Thick white discharge is a normal part of the menstrual cycle. In most cases, it indicates that the vagina is cleaning itself to prevent infection.
However, a person should take note of changes in the consistency, smell, and color of their discharge, as such changes could indicate an infection.
In this article, we discuss what causes thick, white discharge and what a person should do if they notice a change in the consistency or color of their discharge.
Vaginal discharge is often a white or clear liquid. It is normal for discharge to change slightly in consistency and transparency, depending on where a person is in their menstrual cycle.
Several factors can affect the consistency, color, and volume of vaginal discharge. These include:
- menstrual flow
- sexual activity
- use of birth control
Changes in vaginal discharge may sometimes be an indicator of fertility levels.
- No discharge or just a little dampness could indicate the lowest fertility level of the month.
- Thick, creamy, whitish discharge could indicate an intermediate level of fertility.
- Transparent, stretchy, clear discharge could indicate the highest fertility level of the month.
Infections may cause vaginal discharge to appear thick, white, and clumpy. A vaginal yeast infection, for instance, produces this consistency of discharge. If a yeast infection is present, a person may experience accompanying symptoms, such as:
- skin darkening
An overgrowth of yeast in the vagina affects about 1 in 4 women during pregnancy. However, the presence of yeast does not necessarily mean that there is an infection. A person should talk to their doctor about the change in discharge to determine the cause.
Thin, milky, white discharge is a common type of discharge from the vagina.
According to the Department of Health & Human Services, the frequency of vaginal discharge can vary among individuals, with some experiencing it daily, while others only have it a few times a month.
Thin, milky discharge is usually not an issue unless a person experiences other symptoms, or the volume of discharge increases.
During pregnancy, thin and milky vaginal discharge is common. Nearly every pregnant woman will experience a milky discharge due to:
- the cervix creating more mucus
- higher estrogen levels
- an increase in blood flow to the vaginal walls
The discharge is typically odorless. A person may need or want to use a pad or pantyliner to absorb excess discharge.
Changes in discharge color, consistency, or odor could indicate that a person has an infection or underlying health condition.
Reddish or brown discharge
A reddish-to-brown discharge from the vagina typically follows the menstrual cycle. It is often the result of the vagina cleaning out the last bit of blood after a period.
If brown discharge frequently recurs throughout the cycle, it could indicate an underlying health condition, such as uterine or cervical cancer.
Yellow or green discharge
A yellow or green-tinted discharge may indicate a bacterial infection or sexually transmitted infection (STI). A person should schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider to find out what is causing the discharge.
White, clear, and odorless discharge is normal and should not be a cause for concern. If a person experiences heavy discharge or notices the volume increasing each month, they may wish to seek medical advice.
A person should see a healthcare provider if they experience yellow or green discharge or discharge with a clumpy texture, as they may have an infection.
A person should also talk to a healthcare provider if they experience the following symptoms in relation to discharge:
- a strong or bad odor
- skin darkening around the vagina
White and thin or thick discharge is a normal part of the menstrual cycle. The body typically uses the discharge to clear the vagina of bacteria to prevent infection. A person may notice some slight changes throughout their cycle, which are usually due to hormone levels fluctuating.
However, if a person notices clumpy or yellow or green discharge, they may have an infection that needs treatment. Other symptoms to pay attention to include itchiness and pain in the vagina.
There is no way to prevent vaginal discharge. It is a normal part of the menstrual cycle and vaginal function. A person may find that wearing a pad or pantyliner can help absorb excess discharge.
A person can take steps to keep their vagina healthy and free of infection. Ways to avoid vaginal infections include:
- changing out of wet bathing suits and clothes as soon as possible
- avoiding douching
- washing sex toys or other objects that a person has inserted into the vagina after use
- washing the outside of the vagina with a mild soap
- changing tampons frequently throughout the day during menstruation
- refraining from wearing tight fitting pants
- wiping front to back
- avoiding using scented products and sprays around the vagina
Thick, white discharge is normal. The vagina secretes discharge to clean itself and prevent infection.
Each person’s discharge is slightly different and varies throughout the month, depending on where they are in their menstrual cycle. However, a person should watch for changes in its volume, odor, consistency, and color, as these changes can all sometimes be a sign of an infection.