Pregnancy can be as confusing as it is thrilling, and it’s not always easy to tell which changes are normal and which can be cause for concern. One such change is vaginal discharge, which can differ in consistency or thickness, frequency, and amount during pregnancy.
One of the earliest signs of pregnancy is a sudden increase in vaginal discharge, and this continues throughout pregnancy. It’s safe to say that when a woman becomes pregnant, her vagina largely takes on a personality of its own.
Normal vaginal discharge, known as leukorrhea, is thin, clear, or milky white, and mildly smelling. Changes in vaginal discharge can begin as early as one to two weeks after conception, even before you’ve actually missed your period. As your pregnancy progresses, this discharge usually becomes more obvious, and it’s heaviest at the end of your pregnancy. You can wear an unscented panty liner. It is advised to avoid tampons in pregnancy.
In the last weeks of your pregnancy, you might also notice that your discharge contains streaks of thick mucus with streaks of blood that are called “show.” This is an early sign of labor and should not be the reason for alarm.
What causes these changes to vaginal discharge?
Vaginal discharge ebbs and flows throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle due to a variation in hormone levels. Once you become pregnant, hormones continue to play a role in the fluctuations of your vaginal discharge.
Changes to the cervix during pregnancy may also affect vaginal discharge. As the cervix and vaginal wall soften, the body produces excess discharge to help prevent any infections. Your baby’s head may also press against your cervix as you near the end of your pregnancy, which often leads to increased vaginal discharge.
Is white vaginal discharge normal during pregnancy?
Thin, white vaginal discharge is normal and healthy throughout your pregnancy. However, it could be a sign of an infection if it’s lumpy or thick, particularly if it’s accompanied by other symptoms (like itching or a fishy odor).
You might also see that your vaginal discharge is brown or pink. In early pregnancy, that could be an indication of implantation bleeding. Later, vaginal spotting during pregnancy (not heavy bleeding) is most often normal, especially if it appears after you have sex or a pelvic exam.
But if you’re concerned, you should not hesitate to check in with your doctor.
How To Deal With Vaginal Discharge When You’re Pregnant
- Bathe regularly and wear underpants with light, breathable cotton liners. Keeping clean and dry down there helps to keep bacteria in balance to prevent vaginal infections.
- You can wear pads or panty liners. These will absorb excess discharge and may help you feel more comfortable. Don’t use the tampons, which can introduce germs into your vagina.
- Leave the douches at your drugstore. Douching has not been known to be safe in pregnancy and should be avoided completely. It can upset the natural balance of microorganisms in your vagina and lead to bacterial vaginosis.
- Don’t use wipes. Your vagina itself is self-cleaning! Wipes can change the pH in your genital tract, increasing the risk of infection. If you undeniably have to have that “clean feeling,” choose wipes that are pH-safe and free of alcohol and chemicals.
When To See The Doctor
- Your discharge is yellowish, greenish in color or thick and cheesy
- Your vagina has a foul or fishy smell
- The inside of your vagina or your vulva burns or itches
- It gives burn sensation when you urinate
- Sex is more painful
You may have an infection (for example pregnancy-induced yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis), linked to a change in the balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina. Your doctor can prescribe you a treatment, such as antifungal medication or antibiotics, to restore the proper balance down there and clear up your symptoms.
Abnormal vaginal discharge can also be a sign of sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea or trichomoniasis, all of which require quick diagnosis and treatment of you and your partner. But while pregnancy discharge can make a mess of your underwear, rest assured that it’s mostly normal and has the duty of protecting you and your baby. And if it is something more doubtful, a visit to your doctor will get you the answers and treatment you need.