal discharge. When this happens, don’t panic, as this is a common side effect of birth control.

In both of these situations, the thick white discharge is a normal occurrence that means that the reproductive system is working the way it should.

However, there are cases where this might be a sign that there’s something wrong. Let’s take a look at the most common ones.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial Vaginosis is a fairly common vaginal infection. It occurs when there’s an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. In a majority of cases, it’s harmless and can be treated easily without any long-term effects.

The direct cause is still unknown, but there are some factors that the experts believe play an important part. These include having multiple sexual partners over a short period of time, smoking, and douching.

So how does one know whether the discharge is caused by bacterial vaginosis? Luckily, there’s an easy way to tell. The first symptom is that the discharge is greyish in color. It will also be thin and watery, even if the pre-ovulation phase has ended. Lastly, you might notice a fishy smell that grows stronger after sexual intercourse.

If you notice any of the above signs, it might be a good idea to visit a gynecologist. Until this happens, it’s important that you don’t make the situation worse. Here’s what to avoid:

  • Bubble baths and perfumed soaps
  • Smoking
  • Strong detergents for your underwear
  • Vaginal deodorants and similar products

Yeast Infection

Have you noticed clumpy, thick white discharge? What does it mean? Well, in most cases, yeast infection is the underlying cause. However embarrassing and uncomfortable it might be, it’s another very common occurrence, which around three-quarters of women will notice at least once in their lifetime.

It happens when a fungus known as Candida albicans starts spreading. It can happen out of nowhere, but the use of strong antibiotics is known to be a risk factor.

If you develop a yeast infection, you might want to abstain from sexual intercourse for as long as you’re receiving treatment. Treatment is often in the form of over-the-counter solutions, but prescription medication can also be used but only in more serious cases.

When to See a Doctor

As long as the discharge is white or yellowish and odorless, there’s a high chance that everything is normal. On the other hand, you might want to call a doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Discomfort
  • Itching
  • Sores or rashes
  • Bleeding
  • Strong, unpleasant odor that doesn’t go away
  • Missed period
  • Burning sensation during urination and sexual intercourse

The vagina does a good job of preventing future infections without the need for any action. A discharge is a normal part of this, as it washes out germs and bacteria that can causes diseases. However, if the discharge has any of the above characteristics, you should seek medical help.

The Bottom Line

Generally, thick white discharge isn’t something to stress about, as it contributes to the overall vaginal health. It maintains optimal pH balance while fulfilling a mechanism of removing dirt, bacteria, and any other harmful microorganisms and substances.

To ensure you don’t get an infection, maintaining good hygiene is paramount. Other than that, there’s really not much to do, as the reproductive system has a great self-defense mechanism.

But if any abnormal symptoms accompanying the thick white discharge, the advice is to always pay a visit to the GP or gynecologist to find an underlying cause. Most of the time, it won’t be anything serious, but it’s always a good idea to get rid of any issues as soon as possible.