Vaginal discharge in pregnancy can be a great sign.
In fact, it can be one of the very first signs that you’re pregnant!
It’s also one of your body’s genius ways of preventing infections from getting to your little peanut.
But there are times when it can signal that something’s up.
Knowing what signs to look out for can help you get any treatment you need in time.
Your vaginal health during pregnancy really matters — firstly, because it’s important for you to be comfortable, and secondly, discharge and pain can be a signal of issues that can affect both you and your baby.
We’ll take you through all the details so you know what to look out for and when you should contact your doctor.
In this article: 📝
- Is it normal to have white discharge during pregnancy?
- How early does leukorrhea start in pregnancy?
- Is it normal to have no discharge during early pregnancy?
- What does yellow discharge mean during pregnancy?
- When should you worry about vaginal discharge during pregnancy?
- Vaginal discharge during pregnancy: the bottom line
Is it normal to have white discharge during pregnancy?
Absolutely — right from the beginning to the end, it’s normal to have a white(ish) vaginal discharge while you’re pregnant.
Throughout your pregnancy, your vagina produces fluids.
And this is totally normal.
Healthy discharge during pregnancy is white and thin, either clear or milky, and shouldn’t have much of a smell.
It’s likely that your discharge will change in thickness and amount throughout your pregnancy.
If it’s worrying you, unscented panty liners can be a great help — just avoid tampons while pregnant, as these can put you at greater risk for infection.
The medical name for vaginal discharge is leukorrhea.
It’s an umbrella term that refers to the fluids that are naturally secreted by your vagina.
These liquids help with everything from preventing infections to providing lubrication during sex.
The discharge you might notice early on in pregnancy is actually something called cervical mucus and comes from, you guessed it, your cervix (the bridge between your vagina and uterus).
Your cervical mucus changes throughout your menstrual cycle, according to the levels of your sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone).
Some people who are TTC use these changes to see when they’re ovulating and if there are any signs that they might be pregnant.
After your period, your cervical mucus is usually dry or sticky.
As you approach ovulation, your cervical mucus becomes creamy, and then slippery and stretchy, which helps the sperm travel to the egg.
(Genius, we know.)
It also means the sperm has a less acidic environment in the vagina.
In early pregnancy, you might notice a subtle change in your cervical mucus — it may now look milky white and thin.
Cervical mucus then has another really important job to do in pregnancy — protect your growing baby from the outside world.
It forms in your cervix and becomes a protective barrier between the vagina and the uterus.
This is called the mucus plug.
Later in your pregnancy, when your baby is ready to make its appearance, you’ll lose this plug.
What you see when you lose your mucus plug is different from the vaginal discharge you have gotten used to through pregnancy.
It’s thicker and has the consistency of jelly.
Losing your mucus plug is often accompanied by something called the “blood show” — dramatic, we know.
In a nutshell, your cervix is making its own preparations for childbirth.
And the many blood vessels in the area mean some blood gets mixed with the mucus before it all gets expelled.
Although it comes with a rather spectacular name, the bloody show will only produce about a tablespoon or so of bloody mucus discharge.
How early does leukorrhea start in pregnancy?
During early pregnancy, you may experience an increase in vaginal discharge as early as one or two weeks in — so yes, that could be before you even skip a period.
So if you notice white discharge after ovulation, yep, it could be a sign that you’ve conceived.
Instead of being thick, this white discharge may be milky or watery.
Like most things in pregnancy, these extra fluids are a result of those pregnancy hormones.
Your body’s upped its estrogen levels, and with that comes increased discharge and more blood flow to your lower half.
Is it normal to have no discharge during early pregnancy?
Pregnancy is not one-size-fits-all.
And while some people experience quite a bit of discharge at the start of their pregnancy, others have little or none at all.
There are some other early symptoms to watch out for though:
- Tender breasts
- Nausea and vomiting (commonly referred to as “morning sickness,” but believe us when we say it doesn’t always stick to its office hours)
- Frequent peeing
- Implantation bleeding and cramping
- Feeling light-headed
But you may not have any of these signs and still be pregnant.
The only real way to tell is a pregnancy test.
Wait until after the first day of your next expected period to take a home test.
If it comes out positive, make an appointment with your doctor to confirm the result.
(Whether you’re TTC or not, this can be a highly emotional time.
Know that you don’t have to do it alone.
Your Peanut community is here for you.)
What does yellow discharge mean during pregnancy?
Yellow discharge during pregnancy could be a sign of infection, so it’s important to check in with your doctor if this is what you’ve noticed.
Hopefully, nothing is wrong, and they’ll send you on your way.
But it’s always best to check.
At your appointment, your healthcare provider will likely take a urine sample and swab your cervix so that they can send a sample to the lab for testing.
If you are diagnosed with an infection, you’ll be put on treatment that will help keep you and your baby safe.
We’ll take you through the possible infections associated with yellow (or green or grey) discharges, how they affect pregnancy, and how they can be treated.
Your vagina contains a delicate ecosystem of bacteria and yeast.
When all is well, they live in harmony and create the ideal environment down under.
But sometimes, this delicate balance can be disrupted, causing an overgrowth of yeast.
Yeast infections are really common during pregnancy — as many as 30% of pregnant women get them.
And one reason is that the extra estrogen in your system encourages yeast to grow.
Yeast infections are most common in your second trimester but can happen at any time.
You may notice a white, clumpy discharge, often described as a “cottage cheese” consistency.
The good news is, yeast infections won’t harm your baby.
But they can leave you feeling less than your best.
Your vaginal area can become itchy and inflamed, and in some cases, you might experience digestive issues and fatigue.
Seriously not fun when you’re dealing with pregnancy symptoms anyway.
Luckily, there is treatment available that’s safe to use during pregnancy.
Your first step?
Get to your doctor so that you can get an accurate diagnosis and get the help you need.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
BV happens when there’s an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your vagina.
We don’t know exactly what causes BV, but we do know it’s the most common vaginal infection.
Being sexually active, pregnant (yep, those hormones again), and douching are known to put you at higher risk for getting BV because they can disrupt the vagina’s natural biome.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, somewhere between 10 and 30% of pregnant women get BV.
You may notice a gray-ish discharge that has a strong smell.
Other symptoms include pain during sex, itching, and a burning sensation when you pee.
BV is treated with antibiotics that are safe for you and your baby.
It’s always important to get treatment if you’ve got BV and any symptoms of discomfort.
This is particularly true if you’re pregnant, as it can increase your baby’s risk for premature birth.
And it also puts you at risk for developing postpartum endometritis (infection of your uterus lining).
You may have heard this infection referred to as “trich.”
It’s an STI caused by a parasite.
The discharge from this type of infection is often described as “frothy”, yellow-green, and accompanied by a foul smell.
You may also experience some itching, burning, or redness (described as a “strawberry cervix”).
But some people don’t experience any symptoms at all.
Trich is always concerning and is especially so during pregnancy.
It’s most commonly associated with your baby not growing effectively in your uterus and with preterm delivery.
In rare cases, it can also be passed on to your baby during delivery.
Luckily, it’s curable with a single dose of antibiotics.
If you have trich, it is standard medical practice to treat your partner with a single dose of antibiotics at the same time as you get treated.
Chlamydia is a common STI that can cause issues in pregnancy and later health problems (including infertility) for you.
You may not have any symptoms at all if you have chlamydia.
If you do have symptoms, you might have discharge, a burning sensation when you pee, problems peeing, and bleeding after sex or between periods.
If you have an untreated chlamydia infection during pregnancy, it can lead to premature labor, low birth weight, and the premature rupture of membranes (more on this below).
There’s also a chance it can pass to your baby during delivery, which could give them serious conjunctivitis (pink eye).
If untreated in time, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) down the line, which can cause major health issues including affecting your future reproductive health.
It is important for you and your partner to get treated.
Your doctor will screen you for chlamydia at your first prenatal visit if you are considered to be at risk.
You may also have a second test in the third trimester before your baby makes an appearance.
This way, you will get treatment, should you need it before your baby travels down the birth canal.
Gonorrhea is an STI caused by bacteria.
It can lead to a thick yellow-green discharge, bleeding after sex (and between periods), and pain when you pee.
Like chlamydia, gonorrhea can lead to premature birth and low birth weight and can be passed on to your baby during delivery, causing eye infections.
It may also cause an infection of the amniotic fluid (called chorioamnionitis) and is linked to pregnancy loss.
So it’s important for you and your partner to get treatment — again a single dose of antibiotics.
Your healthcare practitioner may give you two different types of antibiotics which treat gonorrhea and chlamydia at the same time.
As with chlamydia, your OBGYN will probably screen you in the first four weeks for gonorrhea, if they consider it necessary.
You may also have a second screening in the third trimester, before the due date so that you get any treatment you may need in time.
When should you worry about vaginal discharge during pregnancy?
If you notice any of the following signs, it’s time to call your doctor.
While they may not mean that anything’s wrong, it’s still best to check.
Best case scenario, you get peace of mind.
You notice a bad smell.
This could be a sign of an infection.
Sexually transmitted infections can cause foul odor, as can BV.
It’s green, grey, or yellow.
This could be one of the symptoms of an STI or BV.
Best to get checked.
This could be a sign that you have a yeast infection or STI.
It burns when you pee.
If it burns when you pee, it could mean that your vulva is inflamed because of an STI, BV, or yeast overgrowth.
But it could also mean you have a urinary tract infection (UTI).
This type of infection happens when bacteria enter and grow in your urinary tract (made up of your urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys).
UTIs are particularly common during pregnancy for two reasons.
One is it’s that much harder to empty your whole bladder when you pee.
And the longer that pee sticks around in your body, the more chance there is of infection.
The second is there are more sugars, proteins, and hormones in your pee.
UTIs can also be particularly dangerous when you’re pregnant.
If left untreated, UTIs can cause a more serious infection that can lead to preterm labor or even pregnancy loss.
Luckily, they’re totally treatable with specific antibiotics that are safe to take when you’re pregnant.
As standard procedure during your prenatal visits, your doctor will take a urine sample.
(This can also help them test for other pregnancy complications, like gestational diabetes.)
But if you are experiencing any symptoms, tell your doctor as soon as possible so that you can get the help you need.
It’s accompanied by severe pain or itching.
If you are experiencing vaginal discomfort during pregnancy, it could just be the weight of your little one making their presence known.
As your pregnancy progresses, your growing uterus puts added strain on your lower half, weakening the muscles in the pelvic floor area.
This can put pressure on your vagina, as well as on the joints and ligaments in the surrounding areas.
On top of this list is relaxin.
As the name suggests, this hormone is responsible for relaxing the joints and ligaments in the pelvic area in preparation for delivery.
But it can also cause discomfort in and around your vagina and bladder.
While all this is normal, if you are feeling severe pain, itching, or burning, it could be a sign of an STI, like chlamydia or gonorrhea, or another kind of infection.
You experience a gush of fluid.
If you’re towards the end of your pregnancy, a pale yellow fluid could be a sign that your water has broken.
(It can also be clear in color and might be more of a trickle than a gush.)
Your water breaking means that the amniotic sac has ruptured and caused some of the fluid to leak out, either because your baby is putting pressure on it (it wants out!) or because of the effects of contractions.
As you may know from the movies, your water breaking means it’s time to give birth — and you’ll meet your baby within the next 24 hours.
(Know that not everyone’s water breaks as they go into labor, so don’t stress if it doesn’t happen this way.)
Sometimes, the amniotic sac breaks early (before 37 weeks).
This is called PPROM (preterm premature rupture of membranes) and accounts for somewhere between a quarter and a third of all preterm babies.
PPROM is a concern as it’s linked to a few different complications, including infections, placental abruption (when the placenta detaches early from the uterus), and compression of the umbilical cord, which can restrict blood flow and oxygen to the baby.
So, if you notice a gush of fluid from your vagina and you’re not sure what it is — particularly if it’s accompanied by any pain — the best thing to do is to get medical attention.
Your healthcare team will be able to monitor you (usually in the hospital) and give you and your baby the care you need.
Vaginal discharge during pregnancy: the bottom line
Vaginal discharge during pregnancy is 100% normal.
It’s usually milky and thin and varies in consistency and amount throughout your term.
But there are times when discharge can signal a health issue — most of which are easily resolvable.
Don’t wait to get medical attention if your discharge is yellow or green, lumpy, or has a bad smell.
Also get checked if it’s accompanied by other symptoms.
The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can get the treatment you need and eliminate those added discomforts.
And remember that if you need support along the way, your Peanut community is there for you.
There’s so much we don’t talk about during pregnancy, which can make the experience far more isolating than it needs to be.
Let’s have the conversations.
Join us. ❤️