Your body will go through many changes during pregnancy, from breast tenderness and craving strange foods to changing sizes and shapes. One thing that might be different for many is the amount, color, texture, and smell of their vaginal discharge during pregnancy.
This really isn’t so different from what usually happens before you get pregnant, since your body goes through changes in discharge throughout your cycle.
Even if you’re aware of what those changes mean, everything is different during pregnancy. You probably want to know what’s normal, what’s not normal, when to be concerned, and whether a change in your discharge means you’re about to have your baby.
If you’re wondering about any of that, keep reading to gain confidence in your body and your pregnancy.
Normal Early Pregnancy Discharge
One of the first symptoms you’ll likely experience in your pregnancy, along with implantation bleeding, nausea and fatigue, is an increase in milky white wet-feeling discharge that has a thin consistency and a mild smell.
This discharge is called leukorrhea and also occurs during your fertility cycle around the time of ovulation1. This is the most common type of vaginal discharge and has an important purpose in keeping your vaginal canal clean, washing out harmful bacteria, and maintaining a healthy, acidic pH.
You can expect to have up to a teaspoon of this discharge occur daily. It’s good for your body and is usually a sign that everything is working as it should be.
You should not douche (especially when pregnant) or use vaginal wipes because leukorrhea is so valuable to the health of your vagina. If you wash it away, you’ll disturb the microbiome and all-around health of that sensitive area, so just let your body do its thing and all will be well in the end.
If leukorrhea is making you feel constantly wet and uncomfortable, you can manage it with unscented panty liners or absorbent period underwear. Never use tampons during pregnancy as they can push bacteria inside your body and cause infection, as well as dry out your vaginal wall and put you at risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome2.
If you have itching, burning, or a strange smell manifesting with this white discharge, that isn’t normal. You could have a yeast infection, sexually transmitted disease, or other infection and should see your care provider for solutions to safely clear up the infection.
There are many natural remedies touted on the internet, just be certain to clarify their safety in pregnancy with your doctor or midwife and avoid putting anything foreign into your vagina.
An increase in leukorrhea can begin even before your missed period, but more often begins in your late first trimester long after you would receive a positive pregnancy test, so it’s not a reliable indicator of pregnancy prior to that.
This discharge will continue throughout your pregnancy, possibly increasing in your last trimester as your body prepares to give birth.
Normal Late Pregnancy Discharge
Aside from the increase in beneficial leukorrhea that helps keep bacteria out of your vagina and away from your developing baby, there are other changes you can expect to see in your vaginal discharge later on during the final months of pregnancy.
Finding Bloody Show
Your discharge could contain streaks of red or brown bloody show, which is a sign that labor is approaching.
There is no guarantee that labor will happen within a certain time frame when you see this bloody show. It could be hours, days, weeks, or even a month or longer.
Remember that average pregnancy gestation is around 41 weeks and 2 days3.
Losing Your Mucus Plug
Your mucus plug is a glob of mucus that forms at your cervix as a barrier between your baby and any bacteria that might threaten their health or your pregnancy4.
It forms as soon as you become pregnant and regenerates throughout all three trimesters.
In your final trimester, you may find streaks or globs of white or clear mucus on your toilet paper when you wipe, or in the bowl after you use the toilet. It can look stringy and solid in color or jelly-like and clear. Sometimes it will have a small bit of brown or red blood in it as well.
This is your mucus plug, and there’s no cause for concern or getting over-excited if you notice it at any point in your pregnancy.
Mucus plugs can regenerate, so unless it’s followed or accompanied by regular contractions felt in your back or belly that grow stronger over time, your water breaking5, or excessive amounts of bleeding, there’s no reason for you to call your doctor, go to the hospital or assume you’re in labor.
Be patient and listen to your body for other signs of impending labor, and if you’re not to full term yet you can relax and enjoy the remainder of your pregnancy without worry.
What Causes Changes In Discharge During Pregnancy?
In a word: hormones. This is the same cause for shifts in the appearance and texture of vaginal discharge outside of pregnancy.
Our hormones have dramatic influences on what our bodies experience. Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels are mainly responsible for the changes you will see in your vaginal discharge. Varying amounts are normal and expected.
Changes to your cervix such as thinning and softening (effacement) and dilation that typically occur later in pregnancy can also cause an increase in vaginal discharge, usually the beneficial white leukorrhea. This discharge may increase as extra protection against any harmful bacteria or pathogens that could hurt your baby.
What If I Have No Discharge During Pregnancy?
It’s unlikely that you won’t notice any sort of discharge during pregnancy, but some women do experience low levels of vaginal discharge both in and outside the context of a pregnancy.
Unless accompanied by other symptoms that would cause concern (such as bleeding or cramping), having little or no discharge at all isn’t going to affect your pregnancy negatively.
You may need to use extra lubrication products during sexual intimacy with your partner or spouse, but otherwise, you can have a completely normal pregnancy and delivery even with low levels of discharge. It’s not a valid cause for concern.
When Should I See A Doctor?
Any time your vaginal discharge has a strong yellow or green tint, smells fishy or changes odors, makes you itch or burn for extended periods of time, or you have pain in your pelvis or legs and notice a change in discharge, you will want to make an appointment and discuss the possibility of infection with your doctor or midwife.
Infections are a common cause of miscarriage in women trying to get pregnant, so if you want to get pregnant but are experiencing these kinds of symptoms in your discharge, be sure to get your body 100% healthy and ready beforehand to have greater chance in maintaining a pregnancy.
A word On Yeast Infections
Yeast infections are the most common type of vaginal infections in women, especially during pregnancy.
Because of hormone changes, cravings and pH changes, the balance of your body can get thrown off in pregnancy and you may experience an increase in yeast infections5.
General rules to follow for treating yeast infections are:
Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear. Keep what you wear breathable to avoid creating the dark, moist environment that yeast love.
That means no spandex or tight-fitting panties allowed!
Dry the area after showering and avoid swimming.
No Sugars And Starch
Reduce or eliminate sugars and starches. Pay attention, ladies, this one is very important.
Sugar (and starches like potatoes, breads, grains, etc ..) feed yeast. If you have a yeast infection, then you have an overgrowth of Candida yeast.
The most effective way to quickly eliminate a yeast infection and prevent future infections is to starve the yeast, recover your body’s natural probiotic balance, and stay healthy.
Cut out ALL sugar and starch if you can and increase all the good, healthy foods your body needs to thrive.
Take a good probiotic. Some people even recommend inserting PLAIN (no sugar!) yogurt into your vagina directly.
Be careful inserting anything into your vagina during pregnancy, though, and definitely talk to your care provider before doing this.
Otherwise, you can eat as much probiotic food as you like (provided you’re not overdoing it and are sticking to a healthy and well balanced diet), as well as take a quality probiotic on a daily basis.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Usually, your doctor will test you for STDs during your pregnancy, especially if you think you could have one.
If you and your partner have been in a monogamous relationship and neither of you has ever had any previous sexual relations, including rape or sexual abuse, then you do not need to be concerned about STDs. Even in this case, though, you might want to discuss the possibility of both of you getting tested just to be 100% certain.
The Center for Disease Control6 recommends ALL women be tested, regardless of relationship status, but it is completely up to you whether you consent to any testing during your pregnancy.
What If I Find Blood In My Discharge?
There are several reasons why normal pregnancy discharge could be tinted slightly pink or spotted with bright red blood.
Most of the times, this isn’t cause for concern unless you’re bleeding heavily (going through a pad) or experiencing symptoms of labor prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy.
In this case, you could be experiencing placental abruption or placenta previa, both of which are conditions that need to be diagnosed and managed by a doctor.
You’ll receive additional testing and an ultrasound to rule out these conditions, so make an appointment or go into the emergency room yourself as soon as possible if you experience excessive bleeding at any time during your pregnancy.
Wrapping It Up
Normal vaginal discharge during your pregnancy – as described in this article – is no cause for concern. On the contrary, it’s actually a sign that your body is doing exactly what it needs to do to maintain health and wellness in your vaginal area while you’re pregnant.
If, on the other hand, you notice an increase in normal discharge while pregnant, then be sure to mention it to your care provider so they can maintain a good record of your health.
Other than that, there’s no action you need to take on your own except to help yourself stay comfortable.
- https://www.britannica.com/science/leukorrhea. Accessed June 30, 2019.
- Toxic shock syndrome. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/toxic-shock-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20355384. Accessed June 30, 2019.
- The Evidence on: Due Dates. https://evidencebasedbirth.com/evidence-on-inducing-labor-for-going-past-your-due-date/. Accessed June 30, 2019.
- Pregnancy and Signs of Labor. https://www.webmd.com/baby/labor-signs#1. Accessed June 30, 2019.
- Evidence on: Premature Rupture of Membranes. https://evidencebasedbirth.com/evidence-inducing-labor-water-breaks-term/. Accessed June 30, 2019.
- STDs during Pregnancy – CDC Fact Sheet. https://www.cdc.gov/std/pregnancy/stdfact-pregnancy.htm. Accessed June 30, 2019.