What to Know About Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy
By Ashley Parker, MD, Obstetrician and Gynecologist—Virtua Ob/Gyn - Voorhees
During pregnancy, you may notice changes in your vaginal discharge. Even before pregnancy, vaginal discharge can vary from day-to-day or week-to-week. This is because of hormonal changes that take place during the menstrual cycle.
When you’re pregnant, those hormonal changes are even more significant. This can lead to some normal variations in vaginal discharge. However, you shouldn’t ignore certain types of vaginal discharge, especially during pregnancy.
If you’re pregnant, here’s what you need to know about vaginal discharge color changes that may require treatment.
White or off-white
White or off-white, thin, mostly odorless discharge during pregnancy is called leukorrhea. Leukorrhea happens for several reasons, including:
- The high estrogen levels women experience during pregnancy
- The cervix creating more mucus to protect the pregnancy
- An increased blood flow to the vaginal walls
Nearly every pregnant woman experiences this but it’s not dangerous or bad – just annoying. You can use a panty liner or pad if it’s bothersome. Avoid tampons and douching, as they can introduce harmful bacteria into the vagina. Washing with warm water is sufficient.
Clumpy and white or off-white
If you experience thick or clumpy discharge, it may be because yeast is present. About 1 in 4 women have vaginal yeast overgrowth during pregnancy.
Yeast or a yeast infection won’t hurt the baby, so there’s no need to hit the panic button. You’ll want to talk to your ob/gyn or midwife, however, if you experience burning or itching and need relief. Most prescription and over-the-counter remedies are safe during pregnancy, but it’s best to ask about what’s best for you.
Yellow or green
If you experience darker yellow or green discharge that has a strong, unpleasant odor that’s accompanied by burning or itching, call your doctor or midwife. These are signs of two common vaginal infections: bacterial vaginosis (the overgrowth of common bacteria that causes vaginal inflammation) or trichomoniasis (a sexually transmitted infection caused by the parasite trichomonas vaginalis).
These symptoms alsomay be a sign of other sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. These infections may increase the risk for premature rupture of the membranes and early delivery. They also can cause infection in your baby’s eyes or lungs if present during delivery. Therefore, it's important to seek treatment promptly from your provider. These infections are treated easily with prescription medications that are safe to take during pregnancy.
Brown or red
Generally, red or brown bloody discharge isn’t considered “normal” during pregnancy and is a reason to call your doctor or midwife. At the same time, many things can cause bloody discharge that aren’t related to a pregnancy complication. Before you panic, talk to your health care provider and describe the situation. He or she will help you determine the appropriate next steps.
Watery and clear or light yellow
If you experience a gush or continuous trickle of watery and clear or light yellow fluid during pregnancy, it may be either urine or amniotic fluid.
It’s common to experience incontinence (the involuntary loss of urine) during pregnancy, especially in later stages when your growing baby is pressing on your bladder. However, it can be challenging to know whether you’re leaking urine or amniotic fluid. When in doubt, call your ob/gyn.
If you’re ever unsure about a symptom, always call your provider instead of worrying that something is wrong.
Have you signed up for childbirth class?
Virtua Health is offering both live maternity support and breastfeeding classes via Zoom meeting, as well as online, interactive courses, including childbirth preparation, baby basics, breathing and relaxation, and more. See all of the available classes.
Updated January 14, 2022