Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy: Normal or Abnormal

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy is one of the many changes or unique experiences that your body may undergo throughout the course of pregnancy. This can be worrying for some women, who are often hypersensitive to unusual developments during their term, so it is critical to understand what discharge means when you should be worried, and what you can do about it.

What is Vaginal Discharge during Pregnancy?

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy is completely normal because your body is undergoing a lot of changes, particularly in that critical area. However, some types of discharge are abnormal and may indicate a problem or infection that should be discussed with your doctor.

Normal Vaginal Discharge

Normal vaginal discharge should be milky and white and this substance is called leukorrhea. It has a mild smell and is nothing that you need to worry about in pregnancy, as the majority of women experience this type of discharge. [1]

Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

Abnormal vaginal discharge, however, may be thicker, slightly green or yellow in color, and will have a foul smell. This is a good indication of thrush (yeast infection) or other infections. As this can endanger both you and the success of the pregnancy, this type of discharge is something you should discuss with your physician as soon as possible. [2]

Causes of Vaginal Discharge during Pregnancy

The primary causes of vaginal discharge during pregnancy include softening of tissues, a progression of pregnancy, and preparation for delivery or infection.

Most notably, the change in tissue consistency in your vagina and uterus will cause some of it to shed and thin out, which will be passed as discharge. Similarly, as your pregnancy progresses, the ongoing changes in the cervix and uterus will cause additional discharge. It is normal if you experience spotting (bleeding) in small amounts, particularly in the first two weeks of pregnancy. However, any bleeding or spotting should be reported to a doctor immediately, although in most cases, after a routine examination, it will be deemed normal. [3]

Near the very end of your pregnancy term, you may experience a thicker type of discharge, streaked possibly with blood. This may be worrying, but it is a normal process that happens as delivery approaches.

The other common causes of vaginal discharge during pregnancy include the prior use of birth control pills, diabetes, certain sexually transmitted diseases (gonorrhea), bacterial vaginosis, cervical cancer or pelvic inflammatory disease, among others.

What does Vaginal Discharge look & feel like?

In terms of appearance and texture, normal discharge is a thin, white liquid that has the consistency of milk. This form of discharge (leukorrhea) will have a mild smell or none at all. Abnormal discharge, on the other hand, maybe yellowish or green in color and could be thicker, closer to a cottage cheese consistency. The smell of abnormal discharge will also be unpleasant, signaling the possible presence of an infection. There also shouldn’t be itchiness or discomfort accompanying discharge, and if this is ongoing, you should speak to your doctor about the symptoms. [4]

Generally speaking, white, pink, brown or red discharge can be easily explained and may be harmless, but you should still speak to a doctor about it. If the discharge is yellow, green or gray, it is not normal and should be addressed by a doctor as soon as possible.

Discharge during 1st, 2nd & 3rd Trimesters

Depending on your stage of pregnancy, different types of discharge could mean different things, so it is important to not only note the consistency and smell of the discharge but also which trimester it occurs in.

First Trimester

In the first trimester, you will be likely to experience a good deal of leukorrhea – the white, milky, harmless discharge that affects the majority of women. In fact, this type of discharge may be the first sign that you are pregnant. That being said, when you’re not pregnant, this can also be a sign that your period is approaching, so it isn’t a definitive sign of conception. [5]

Second Trimester

As your pregnancy progresses, there will be less leukorrhea discharge as compared to the first trimester, but it is still quite common. This is an important trimester to pay close attention to the smell and appearance, as other causes of vaginal discharge are more common in these middle weeks. [6]

Third Trimester

The consistency of “normal” discharge changes in your final trimester and often becomes thicker. However, if your discharge becomes clear or notably more common, it could be the sign of preterm labor or rupture of the cervix. [7]

Treatments for Vaginal Discharge

For the most common types of vaginal discharge, there is no treatment, as the discharge is a normal and necessary process by the body to rid itself of excess tissue and liquid. However, in the case of abnormal discharge, there are a number of treatment options, depending on the cause, which should be diagnosed by a doctor, not you!

If you are suffering from a yeast infection, anti-fungal medications are recommended, while bacterial infections (vaginosis) will require antibiotics. Most important are your hygiene and bathroom practices. You want to keep your vagina as clean as possible during pregnancy, which includes avoiding the use of scented soaps or other cosmetic products, proper post-urination wiping (front to back), wearing 100% cotton underwear, and ensuring that you are wearing loose enough clothes to cut down on perspiration and inflammation in that area of your body. [8] Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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