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Thick white vaginal discharge: Know causes and how to prevent it

Have you been noticing a thick white vaginal discharge in your underwear? Here’s everything you need to know and how to prevent them.
underwear with vagina discharge
Thick white vaginal discharge could be due to hormonal changes. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Shruti Bhattacharya Updated: 24 Jun 2024, 06:49 pm IST
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Medically Reviewed by

Vaginal discharge is common, and it can reveal a lot about a woman’s health and underlying conditions. Your vaginal discharge changes throughout a month, depending on your activity, medical condition, and menstrual cycle. Thick white vaginal discharge, for instance, is common in women and can vary in consistency, odour, and colour. Also known as cottage cheese discharge, it is commonly associated with yeast infections, especially when accompanied by itching or irritation. Here is everything you need to know about causes, types, and how to prevent thick white vaginal discharge.

What is vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is a combination of fluid and cells that leaves your vagina throughout the day. This may sound nasty, but discharge helps keep your vagina clean by protecting it from infections or irritations, as found in a 2020 study published in the Singapore Medical Journal.

Vaginal inflammation
Vaginal discharge can be different depending on different factors. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Is thick white vaginal discharge normal?

Thick white vaginal discharge is normal and often associated with different stages of the menstrual cycle. “During ovulation, the body produces more estrogen, which causes vaginal discharge. Throughout the menstrual cycle, the consistency and colour of the discharge can change. While thick white discharge may indicate fertility and is part of your body’s natural lubrication process, it can also serve as a barrier against infections. However, if the discharge is accompanied by itching, burning, redness, or a strong odour, it could be a sign of an infection, says obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Madhu Juneja.

Causes of thick white vaginal discharge

Thick white vaginal discharge is a common occurrence for many women and can be caused by various factors, both normal and abnormal. Here are some possible causes of thick white vaginal discharge:

1. Ovulation

Around the time of ovulation, one of your ovaries releases a mature egg. This happens when a tiny sac (follicle) bursts open. The egg travels down a tube (fallopian tube) where it meets the sperm and becomes fertilised, as per a study published in the StatPearls Journal. It is common for vaginal discharge to become thicker and white during ovulation. This type of discharge is usually normal and indicates that the body is functioning properly.

2. Hormonal changes

Fluctuations in hormones throughout the menstrual cycle can affect the consistency and colour of vaginal discharge, as found in a 2020 study published in the Singapore Medical Journal.

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3. Pregnancy

Increased vaginal discharge is often one of the early signs of pregnancy. This discharge is typically white and milky, according to a study published in the Cureus Journal of Medical Science.

4. Sexual arousal

“Sexual arousal triggers the release of clear or white discharge from the vaginal glands to provide lubrication, facilitating comfortable intercourse,” says the expert.

5. Yeast infection (candidiasis)

“One of the most common causes of thick white discharge is a yeast infection. This discharge is often described as having a cottage cheese-like consistency and may be accompanied by itching, redness, and irritation. Women with prediabetes are more susceptible to experience candidiasis,” says the expert.

6. Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) arises when normal vaginal bacteria overgrow, according to a study published in StatsPearls in May 2024. While bacterial vaginosis typically causes a thin, white or greyish discharge with a fishy odour, it can sometimes lead to thicker discharge.

7. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Certain STIs, such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia, can cause changes in vaginal discharge, including changes in colour, consistency, and odour. However, more research is needed to prove the claim.

Types of normal white vaginal discharge

While some cases of thick white discharge are alarming, others may be safe. Here are some of the several types of normal white vaginal discharge that you may encounter, as explained by the expert.

1. Egg white discharge

As previously stated, this transparent, stretchy discharge indicates ovulation and is entirely natural.

2. Creamy discharge

This discharge is thick and white or off-white in colour. It is frequently prevalent during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (the interval between ovulation and the onset of your menstruation).

3. Sticky discharge

This discharge is thick and sticky, and it frequently appears in the days leading up to your period.

4. Milky discharge

This form of discharge is thin and milky in colour, and it is commonly seen after intercourse or during pregnancy.

5. Watery discharge

This clear, watery discharge is frequent and can indicate arousal or high oestrogen levels.

6. Odourless discharge

Normal vaginal discharge typically has a slight, natural odour. If it has no scent, it is unlikely to cause concern.

Types of abnormal white vaginal discharge

1. Thick, clumpy discharge: This type of discharge may indicate a yeast infection caused by an overgrowth of the candida fungus.
2. Thick, cottage cheese-like discharge: It is a common symptom of a yeast infection.
3. Thin, white or greyish discharge: This type of discharge may indicate a bacterial infection, such as bacterial vaginosis. Also, it may be accompanied by a fishy odour.

How to prevent thick white vaginal discharge?

Here are some tips to help prevent thick white vaginal discharge, as explained by the expert.

1. Proper cleaning

Use water to clean the external genital area. Avoid douching since it can upset the natural balance of germs and yeast in the vagina. After using the toilet, wipe from front to back to avoid bacteria from spreading from the anus to the vagina.

2. Wear breathable fabrics

Wear cotton underwear, which allows for better air circulation and helps keep the area dry. Avoid tight-fitting clothing, particularly synthetic materials that can trap moisture and create an environment conducive to yeast and bacterial growth.

3. Menstrual hygiene

Change sanitary pads and tampons regularly during menstruation. Consider using menstrual cups, which can be less irritating for some women.

4. Drink cranberry juice

Drinking unsweetened cranberry juice can help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can sometimes lead to vaginal discharge. Cranberries contain compounds that prevent bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract walls. A study published in the Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine found that participants with a history of recurrent UTIs had fewer infections after drinking cranberry juice for 6 months.

cranberry
Cranberry juice can help you manage your vaginal discharge. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Keep in mind!

These tips can help maintain vaginal health and prevent thick white discharge, particularly when used as part of a holistic approach to overall well-being. However, it is important to seek medical advice If symptoms persist or worsen.

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About the Author

Shruti Bhattacharya is a content writer and editor for over 2 years. She specialises in writing on a variety of topics such as wellness, lifestyle, beauty, technology and fashion. Her current focus is on creating factually correct and informative stories for readers. ...Read More

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