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  • Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy: What's Normal and What's Not

    Keep your vagina healthy during pregnancy to avoid unwanted complications.
    by Rachel Perez .
Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy: What's Normal and What's Not
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Pregnancy brings about a lot of changes in your body, and one of the first things you may notice is an increase in your vaginal discharge. While you may not need menstrual pads, you might find yourself needing pantyliners more. Vaginal discharge is how a woman's body protects and self-cleans her reproductive system. Any changes can clue you in on your reproductive health, and it can also tell you a lot about your pregnancy.

    What is normal vaginal discharge during pregnancy

    A woman's typical vaginal discharge in between periods is called leukorrhea. It is typically white or sometimes a bit yellowish, mild-smelling, or sometimes odorless, and has a thin and either fluid or mucus-like consistency. During ovulation days, your vaginal discharge can turn watery to help lubricate you more down there and lessen pain due to friction during sexual intercourse.

    When you get pregnant, the amount of your vaginal discharge increases as early as one to two weeks after conception. It's normal and one of the earliest signs of pregnancy, though only some women notice it. Your vaginal discharge will likely increase as your pregnancy progresses, and it will be that way until you give birth.

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    Why pregnant women have increased vaginal discharge

    When you're pregnant, your cervix and vaginal walls get softer, and you have higher estrogen levels and more blood flow directed in your vaginal area. These are typical body changes during pregnancy and they make you more prone to vaginal infections. The increased vaginal discharge helps prevent any infections down there from traveling up from the vagina to the womb.

    In the last week or so of your pregnancy, your vaginal discharge may contain blood-tinged thick mucus. It's your mucus plug detaching from your cervix, called a "bloody show," and is one of the signs that your body is preparing to give birth. It shouldn't be of any concern of you have a bloody show before your due as long as it's not accompanied by any other symptoms. Still, tell your doctor about it.

    Another sign that you're starting to go on labor is when your water bag breaks. In this case, you won't have any control of your watery vaginal discharge, which you may experience a sudden gush or just a leak. Either way, you need to alert your doctor and go to the hospital urgently. (Click here to know when to rush to the hospital to give birth.)

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    After delivery, your milky white vaginal discharge will turn into bright red postpartum vaginal discharge called lochia, which may last for six to 12 weeks after giving birth. (Read more about postpartum vaginal discharge here.)

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    Keeping your vagina free from infections during pregnancy

    While increased vaginal discharge in pregnancy helps keep infections at bay, there are a few things you can do to help ensure your vagina healthy and keep your pregnancy complication-free.

    1. Make sure to wash regularly to keep your vagina clean and dry.

    Washing it with plain water is safest, but if you must use soaps, go for gentle ones. Remember to always wipe from front to back.

    2. Wear breathable underwear.

    Avoid tight-fitting clothes and undies. They keep your vaginal area warm and moisture locked in, which may upset the balance of bacteria down there lead to infections.

    3. Use panty liners or pads, if you have to.

    Pantyliners can help keep you dry and comfy down there, but be sure to replace them every time you use the bathroom. If you're going through your liners quickly, you can use wear menstrual pads but not tampons.

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    4. Skip using feminine wipes.

    Your vagina self-cleans and using wipes may interfere with that. If you can't do without them, choose wipes that are ph-safe and free of alcohol, scents, and chemicals.

    5. Do not douche.

    Whether you're pregnant or not, douching is never a good idea. It upsets your natural bacteria levels and makes you more prone to infections.

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    When to worry about your vaginal discharge in pregnancy

    Everything is okay down there as long your vaginal discharge's color is not red, does not have a bad odor, and does not cause you any discomfort. Alert our doctor as soon as possible if you notice any of the following changes, as these may point to an infection or a sign of a complication or preterm labor:

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    • Your discharge is yellowish, greenish, or thick and cheesy.
    • Your vagina has a foul or fishy odor.
    • The inside of your vagina or your vulva feels sore, burns, or itches.
    • There is a painful, burning sensation when you urinate.
    • Sex is painful.
    • You experience spotting or bleeding that's enough to fill a pad, lasts longer than a day, or accompanied by cramping pain.

    A creamy cheese-like discharge accompanied by itching, irritation, and swelling of the vagina or the surrounding area could be due to thrush. According to the American Pregnancy Association, it's the most common vaginal infection in pregnant women. Thrush can be uncomfortable, especially if it keeps coming back. But it can be easily treated, but it's crucial to consult your doctor and not self-medicate as some medicines may not be safe for pregnant women.

    Changes in vaginal discharge during pregnancy can also be caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STD), which is why preggos are typically tested for them early on. Brown, pink, or red vaginal discharge may be a sign of a pregnancy complication, such as placenta issues, and may lead to preterm labor.

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