Maintaining vaginal health is likely a little higher on your To-Do list than usual. Totally normal.
Your vagina goes through some pretty big changes during pregnancy, making it more sensitive and prone to infection.
So how do you deal with this? Let’s get down to business.
How to maintain a healthy vagina when pregnant
When you’re pregnant, your body goes through all sorts of hormonal dances.
Surges in estrogen and progesterone, and increased blood flow often lead to:
Increased discharge. Your vagina is good at taking care of itself. It produces fluid of varying types and consistencies (whether you’re pregnant or not) in an effort to keep its unique habitat in tip-top shape. During pregnancy, it gets really serious about this job. If you notice a discharge that’s thin and milky and doesn’t have a noticeable odor, it’s likely that all is well. But if the discharge has an unusual color or smell, it may be a sign that you need to pay attention to.
Bleeding. There are various reasons you may be bleeding in the first trimester. Implantation bleeding and increased blood flow are some options here. If you’re worried, check in with your doctor. Later on in your pregnancy, bleeding can be more concerning and may mean preterm labor or placental abruption (where the placenta separates from the wall of your uterus).
Swelling. This is normal. In fact, you may even notice that your labia has had some redecorating done and opted for a blue-ish hue. If swelling is accompanied by any redness or pain, it may be a sign of infection. Talk to your doctor about this.
And another thing hormonal changes do? Impact the pH balance of your vagina.
A healthy vagina has a pH of somewhere between 3.8 and 4.5. (On the pH scale, 7 is neutral—so yes, vaginas are more on the acidic side of things.)
Too much or too little acid can make you more prone to yeast and bacterial infections.
Luckily, the pH balance in your vagina isn’t something you have to measure on the daily. Your body will give you clues if something is wrong.
How do you know if your pH balance is off?
The basic signs are odor and itch.
If you smell something fishy, it’s worth chatting to your doctor as it may be a sign of an infection that needs to be treated.
Here are the more common causes of pH imbalance:
PH-wise, a yeast infection may mean things are more acidic than they should be.
Yeast infections are really common during pregnancy.
If you’ve noticed a cottage-cheesy discharge, this could be a yeast infection.
They’re totally treatable with over-the-counter meds—just tell your healthcare practitioner that you’re pregnant so they can give you a treatment that won’t cause any complications.
If your pH balance is higher than it should be (as in less acidic, more alkaline), you may be prone to bacterial infections.
Basically, that pH balance provides stellar protection against harmful bacteria, so when things are off-center, your defenses are down.
The most common symptom is a strong, fishy smell.
Bacterial vaginosis is common—up to a million pregnant Americans get it a year.
It requires treatment as it’s linked to premature birth and low birth weights.
How do I fix my pH balance?
Here are some healthy vagina tips:
- Use a probiotic for vaginal health. It’s all about maintaining a healthy microbiome (the community of microorganisms in your body) that makes your vagina unwelcoming to infections. Probiotics are safe to use during pregnancy. The most researched strain is Lactobacillus acidophilus. (Now to work out how to say that when you see your healthcare provider.)
- Use a condom when you have sex. Particularly if you’re with a new partner, that added layer of protection can help stave off all sorts of infections. STIs such as trichomoniasis are linked to pregnancy complications like premature birth.
- Stay away from the douche. Yeah, not a good idea. Douches can disrupt the pH in your vagina, leaving you more open to invaders.
We wish you and your vagina a happy pregnancy. 🤰💕