Milky white discharge in your underwear have you freaking out? In this quick guide, we’ll go over all the potential causes of milky white vaginal discharge and help you figure out if you need to take action.
What Does White Milky Discharge Mean?
Most changes in your vaginal discharge are due to shifting hormonal levels. When hormone levels change, your discharge changes, too. You may notice white milky discharge with no odor, or it may have a sweet, salty, or musky smell.
In some cases, a white milky discharge may be a sign of an infection if it is accompanied by other symptoms, like a foul odor, itchiness, or pain in the vulva or pelvis. We’ll go over both benign and harmful causes of white milky discharge in the following sections.
Normal Causes of Milky White Vaginal Discharge
The following causes of white milky discharge are normal and nothing to be worried about.
Milky White Discharge: Before Period
While you are ovulating, you may notice a clear, egg-white discharge. However, a thicker, milky white discharge after ovulation in the days leading up to your period is very common. This is due to hormonal shifts.
Milky White Discharge: Early Pregnancy
One of the earliest indicators of pregnancy is a thick, milky-white discharge. You may continue to have milky white discharge during pregnancy. This discharge is caused by elevated estrogen levels and it helps keep the vagina free of infection.
Sexual Activity and White Milky Discharge
When you’re aroused, you will produce a clear, slippery discharge. When you orgasm, you may secrete a thick, white milky discharge.
If you’re having unprotected penis-in-vagina intercourse, you may also discharge semen from your vagina within the next day or so following sex.
Hormonal Birth Control and White Milky Discharge
A new hormonal birth control method can change your discharge because the birth control is artificially adjusting your hormone levels. So it’s very normal to see a milky white vaginal discharge that you’ve never really noticed before in the few months after starting a new hormonal birth control method or dose.
Lifestyle Changes and White Milky Discharge
Your lifestyle can impact your hormone levels, which can in turn impact your discharge. So if you make a major change in your diet or exercise regime, or you are under a lot of stress, you may notice differences in your vaginal discharge.
Worrisome Causes of Milky White Discharge
If your milky white vaginal discharge is accompanied with other symptoms, it could be a sign of an infection. Here are the four infections most likely to cause an abnormal white milky discharge.
Bacterial vaginosis (or BV) is an infection caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria that naturally occurs in the vagina. The main symptom of BV is a thin, fishy-smelling discharge that is white or gray. In some cases you may also experience itching and/or burning with urination. About half of BV cases are actually asymptomatic.
Bacterial vaginosis can be caused by pretty much anything that upsets the balance of the bacterial flora in your vaginal area. It’s not considered an STI, but sex can definitely exacerbate the issue, and women sex partners can pass it to each other.
A doctor can diagnose BV. The primary treatment is antibiotics. Note that it is common for BV infections to recur.
Trichomoniasis (or trich) is an STI caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. Trich can cause a thin, frothy discharge with a foul-smelling odor. This discharge may be milky-white, yellow, gray, or green.
About 70% of trich infections are asymptomatic. If you do develop symptoms, it will likely be between 5 and 28 days of exposure. Additional symptoms include burning or itching in the vulva, genital redness and/or swelling, pain with urination, and a frequent urge to urinate.
Though trich is considered an STI, it can also be transmitted in settings where the organism can thrive in a warm, moist environment, like an improperly cleaned hot tub.
Trich can be diagnosed in the doctor’s office and is treated through a course of antibiotics. You may wish to get re-tested in a few months to be sure that the infection doesn’t recur.
Gonorrhea is a very common bacterial STI that can cause increased quantities of greenish, yellowish, or white milky discharge. You may also see a small amount of blood in the discharge. Other possible symptoms include burning with urination, frequent urge to urinate, abdominal pain, and pain or swelling in the vulva.
A doctor or other medical professional can diagnose your gonorrhea infection. Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. If you do have gonorrhea, your sexual partners should also be treated to help prevent re-infection.
If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to long-term consequences, like impaired fertility. Many gonorrhea infections are asymptomatic, which is why it’s important to get regular STI tests.
Chlamydia is another very common bacterial STI. Infection with chlamydia can cause you to produce increased quantities of a yellowish or milky-white vaginal discharge. This discharge may have an unusual smell.
Other potential symptoms of chlamydia include pain in the abdomen or back, pain with sex or urination, frequent urges to urinate, spotting between periods, and blood in urine.
Chlamydia can be diagnosed by a doctor and treated with a course of antibiotics. Like gonorrhea, many chlamydia infections are asymptomatic, and untreated cases can cause long-term complications. So get regular STI tests!
The Bottom Line on Milky White Discharge
Most milky white vaginal discharge is due to completely benign reasons. If your milky white discharge has no unusual odor and you have no other symptoms, it’s probably just due to hormonal shifts and is nothing to worry about.
However, if your white milky discharge is accompanied by a foul odor, pain, itching, frequent urination, or any other unusual symptoms, it could be due to an infection of some kind. If this is the case, go to the doctor ASAP for diagnosis and treatment.
Still worried about your milky white discharge? Check out our more in-depth guide to white discharge for even more information.