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 situations many pregnant women experience is large and frequent amounts of discharge.
This noticeable increase can seem quite concerning.
Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately!), it’s just a normal part of pregnancy.
Here’s what you need to know about discharge during pregnancy, for peace of mind:
Vaginal discharge during pregnancy
Long before pregnancy, you 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.
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.
White discharge during pregnancy
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.
Normal 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. Simple tests can give you a quick answer and solution.
Some of the abnormal vaginal discharge 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, which can be a sign of a UTI
- A large amount of thin, clear fluid which seems like a steady flow (while its unlikely, amniotic fluid is a possibility)
- If 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 just to be sure.
Less than 37 weeks pregnant? If you notice an increase in discharge tinged with blood, along with some other symptoms, it may be a sign of premature labour.
Brown discharge during pregnancy
As many women fear, brown discharge is vaginal discharge tinged with old blood. The brown colour indicates 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 due to some kind of irritation. This might be after a cervical exam or after sex. In early pregnancy it can be due to implantation, when the fertilised egg burrows into the blood rich lining of your uterus.
Yellow discharge during pregnancy
Normal pregnancy discharge is white or a cream 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.
For more information on avoiding and preventing thrush, see our article here.
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 the birth too. If you have green discharge during pregnancy, or if you suspect you have an STI, seek the advice of your care provider as soon as possible.
Grey discharge during pregnancy
Grey discharge during pregnancy is sign of a common bacterial infection called bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina.
There may also be other symptoms similar to a yeast infection, such as itching, burning when urinating. Antibiotics are used to treat BV, so you need to see your healthcare provider for treatment. You can also buy probiotics especially 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 at times, but it helps keep you and your baby healthy and safe.
How to manage discharge during pregnancy
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.
White discharge during pregnancy in third trimester
As you get on 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. It can become quite abundant and may help to wear a panty liner to keep you comfortable and so you can monitor any changes.
Towards your due date, you may 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 care provider for advice as it is possible your waters have broken.