Vaginal Discharge During 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?

Ah, pregnancy—the miraculous journey filled with joy, anticipation, and sometimes, unexpected bodily changes. One such change that may catch you off guard is vaginal discharge during pregnancy.

Don’t worry; it’s totally normal! In fact, it’s your body’s way of keeping everything down there healthy and protected. Let’s dive in and uncover more about your pregnancy discharge.

Pregnancy Discharge

What Does Early Pregnancy Discharge Look Like?

Early pregnancy discharge is typically a thin, clear, or milky white liquid that resembles everyday vaginal discharge. It is known as leukorrhea and is considered a normal phenomenon during early pregnancy. Healthy early pregnancy discharge is usually odourless or has a mild, inoffensive odour. 

When Does It Start?

According to Healthline, you will start to notice an increase in vaginal discharge as early as one to two weeks after conception, even before you’ve missed your period. And as your pregnancy progresses, this discharge usually becomes more noticeable, and it’s heaviest at the end of your pregnancy.

Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy: Causes

So, what’s causing this extra flow? Here are five surprising culprits behind pregnancy discharge:

  • Hormonal Havoc

Blame it on those pesky hormones! During pregnancy, your body experiences hormonal shifts, particularly increased levels of estrogen. This hormone surge stimulates the glands in your cervix and vagina, leading to more discharge. So, think of it as your body’s way of saying, “Hey, I’m nurturing a little miracle in here!”

  • Increased Blood Flow

As your pregnancy progresses, blood flow to the pelvic area increases. This extra circulation causes your vaginal walls to produce more discharge. It might seem a bit excessive at times, but it’s just your body ensuring that everything is well-lubricated and nourished for the baby’s safe journey.

  • Yeast Overgrowth

The hormonal changes during pregnancy can create a favourable environment for yeast, leading to pesky infections like thrush. This can result in a thicker, cottage cheese-like discharge accompanied by itching and discomfort. Don’t fret, though! Your healthcare provider can recommend safe treatments to help you bid farewell to that unwelcome guest.

  • Bacterial Balance

Sometimes, the delicate balance of bacteria in your vagina can be disrupted during pregnancy. This can cause bacterial vaginosis, resulting in a fishy-smelling discharge. While it might not be pleasant, your healthcare provider can prescribe the right treatment to restore harmony down there.

  • Leaking Amniotic Fluid

Okay, this one might raise a few eyebrows, but it’s essential to be aware of it. In some cases, vaginal discharge during pregnancy could be a sign of leaking amniotic fluid. If you notice a sudden increase in watery discharge, especially if it’s accompanied by a continuous trickle or gush, contact your healthcare provider immediately. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Pregnancy Discharge: What Is Normal

pregnant woman with cream in her hands

Image Source: iStock

White Discharge During Pregnancy

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 during pregnancy is usually:

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

Brown Pregnancy Discharge

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.

Pregnancy Discharge: When to Worry

Yellow Pregnancy Discharge

Yellowish discharge during pregnancy can indicate a potential issue.

If the vaginal discharge is green or yellowish, strong-smelling, and accompanied by redness or itching, it may suggest a vaginal infection. One common infection during pregnancy is candidiasis, also known as a yeast infection. Additionally, yellow discharge could be a sign of a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Green Discharge During Pregnancy

Green vaginal discharge during pregnancy is typically considered a sign of an infection. Common causes of green discharge include:

  • Chlamydia: Chlamydia is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) that may cause greenish discharge, but many people, including pregnant women, may not show symptoms. Untreated chlamydia during pregnancy can lead to complications such as preterm delivery, low birth weight, and newborn conjunctivitis.
  • Gonorrhea: Gonorrhea is another STI that can cause green discharge. Pregnant women may not experience symptoms, but if left untreated, it can be transmitted to the baby during delivery and cause serious complications.
  • Trichomoniasis: Trichomoniasis is a common STI caused by the Trichomonas vaginalis parasite. Pregnant individuals with trichomoniasis may not show symptoms, but if left untreated, it can lead to early, preterm delivery and low birth weight in babies.

Grey Vaginal Discharge

Grey discharge during pregnancy can also indicate an infection or other health issue.

A greyish or grey-green discharge may be associated with bacterial vaginosis (BV), a common vaginal infection. BV is not an STI but can occur due to an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina. Pregnant individuals with BV may experience symptoms like a fishy odour and itching, but some may not show any signs.

If you notice yellow, green or grey vaginal discharge during pregnancy, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention. Your healthcare provider will conduct necessary tests to determine the cause and prescribe appropriate medications for treatment.

Remember, never attempt to self-diagnose or treat any vaginal issues during pregnancy. Prompt medical evaluation and treatment are crucial for a healthy pregnancy.

When to Seek Medical Advice for Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

Pregnancy comes with a host of changes, and vaginal discharge is no exception. While most changes are normal and harmless, there are times when it’s essential to reach out to your doctor. We’ve compiled a handy list of scenarios when you should pick up that phone and give your healthcare provider a call about pregnancy discharge.

  • Sudden Increase in Discharge Volume

It’s normal to experience an increase in pregnancy discharge. However, if you notice a sudden and significant surge in volume, especially if it’s accompanied by discomfort, itching, or an unusual smell, it’s time to consult your doctor. Excessive discharge could be a sign of an infection that requires medical attention.

  • Change in Discharge Colour

As mentioned earlier, while variations in discharge colour are expected during pregnancy, some changes may indicate an underlying issue. If you notice greenish, yellowish, or greyish discharge, it could be a sign of an infection or other complications. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor for further evaluation.

  • Abnormal Texture or Consistency

In most cases, pregnancy discharge is thin, milky, and odourless. However, if you observe a clumpy, cottage cheese-like texture or an unusually thick discharge, it could signal a yeast infection. Contact your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment options to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

  • Presence of Blood

While light spotting can be normal during pregnancy, heavier bleeding or the presence of bright red blood in your discharge should raise concerns. This could indicate a potential problem such as placenta previa or a miscarriage. Contact your healthcare provider immediately for guidance and necessary medical care.

  • Strong Odour or Itching

A strong, unpleasant odour accompanying your discharge could be a sign of an infection like bacterial vaginosis or a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Persistent itching or burning sensations are also cause for concern. Don’t hesitate to discuss these symptoms with your doctor for a proper diagnosis and suitable treatment.

bleeding during pregnancy

Pregnancy discharge

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.

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