The appearance of vaginal discharge during pregnancy can come as a surprise, especially for first-time mothers-to-be.
Although pregnancy is filled with joys and beauty, it can also create some new and even embarrassing situations.
One situation many pregnant women experience is large and frequent amounts of vaginal discharge.
This noticeable increase can be quite a concern for some women.
Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), vaginal discharge is just a normal part of pregnancy.
For your peace of mind, here’s what you need to know about vaginal discharge during pregnancy.
Vaginal discharge during pregnancy
The World Health Organisation has indicated that “Vaginal discharge is normal in women in their
childbearing years……….vaginal discharge is very common, particularly in South East Asia where about a quarter
of all adult women report this complaint“. Long before pregnancy, you probably experienced small amounts of vaginal discharge, which varied at different times in your menstrual cycle. These variations in vaginal discharge are due to the hormonal changes that occur throughout your cycle.
During pregnancy, you have higher levels of progesterone and estrogen. These hormonal changes lead to more vaginal discharge, called leukorrhea, which comprises cervical and vaginal secretions.
You might need to wear panty liners to absorb excess discharge.
Normal healthy vaginal discharge during pregnancy
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.
A simple consultation will let you know whether or not it requires treatment.
Some abnormal vaginal discharge might need medical attention.
Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- A foul-smelling odor, especially after intercourse; this can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis
- Discomfort, pain, or burning with urination can be a sign of a UTI
- A large amount of thin, clear fluid, which seems like a steady flow; although it’s unlikely, this could possibly be amniotic fluid
- Your vulva is inflamed or irritated, or you experience a lot of itching; these can be signs of a yeast infection
If you feel unwell, notice cramping or any other signs that make you uncertain about your health, then reach out to your healthcare provider, just to be sure there is no vaginal infection.
Are you less than 37 weeks pregnant?
If you notice an increase in discharge tinged with blood, along with some other symptoms, it might be a sign of premature labour. This requires a doctor and immediate attention, as it could mean a premature rupture of the bag of fluid around the baby.
The Different Colours of Discharge During Pregnancy
#1 White vaginal discharge during pregnancy
Most often, women have an odorless or very mild smelling vaginal discharge, which is clear to milky white. For a few days per cycle, before and during ovulation, it changes slightly and might resemble the white of a raw egg.
You could experience early pregnancy discharge, which is the same kind of discharge you notice throughout most of your cycle.
#2 Brown discharge during pregnancy
As many women fear, brown discharge is vaginal discharge tinged with old blood. The brown color shows the blood is old, as it turns darker as it ages.
For many reasons, blood can take some time to leave your body. Commonly, this happens because of irritation. This might be as a result of a cervical exam or after sex.
In early pregnancy, it’s often because of implantation, when the fertilised egg burrows into the blood rich lining of your uterus.
#3 Yellow discharge during pregnancy
Normal pregnancy discharge is white or cream in colour. Yellow discharge can be a sign of infection. Seek the advice of your care provider, especially if you also experience a strong, unpleasant odour.
White or off-white lumpy discharge is likely to be a yeast infection, accompanied by itching and a burning sensation when urinating. You can buy thrush treatment over the counter or ask your doctor for a script.
For more information on avoiding and preventing thrush, see our article Thrush Treatment – Get Rid of Thrush For Good.
#4 Green discharge during pregnancy
A greenish yellow discharge suggests a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia or trichomoniasis.
STIs can have a serious effect on your baby, not only during pregnancy but sometimes after birth too. If you have a green discharge during pregnancy, or if you suspect you have an STI, seek the advice of your care provider as soon as possible.
#5 Grey discharge during pregnancy
Grey discharge during pregnancy is a sign of a common bacterial infection called bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina.
There could also be other symptoms similar to yeast infections, such as itching and burning when urinating. Antibiotics are used to treat BV, so you need to see your healthcare provider for treatment. You can also buy probiotics, specially designed for vaginal health, which can help with issues like thrush and BV.
Can I reduce the amount of discharge during pregnancy?
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 but it helps keep you and your baby healthy and safe.
How to manage normal discharge during pregnancy
The increase in discharge is normal for pregnancy; therefore you won’t be able to reduce it.
However, there are things you can do to manage it:
- Wear loose cotton underwear. This will help make you more comfortable. Tight garments and nylon underwear can allow moisture to build. Allowing air flow can help reduce problems with thrush
- Avoid perfumed soap, perfumed bath products, and douching; they can affect your pH balance and increase the risk of vaginal infection
- Keep your genital area dry whenever possible. Wear a cotton liner, if needed, and be sure always to wipe front to back. If you use a disposable panty liner, make sure it is unscented.
White discharge during pregnancy in third trimester
As you reach the home stretch of pregnancy, you might notice an increase in vaginal discharge. If it remains clear, milky and has no odour, this is normal. As discharge increases, it might help to wear a panty liner to keep you comfortable and to help you monitor any changes.
As you move closer to your due date, you might notice the discharge is more jelly like and could have a pink tinge. This happens as your cervix begins to soften and ripen.
The mucus plug that has been in your cervix for the past 9 months will begin to come away. If you experience a gush of fluid, contact your healthcare professional for advice as it is possible your waters have broken.
Vaginal bleeding pregnancy discharge
During pregnancy, any vaginal bleeding, especially heavy bleeding, needs attention. Contact your health care provider immediately.
Some bleeding is perfectly normal, like light spotting, post intercourse, as the cervix is very vascular in pregnancy. It still needs investigation, however, and confirmation that all is well.
If there is increased blood flow, put a pad on immediately and call your midwife or doctor.
You might be interested in reading our article Bleeding During Pregnancy – 7 Causes Of Blood Loss.