What It Means When You Have White Vaginal Discharge

Shed from the cervix, uterus, and vagina, vaginal discharge is primarily composed of cells and bacteria that are released in fluid form from the vagina, explains the Cleveland Clinic. This fluid serves an important purpose, as it helps the vagina stay lubricated, clean, and protected against germs and infection. Keeping the vagina's pH balance carefully in check, vaginal discharge is both normal and healthy, according to Healthline

Menstrual flow, sexual activity, exercise, and birth control usage are just a few of the many things that can influence the texture, color, and amount of vaginal discharge one experiences, reports Medical News Today. While certain colors of vaginal discharge are considered healthy, others can be a sign of infection or an underlying health condition, as per the Cleveland Clinic. Generally speaking, vaginal discharge that is transparent, white, or a shade of off-white indicates optimal vaginal health. However, there are cases in which the presence of white vaginal discharge may warrant a trip to your doctor's office.

When white vaginal discharge may indicate an infection

When unaccompanied by additional symptoms, thick vaginal discharge that is white in color — otherwise known as leukorrhea — is generally not cause for concern (per Healthline). But, if discharge takes on a gray-white hue and a potent fishy aroma, this can mean you've potentially developed an infection, such as bacterial vaginosis. Alternatively, if you experience white vaginal discharge of a clumpy consistency, itchiness, swelling, redness, burning sensations while peeing, or pain during sexual intercourse, amongst other symptoms, this can point to a potential yeast infection. While there are over-the-counter (OTC) treatment options available at drug stores, in some cases, prescription medications may be warranted. Be sure to consult with your doctor if you experience frequent yeast infections four or more times annually.

But remember, as previously mentioned, the presence of white vaginal discharge does not automatically indicate an infection. Rather, certified nurse-midwife, Justine Burris, tells UnityPoint Health that white discharge is particularly common during certain phases of one's menstrual cycle. "Two to three days after the period ends, there is a thick, white discharge," Burris states. "A few days later, the consistency changes to appear more like [mucus]. Before ovulation, the discharge becomes clear and sticky, and before the next period, discharge is thick and white in consistency." In addition, experts note that white vaginal discharge is also not uncommon during pregnancy.