Vaginal Discharge In Pregnancy: What's Normal and What's Not

Vaginal Discharge In Pregnancy: What's Normal and What's Not

An increase in vaginal discharge during pregnancy is normal, but how would you know if it's something you need to worry about?

This seems to be a taboo subject that most people don’t talk about, yet it is a common problem amongst mums-to-be! Mums need to be aware of what to look for in vaginal discharge. While most discharge isn’t a harbinger of something sinister, some may indicate a need for medical attention.

Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

Generally, pregnancy hormones and changes in progesterone increase your volume of vaginal discharge, so don’t be alarmed if you experience more discharge. It is also likely to be stickier, heavier, and more yellow than usual. This sticky substance is made up of secretions from the cervix and vagina, old cells.

But this is normal, as your discharge helps prevent any infections from travelling up from the vagina to the womb.

However, pregnant mums also need to be aware if the discharge they are having is normal, or if it can indicate a sign of infection during pregnancy. This is why it’s important to check the colour, consistency and odour of the vaginal discharge from time to time.

Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy: What’s Normal

pregnant woman with cream in her hands

Image Source: iStock

As mentioned earlier, it’s completely normal to have a mild-smelling milky white discharge even before pregnancy. We refer to it as leukorrhea. But since your body is producing more estrogen during pregnancy, it signals the vagina to produce more discharge.  

Healthy vaginal discharge is usually:

  • Clear to milky white.
  • Thin to thick or mucus-like.
  • Mild-smelling or odourless.

A brown discharge can occur at any stage of pregnancy, but brown discharge during the first trimester is usually harmless. The following factors cause a brown discharge during the first trimester:

  • Hormonal changes: During pregnancy, some hormones are at their peak while others are suppressed. These hormonal fluctuations in combination with an increased blood flow can make the cervix vulnerable, thus leading to brown discharge or spotting.
  • Sex in pregnancy: Indulging in sexual activity during pregnancy can aggravate the chances of brown discharge. This is a normal occurrence, and using a panty liner should help.
  • Pelvic examination: This is also a reason for brown discharge as your body is already fragile during pregnancy.

While it isn’t always a red flag, brown discharge during pregnancy can also be a sign of miscarriage, so it should still be evaluated.

As you approach labour, you will notice more vaginal discharge, however, it may look different from what you were accustomed to. When the cervix is preparing to deliver, it starts to open up and the mucus within starts coming out. So you might notice that the discharge is pink or somewhat bloody.

Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy: What’s Not Normal

bleeding during pregnancy

Pregnancy discharge

As a general rule, if the vaginal discharge is of a different colour, and has a foul odour, then it can indicate a sign of infection or disease. Your discharge becomes a cause for concern when it is accompanied by pain, soreness, itch, a strong fishy odour, or if it contains blood.

If you notice discharge with a texture resembling tofu or cottage cheese, experience soreness and itch, and find it uncomfortable to pass urine, it’s likely to be Candida (thrush). This usually happens during the second trimester.

Candida is a fungal infection that generally doesn’t harm the pregnancy. Don’t be shy about it as it can be easily treated. It usually only takes a tablet or two to get it sorted out, so do visit your doctor!

Meanwhile, a less common type of discharge – frothy with an ammonia-like fishy odour – is caused by bacterial vaginosis. It is important to get this treated as it can lead to complications such as premature labour and pelvic inflammation.

If you are having a vaginal discharge that is green in colour and accompanied by other symptoms such as burning or itching, discomfort when urinating or after sexual intercourse, and having an unpleasant odour, consult your gynaecologist as soon as possible.

This kind of vaginal discharge may be a sign of serious infection like chlamydia, gonorrhoea or Trichomoniasis which can put your pregnancy at risk for serious complications. 

Vaginal Odour During Pregnancy

Aside from an increase in vaginal discharge, you may also notice a change or increase in odour, thanks to your fluctuating hormones. It can also be that it seems more pungent to you because your olfactory senses are also heightened during pregnancy.

Remember, the vagina is a self-cleaning organ with its own perfectly balanced ecosystem to maintain a healthy pH level of 3.8 to 4.5 so that bad bacteria are unable to grow, and it also has the function of naturally keeping foreign substances away through vaginal discharge.

However, if the smell seems overpowering or foul, or comes with symptoms such as burning or itching, you could have an infection and should consult your doctor right away. 

Can I Use Feminine Wash While Pregnant?

The best way to prevent infections from going into your vagina is by proper hygiene. Washing it regularly with mild soap and warm water is enough to keep germs away. 

Yes, you may use feminine wash during pregnancy (some gynaecologists recommend it to their patients), but make sure to use the right kind. Steer clear of products containing strong perfumes and chemicals that could irritate your skin and affect the pH balance of the vagina. Try to look for one that is paraben and irritant-free.

How to Keep Your Vaginal Area Clean During Pregnancy

Here are a few more tips on how you can keep your delicate zone clean, especially in Singapore’s hot and humid weather:

  1. Wear breathable, cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes to allow airflow which helps prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi.  As much as possible, choose white-coloured underwear to see irregularities in your vaginal discharge easily.
  2. Change out of wet clothes and avoid sitting around in a wet bathing suit for too long as this can lead to a vaginal yeast infection.
  3. Use panty liners or wipes that are unscented, so they will not cause any irritation. Always wipe from front to back.
  4. Avoid over-washing your intimate area as this can make you prone to infections. 
  5. Trim or shave off any excess pubic hair which can trap sweat, semen or other body secretions which can lead to unpleasant smells.  Consult your doctor first before getting a bikini or Brazilian wax during pregnancy.
  6. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids (especially water) to help flush out toxins.
  7. Wash up with warm water after working out or having sex
  8. Take some probiotics to help with vaginal health.
  9. Try to use a gentle and natural feminine wash only once a day to avoid throwing off your vagina’s pH balance
  10. Don’t douche. Doctors and midwives also discourage this during pregnancy as it can introduce air into your circulatory system through the vagina, which can cause serious complications.

For any concerns about your vaginal discharge during pregnancy, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor. They are used to questions like that and it wouldn’t be awkward at all. 

Pregnants woman touching her belly with her hands. - pregnancy week 23 article

Image Source: iStock

Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.

Got a parenting concern? Read articles or ask away and get instant answers on our app. Download theAsianparent Community on iOS or Android now!