White discharge (milky, pasty, thick): what is the cause?

White discharge (milky, pasty, thick): what is the cause?

Intimate health care is very important. Also, paying attention to the signals the body gives helps you identify if something may be wrong. Therefore, it is interesting to know well the functioning of the body to know what is in fact an alteration or what is a natural part of physiology.

The discharge is on the list of manifestations that often leave women in doubt and worried.

In this article you will find:

  1. What is white discharge?
  2. Types of whitish discharge
  3. White discharge characteristics
  4. Is discharge and white mucus the same thing?
  5. Other types of vaginal discharge
  6. Causes: What could be white mucus coming out of the vagina?
  7. Could white discharge be pregnancy?
  8. Risk factors for white secretion
  9. How is the diagnosis made?
  10. Is there a cure for vaginal discharge?
  11. White discharge needs treatment?
  12. Medicines for white secretion
  13. Living with vaginal discharge
  14. Prognosis
  15. Complications: Can white discharge be serious?
  16. How to prevent pathological white discharge?
  17. Common questions


What is white discharge?

woman menstrual cycle

White vaginal discharge is common and natural. It is not usually a sign of illness or problems, but changes in its color, odor, and texture can be indicative of bacterial, fungal, other health problems, or pregnancy.

The technical name of the discharge is leukorrhea and it can come in different colors, each with different indications about women’s health. Most colors indicate illness and infection, but white discharge is natural and healthy.

Although some pathological conditions cause this secretion color, it also happens without anything going wrong.

It is also possible that he appears white as a result of approaching puberty. There are cases in which white discharges appear up to a year before the first menstruation due to the first hormonal changes in the girl’s body. So there is a time for her to prepare for menarche, her first period.

Types of whitish discharge

White discharge can be divided into a few types, each indicating different things. In general, it can be physiological or pathological:

Physiologic discharge

Most commonly, the physiological discharge is perfectly normal and healthy. It can range from clear to whitish and should be odorless or accompanied by other symptoms.

That alone is not a sign of concern. This discharge is responsible for the natural lubrication and hygiene of the vagina.

Pathological discharge

On the other hand, pathological discharge is indicative of an illness. It can be caused by a bacterium, a fungus or a protozoan, and should be treated by gynecologists.

Only through examinations is it really identifiable, but some signs may exist such as smell and texture.

White discharge characteristics

The white vaginal discharge may look like:

Egg white

white egg

The texture and appearance of egg white in the discharge, perhaps ranging in color from clear to white, may be an indication that the woman is ovulating. When ovulation happens, the body releases progesterone, which causes increased fluid production.


This type of white discharge is natural when it has no odor. It can indicate vaginal lubrication and is not a problem, but if there is a change in color or odor, it could be an infection.

Pasty or creamy

The discharge can be pasty or creamy. In these cases, there is an indication to visit the gynecologist, as this may be a sign of infection.

However, generally, other symptoms make it clearer the presence of fungi more frequently, such as burning, unpleasant odor and intense itching. The color of the discharge can also change, making the infection more evident.


One of the characteristics of a natural discharge is that it is an odorless secretion. The consistency is usually milky, being closer to a fine secretion.

This can occur at different stages or conditions, being indicative of ovulation, vaginal lubrication or just intimate cleansing.

Is discharge and white mucus the same thing?

Generally speaking, mucus and discharge can be used to designate the same thing: that white or transparent secretion, which is natural and does not indicate any pathology.

However, the term discharge is more used to designate when there is something wrong with the body. Those strong-smelling, yellowish or greenish-colored vaginal secretions, often accompanied by symptoms such as redness or itching, indicate that the discharge may be due to infection.

Remember that mucus is natural and indicates a healthy, lubricated vagina. It can also be an indication of entering the fertile period, if it is more fluid (like an egg white).

Regardless of the term used, discharge or mucus, it is important to pay attention to the characteristics of the discharge!

Other types of vaginal discharge

There are discharges of other colors and each one can mean different things. Some of them are:

Yellow discharge

Yellow discharge is often caused by diseases such as trichomoniasis and chlamydia, it can also be caused by other sexually transmitted diseases or use of contraceptives.

Brown discharge

Brown discharge may indicate blood in the natural secretion. It may be indicative of gonorrhea, but there is also the possibility that this type of discharge appears early in a pregnancy, dumping old clots.

Pink discharge

The pink discharge is caused by the presence of a low amount of blood. It could be a blood leak caused by the use of contraceptives, as well as a sign that an egg has been fertilized.

Causes: What could be white mucus coming out of the vagina?

The causes of white vaginal discharge are varied, some pathological, others perfectly natural.

When it has this coloration, the chances that the liquid is natural and not due to health problems are great.


menstruation cycle

White mucus, which is a whitish fluid, is a sign of ovulation. When it’s happening, the body produces estrogen, a hormone that, among other things, causes the white, pasty discharge.

During the first few days after menstruation this liquid is more present. Then the body produces progesterone, which makes this discharge more watery and the woman is more easily lubricated.


Bacterial infections can cause white vaginal discharge.

Bacterial vaginosis is one of the main causes, having as an infectious agent the bacteria a and , which brings, in addition to the pasty discharge, itching, burning when urinating and an unpleasant smell.

The infection can make the discharge yellow or gray.


Thrush is an inflammation caused by a fungus. It is the most common cause of pathological white discharge and can be easily treated. As with bacterial vaginosis, thrush causes itchiness, burning when urinating, and an unpleasant smell.


Mental states can cause various changes in the body and stress and anxiety can cause an increase in white vaginal discharge.

Sexual excitement

Usually the liquid is more watery when it is due to sexual arousal. It serves for protection and lubrication during sex.

Uterine cancer

Uncommon but possible, an extremely thick white discharge with a strong odor can be a sign of uterine cancer. It is not a definitive symptom, but it is certainly worth a visit to the gynecologist.

Vaginal irritation

When the inside of the vagina becomes irritated, white discharge is possible.

This can happen, for example, because of the use of soap inside the vagina, which should not be done – not even with intimate soap.

This can cause irritation, allergic reactions and burning.

The inner part of the female genital can clean itself, only the outer part needs cleaning most of the time.

Could white discharge be pregnancy?

Yes. White discharge could be pregnancy and it’s all about progesterone. It is a hormone produced during the second phase of the menstrual cycle—between ovulation and menstruation—and serves to prepare a woman’s body for pregnancy.

When a woman menstruates, her levels drop.

However, if a woman becomes pregnant, progesterone continues to be produced and menstruation does not occur.

This hormone causes a whitish discharge that tends to decrease in volume as menstruation approaches. But as the hormone continues to work during pregnancy, the discharge doesn’t stop.

If there is a lot of whitish discharge when menstruation is delayed and even a few days after that, pregnancy is a possibility.

However, the gynecological examination is still necessary, as this sign does not confirm pregnancy and could be many other things.

Risk factors for white secretion

risk factor white discharge

Any woman can—and probably will—find white vaginal discharge from time to time. However, when it happens because of infections, some people are in a higher risk group. Are they:

Unprotected sex

In addition to the possibility of pregnancy, which causes white discharge, unprotected sexual intercourse can transmit vaginal infections if the partner does not have proper hygiene or has a penile infection.

Even without contamination, male ejaculation inside the female body can cause white discharge soon after or until the next day.

Poor hygiene

Lack of vaginal hygiene can favor the multiplication of bacteria, which can lead to infections.

Various partners

The more partners, the greater the chances that one of them has an infection, which also increases the chances of bacteria multiplying in the vagina that can cause white or other colored discharge.


Cigarettes negatively affect the entire body and that includes the vagina. Smoking facilitates the reproduction of bacteria that can cause illnesses such as bacterial vaginosis in women.

Recent use of antibiotics

Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria that cause disease. The problem is, they’re not very specific.

When they are used, any bacteria in the body that are sensitive to the drug are killed, whether it is a bacteria that is causing problems or one that is needed for the body to function normally.

The vagina has several bacteria that maintain the natural and healthy acidity, in addition to protecting the region.

When taking antibiotics, they can fall prey to the drug, which, for a few days, eases other vaginal infections that can cause white discharge.

Use of IUD

The IUD can facilitate vaginosis when there are no tests prior to the insertion of the contraceptive method to identify the bacteria that cause the disease.

Therefore, women who have had the IUD recently have a greater chance of developing infections such as vaginosis, which lead to white discharge.

How is the diagnosis made?

White vaginal discharge is a symptom, so there is no diagnosis for it. However, when pathological, its causes can be diagnosed by a doctor or gynecologist.

Discharge microscopy

Looking at the discharge under a microscope can be helpful in finding out what causes it.

It is possible to find bacteria that may be causing harm or notice the lack of bacteria that should be present, for example lactobacilli, which is responsible for part of the vaginal acidity.

This acidity participates in the protection of the female genitalia, killing bacteria. If lactobacilli is not present, the vagina may become less acidic and more conducive to the multiplication of discharge-causing microorganisms.

PH exam

The pH test measures the acidity of the discharge and vagina. pH or hydrogen ion potential is the measure used to measure how acidic a substance is. 7 is neutral pH.

The lower the number, the more acidic the substance. Above 7 it is considered alkaline.

Blood tends to have a pH of around 7.5, which is slightly alkaline, while saliva tends to be around 6.5, which is slightly acidic.

Healthy vaginal pH is usually between 3.8 and 4.5. This acidity protects the vagina from harmful bacteria.

A pH test can be done to find changes in vaginal pH, which can indicate the presence of harmful bacteria and a lack of needed bacteria.

Pap smear

The pap smear is the main gynecological exam performed to identify cervical cancer, but it is also capable of identifying various infections and inflammations, both situations capable of causing a discharge of different colors.

This test can identify: HPV, chlamydia, candidiasis, gonorrhea, syphilis, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis and other diseases.

Is there a cure for vaginal discharge?

When the discharge is natural, occurring due to pregnancy or the menstrual cycle,  there is no disease to be cured.

However, when the cause is pathological, treatments may be needed. All infectious causes of white discharge are curable and can be treated by a doctor.

White discharge needs treatment?

The treatment depends on the cause and is often medicated, which can be through vaginal or oral tablets, or with ointments for the region.

Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. Candida, which is caused by a fungus, requires antifungal medication.

When caused by ovulation or pregnancy, nothing needs to be done about the white discharge, which is natural. The change in color or presence of odor, however, must be noted.

Medicines for white secretion

Several medications can be used for the various pathological causes of white discharge. Some of them are:

Candidiasis medications

  • Canditrat;
  • Fluconazole;

Vaginosis medications

  • Metronidazole;
  • Clindamin-C;
  • Clindamycin hydrochloride (Dalacin-C).
  • Albocresyl;
  • Clocef;
  • Clotrimazole;
  • Colpatrin;

NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to say which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for your specific case. The information contained on this website is intended to provide information only, and is not intended in any way to replace the advice of a specialist or to serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.

Living with vaginal discharge

white discharge

Living with the discharge is necessary and not necessarily bad. The flow of white discharge, or mucus, should not be large and rarely interfere with clothing.

However, it is important to pay attention to it, as if the discharge suddenly increases in volume, changes texture, color or smell, it is possible that it is a sign of infection.

This being the case, a physician or gynecologist should be consulted for the diagnosis and treatment of the condition.


In the vast majority of cases, the discharge of whitish fluid from the vagina is not a problem.

This is a natural thing that happens during ovulation or pregnancy, and if there are no signs such as burning, color change, unpleasant odor or itching, there is no need to worry.

In cases where these signs are present, treatment is necessary, but complete cure is often easy to achieve.

Complications: Can white discharge be serious?

Some complications may present if there is no treatment for the cause of the pathological discharge. Among them are:

Increased risk of STD contamination

Sexually transmitted diseases do not always settle in the body when the transmitting agent is passed through sex.

However, diseases such as bacterial vaginosis facilitate the installation of diseases such as , gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV and .

Increased risk of STD transmission

As well as increasing contamination, bacterial vaginosis is also capable of increasing the risk of transmitting these same diseases to the partner.

Premature birth

If a woman is pregnant and contaminated with a bacteria that causes bacterial vaginosis, delivery can happen prematurely, harming the baby.

Other infections

Chlamydia or bacterial infection can spread to other parts of the body, such as the urethra, uterus, anus, and can enter the lymphatic system.

Untreated infections are serious health problems.

How to prevent pathological white discharge?

prevention white discharge

There are some actions that can be taken to prevent bacteria and fungi from infecting the vagina.

Maintain hygiene habits

Hygiene is the easiest way to prevent vaginal infections. It is important that specific soaps for intimate hygiene are used.

This is because the vaginal pH is sensitive to normal soap and changes to it can kill bacteria needed for vaginal health and allow other bacteria to take hold.

Remember that the use of intimate soaps is for the outside of the genital, called the vulva.

The inner part (the vagina) should not be in contact with soap as there are many chances of allergic reactions happening, and the body has a self-cleaning mechanism for the vaginal interior.

It is recommended to use the intimate soap only once a day, although up to 3 is acceptable. More than that could cause problems for the region.

Some intimate soaps are:

  • Dermafeme;
  • Intimate Protex;
  • Vagisil.

Visit the gynecologist annually

Gynecologists are able to find changes in vaginal pH and harmful infectious agents in the office and through testing. The prevention of any type of discharge involves frequent visits to the gynecologist.

Avoid wet panties

Humidity favors the multiplication of bacteria and fungi in the region, so it is important to avoid wearing wet or damp underwear, especially for long periods.

Avoid tight clothes and synthetic panties

Clothing that is too tight does not allow the skin to breathe properly, as do synthetic panties.

This causes the temperature in the vagina to rise, which is ideal for bacteria to multiply.

Wearing cotton panties and light, loose clothing, especially on hot days, reduces the chance of infection.

Use toilet paper from front to back

Toilet paper should be used from front to back.

Bacteria present in the vagina are unlikely to cause any problems when they come into contact with the anus, however intestinal bacteria can cause serious infections in the vagina.

Therefore, the use of toilet paper should be done from the front to the back, avoiding taking intestinal bacteria into the vagina.

Use condom

Condoms are extremely important to prevent infections and sexually transmitted diseases. If there are bacteria on your partner’s penis, they can multiply in the vagina and cause problems.

Therefore, condoms are important, especially when the partner’s hygiene is not well known.

Use different condoms for different sex types

For the same reason that using toilet paper backwards can cause infections, so can vaginal sex right after anal sex.

If you have anal sex, you should change the condom before moving to vaginal sex. If you do not use a condom, sanitize the penis before vaginal penetration.

The same goes for toys: do not use the same sex toy in the anus and vagina and always clean them before using them.

Common questions

Is white discharge normal? Does every woman have?

Yes . It is common for the discharge to be thin, white or transparent, and it is natural, every woman has it. It is part of the body’s natural cleansing and vaginal lubrication.

As long as there is no change in texture, odor, color or quantity, there is no problem and it is perfectly natural.

Is discharge or discharge before menstruation normal?

Generally speaking, yes. If the secretion is white, odorless and without other associated symptoms (itching, burning), it only indicates the change in the menstrual cycle. That is, it is normal and healthy.

The panties get wet, do I have a problem?

Probably not. The amount of discharge varies widely from woman to woman and can be bulky enough to make your panties wet.

You should only be concerned if there is a sudden change.

For example, if throughout your life the discharge has been minimal and suddenly, for two months, the volume is enormous, or if you have always had to deal with wet panties and suddenly felt dry for long periods, go to the gynecological consultation is recommended.

This applies to any change in the discharge: smell, color, texture, all these can be signs that something is different and worth checking out.

Likewise, itching or burning can signify infections.

What is the most common cause of white vaginal discharge?

The most common cause of white discharge is ovulation: it happens to basically every woman. However, for pathological discharge, the most common cause is candidiasis.

Does toilet paper cause discharge?

Toilet paper doesn’t normally cause infections, but it’s a good idea to avoid those with perfume. The chemicals used to give paper’s fragrant odor can cause vaginal irritation, leading to inflammation.

A white vaginal discharge is common and most often healthy. But changes in it can indicate the presence of bacteria and fungi causing infection, which can be very harmful to health.