The appearance of vaginal discharge during pregnancy can come as a surprise, especially for first time mothers-to-be.
While pregnancy is filled with joys and beauty, it’s also filled with some new and even embarrassing situations.
One of these situations many pregnant mothers-to-be experience is large and frequent amounts of discharge.
This noticeable increase can seem quite concerning.
Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately!), it’s a normal part of pregnancy.
Here’s what you need to know about discharge during pregnancy, for peace of mind:
What Does Discharge During Pregnancy Mean?
Long before pregnancy, you've likely experienced small amounts of vaginal discharge, varying during different times in your menstrual cycle. The variations in discharge are due to the hormonal changes throughout your cycle.
Most often, women have an odourless or very mildly odoured white-ish discharge. For a few days per cycle, before and during ovulation, it changes slightly, and may resemble the white of a raw egg. The discharge you experience during pregnancy is the same discharge you notice throughout most of your cycle.
During pregnancy, you have higher levels of progesterone and estrogen. These hormonal changes cause an increase in vaginal discharge. This discharge, known as leukorrhea, is made up of cervical and vaginal secretions.
When Should I Be Concerned?
An increase in normal vaginal discharge isn't something to be concerned about. But if you’re also experiencing additional symptoms, a checkup with your healthcare provider can help shed some light on what's going on. Simple tests can give you a quick answer and solution.
Some of the abnormal symptoms to look out for are:
- A foul smelling odour (especially after intercourse, this can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis)
- Discomfort, pain or burning with urination can be a sign of a UTI
- If there is a large amount of thin, clear fluid and it seems like a steady flow (while its unlikely, amniotic fluid is a possibility)
- If you're less than 37 weeks and notice an increase in discharge tinged with blood, along with some other symptoms, can be a sign of premature labour
- If you notice your vulva is inflamed, irritated or you experience a lot of itching – these can be signs of a yeast infection
- If you're unsure, feel unwell, notice cramping or any other signs that make you uncertain about your health, reach out to your healthcare provider
Can I Reduce The Amount Of Discharge?
Pregnancy isn't always glamorous, but it seems each aspect has a function or role. The hormonal changes that trigger an increase in discharge during pregnancy happen for a reason.
The extra flow of discharge helps to flush out potentially harmful bacteria. It might be unpleasant at times, but it helps keep you and your baby healthy and safe.
If you have any of the symptoms above, your healthcare provider will advise you about how to treat it.
Many health problems like yeast infections (thrush) and UTIs can result due to a poor diet. Make sure you're avoiding sugar (in both food and drinks), processed grains (bread, pasta, cereals etc) and are drinking plenty of water. Watch That Sugar Film for some eye opening information about the food industry.
For more information on avoiding and preventing thrush and UTIs as well as dietary advice, see our article here. The dietary advice will also help you to prevent gestational diabetes, which is also growing in number.
How To Manage Discharge During Pregancy
When the increase in discharge is normal for pregnancy, you wont be able to reduce it.
However, there are things you can do to manage it.
- Wearing loose fitting bottoms and 100% cotton undies can help you remain comfortable. Tight bottoms and nylon underwear can allow moisture to build. Allowing air flow can help reduce issues with thrush.
- Avoid scented washes, deodorants or douching as they can affect your pH balance and increase the risk of infection.
- Keep your genital area dry when possible, wear a cotton liner if needed and be sure to always wipe front to back. If you do use a disposable panty liner be sure it is unscented.
Every part of pregnancy may not seem beautiful, but every part has its place in helping you and baby safely reach full term. An increase in discharge during pregnancy might feel embarrassing, but it's nothing to be embarrassed about, because every pregnant women experiences it. Never hesitate to discuss any concerns, no matter how embarrassing it might feel. It is likely whatever your experience, many other mothers have been or will be there soon.