Not many women are aware that a certain amount of discharge during pregnancy is normal. It may vary from time to time and it is important to monitor consistency and color to prevent any risks to the pregnancy. Early intervention and getting the specialized prenatal care you require increases your chances of a healthy pregnancy.
Why is there vaginal discharge during pregnancy?
The cervix (neck of the womb) and vaginal walls get softer during pregnancy. The discharge increases to help prevent any infections travelling up from the vagina to the womb. This may increase towards the end of your term and is sometimes confused with urine. In the last week the discharge may contain thick mucus and some blood. Called “show”, this is a sign that your body is preparing for the birthing process. It happens when the mucus that is present in your cervix comes away.
While increase in discharge during pregnancy is normal, keep an eye on it and inform your doctor at the first signs of change or if you have any doubts. Healthy vaginal discharge should be clear, white and have no unpleasant smell.
When to contact your doctor about your discharge during pregnancy?
- There is a lot of thin, clear discharge: Amniotic fluid could be leaking. It is hard to tell the difference between the fluid and mucus.
- The discharge is tinged with blood: Call your doctor immediately if you're not yet at 37 weeks and you notice an increase in discharge or a change in the type of discharge (if it becomes watery, mucus-like, or bloody – even if it's just tinged with pink or brownish old blood). While many women lose a small amount of blood during pregnancy, it can sometimes be a sign of more serious issues such as a miscarriage or a problem with the placenta. It can also be a sign of preterm labor.
- It smells strange and/or you feel itchy or sore: If the discharge is colored or smells strange, or if you feel itchy or sore, you may have a vaginal infection.
- If you notice a thin white or gray discharge with a fishy smell after sex (when the discharge mixes with semen), you may have a different kind of vaginal infection called a bacterial vaginosis.
- If your discharge is yellow or green and frothy with an unpleasant odor, you may have trichomoniasis, a common sexually transmitted infection. Other possible symptoms of trichomoniasis (or trich) include a red, irritated, or itchy vulva or vagina and discomfort while urinating or during intercourse.
- If your discharge is foul-smelling or frothy or yellow, green, or gray, you may have a different kind of vaginal infection or a sexually transmitted infection, even if you don't have symptoms of irritation, itching, or burning.
How to deal with discharge during pregnancy?
- If you suspect you have an infection, don’t try to take any over-the-counter medications and treat it yourself. They might put your pregnancy at risk. Contact your healthcare provider and follow his/her recommendations.
- Use panty liners to absorb it or a sanitary pad for heavy flow. Never use tampons during pregnancy. Tampons can pick up a surprising amount of germs on the way into your vagina. While this may not pose a problem in any other situation, during pregnancy, the bacteria can get into your baby’s system too easily and it could cause serious complications (such as toxic shock syndrome) for you and your growing bundle of joy. Additionally, a tampon might disrupt the bacterial balance in your vagina and cause irritation.
- To keep your genital area healthy, keep it clean, always wipe from front to back, and wear cotton underwear. Don't douche. It can upset the normal balance of vaginal flora and increase your risk of a vaginal infection. Another reason doctors and midwives discourage douching during pregnancy is because in rare cases it can introduce air into your circulatory system through the vagina, which can cause serious complications.
- Avoid tight pants, nylons, bubble bath, scented pads or toilet paper, feminine hygiene sprays, and scented or deodorant soaps.
Dr. Jorge L. Gomez earned his Medical Degree in 1990 at Central Del Caribe University in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Following residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital center in the Bronx, NY (1990–1994), he completed additional fellowship training at New York University Medical Center NY, specializing in Maternal Fetal Medicine (1994-1996). After his fellowship in 1996 he joined South Florida Perinatal Medicine. Dr. Gomez is Board certified in OBGYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine. From 2003–2007 He was a reviewer for the American Journal Of Obstetrics and Gynecology.