A Creamy White Vaginal Discharge: Causes and Treatment

The presence of a white, creamy vaginal discharge can be alarming. However, in most cases it is due to normal menstrual cycle changes.
A Creamy White Vaginal Discharge: Causes and Treatment
Mariel Mendoza

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Mariel Mendoza.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 18 October, 2023

In most cases, a creamy white vaginal discharge shouldn’t be a cause for concern. It’s usually due to changes that take place during the menstrual cycle. However, sometimes it can be a sign of a health problem.

In this regard, it should be clear that vaginal secretions are normal. The problem begins when there are noticeable alterations in color, texture, and odor. Also, be alert if it occurs simultaneously with other symptoms such as itching, burning, or irritation. Do you want to know more about it?

Vaginal discharge

The glands of the vagina and cervix secrete small amounts of fluid every day. This is what is known generically as “vaginal discharge”. It’s usually clear or white in color and has a subtle odor.

The function of these fluids is to lubricate the vagina, clean and remove old cells, and prevent infection. The latter is achieved due to the acidic environment it causes in the area, which leads to the elimination of infectious agents.

It’s estimated that almost all women secrete about a teaspoon of vaginal discharge per day. It increases after ovulation. The color varies from clear, yellow, white, or even a little brown. This depends largely on the menstrual cycle and is considered normal.

Vaginal discharge.
The color of the vaginal discharge is usually clear or white. Even so, its shade may vary somewhat throughout the menstrual cycle.

Creamy white discharge

A creamy white vaginal discharge after ovulation is normal. This occurs about halfway through the menstrual cycle. As noted above, it’s a sign of intermediate fertility.

At the beginning of the period, there’s also usually a white discharge, but it’s thinner and less creamy in texture. In fact, it’s common for it to take on a yellow tinge and look drier. This is the least fertile phase of the cycle.

Meanwhile, towards the middle of the period, when ovulation occurs, the discharge becomes more transparent and elastic. This corresponds to the most fertile stage. After that, the creamy white discharge begins to be secreted.

These changes in the appearance of the fluids shouldn’t be a cause for concern, as they’re part of normal processes. However, if the changes are very noticeable, and especially if they are accompanied by irritation, itching, bad odor, or any other symptoms, it’s necessary to consult a doctor.

The main causes of white and creamy vaginal discharge

A creamy white discharge before menstruation is normal. It takes on this appearance because it contains more white blood cells, dead cells, and bacteria than at other times of the month. It’s a mechanism of the body to cleanse the area of microorganisms and unwanted substances.

Another common reason it appears is pregnancy. This is due to the increased hormone levels that occur during pregnancy. Fluid production increases, as it’s a way to increase protection of the uterus and, in turn, the baby.

In certain cases, it can also appear during or after sexual intercourse. This may be due to lubrication of the vagina during intercourse, female ejaculation, or because the dates are close to menstruation.

Creamy white discharge: when is it abnormal?

As a general rule, when a white creamy discharge has a bad odor, it means there’s a health problem. The same is true if there are other clinical manifestations such as itching, irritation, or redness of the vaginal area.

This is almost always thought to be a sign of candidiasis, a yeast infection. However, this generates a lumpy, cottage cheese-like discharge. Possible causes of an abnormal creamy white discharge are as follows.

Bacterial vaginosis

This condition is a type of vaginitis caused by bacteria. It makes the white, creamy discharge more abundant. It can even take on a grayish tone and have a strong fishy smell. The latter is the most characteristic symptom of the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Diagnosis, this condition increases the risk of contracting STDs.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease that affects both men and women. In addition to producing a discharge with these characteristics, it causes a foul odor, burning during urination, and pain during sexual intercourse. If it spreads, it causes pain in the lower abdomen, nausea, and fever.

Vulvovaginitis

A creamy white discharge accompanied by inflammation and tenderness in the genital area could be a sign of vulvovaginitis. This word refers to inflammation as such, but its cause is usually a fungal or bacterial infection. In certain cases, it’s caused by the use of some irritating substance or garment.

Trichomoniasis

When this condition occurs, the discharge changes color. It changes from a white color to a greenish or yellowish tone. It’s a sexually transmitted infection that also causes bad odor and vaginal itching.

Fistulas

The presence of fistulas or abnormal openings between the genital tract and the intestinal tract sometimes leads to altered vaginal secretions. These form due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Damage to the vagina during childbirth
  • Radiation therapy to the pelvis
  • Tumor in the pelvis
  • Injury during pelvic surgery

Treatment for the white creamy discharge

Whenever a creamy white discharge is accompanied by bothersome symptoms, it’s best to consult a gynecologist to explore the reasons, and also if there’s a significant change in color or texture.

Treatment will depend on the cause. Often, the physician will conduct an initial interview and review the medical history. They will then carry out a physical examination and other complementary diagnostic methods.

Once this is done, they may suggest antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antifungal or other treatments, depending on the case. These may be tablets or creams, according to what is required. Only in some cases are treatments with injections applied.

A woman with a discharge.
If there are questions about changes in vaginal discharges, it’s best to go and see a gynecologist.

Final recommendations

It’s hardly ever necessary to treat a white vaginal discharge. However, if you have any questions or if there are symptoms such as bleeding, irritation, or pain, then it’s best to consult a gynecologist. Although it may not be an emergency, it’s best to intervene quickly.

Ideally, every woman should maintain good hygiene in the genital area, especially during menstruation. It’s important to practice safe sex. Douching or other similar products shouldn’t be used, nor should tight-fitting clothing. All this helps to prevent difficulties.

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The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.