While you may have been expecting pregnancy symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, and heartburn, you may not have put much thought into vaginal discharge during pregnancy.
Of course, vaginal discharge is completely normal and is designed to protect your vagina and keep it clean. However, if your discharge changes during pregnancy, you may be worried about possible infections.
So, what does a normal pregnancy discharge look like? And how can you recognise the signs of an unhealthy discharge during pregnancy?
Read on to discover:
- What does a healthy vaginal discharge look like when pregnant?
- What is watery discharge during pregnancy?
- What causes a watery discharge during pregnancy?
- What does different discharge colors mean when pregnant?
- When to call your doctor about vaginal discharge during pregnancy?
- Most common vaginal infections during pregnancy
- Swollen vagina during pregnancy
- How to care for your vaginal health during pregnancy
- Pregnancy and vaginal health FAQs
What does vaginal discharge look like when pregnant?
As mentioned above, vaginal discharge is completely natural and normally nothing to be concerned about. However, during pregnancy, your vaginal discharge can change, and this can be worrying if you don’t know what is normal and what isn’t.
Typically, during pregnancy, your vagina secretes a thin, milky-white discharge. This is known as leukorrhea. It is similar to the discharge that you may experience between your periods, only heavier.
The further along you get in your pregnancy, the more leukorrhea you are likely to produce. This is a sign that your body is preparing itself to go into labour.
You may also notice more discharge than normal throughout your pregnancy. This is because the pregnancy hormone oestrogen stimulates blood flow in your vagina, which causes an increase in vaginal secretions.
Leukorrhea is perfectly normally and, in fact, helps to protect your birth canal and your baby from infections.
What is watery discharge during pregnancy?
Watery discharge, known as leukorrhea, can be recognised by the following characteristics:
- A thin or mucus-like texture
- A clear or milky white colour
- A very mild odour or no odour
This watery discharge typically consists of dead cells and tissues from the vagina and is your body’s way of maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina.
A wet, watery discharge is a sign of pregnancy as your body works hard to protect itself and your baby.
What causes watery discharge during pregnancy?
There are two possible causes of watery discharge during pregnancy, and both are completely normal and not any cause for concern.
Your body is adapting to pregnancy
When you become pregnant, your body will start to change in response to these pregnancy-related changes. A watery discharge, known as leukorrhea, is your body’s way of protecting itself and your baby from infections.
Your waters have broken
If you are in the later stages of your pregnancy and you experience watery discharge, this may not be leukorrhea. Instead, it could be amniotic fluid. It is worth noting that amniotic fluid looks slightly different from normal pregnancy discharge and typically has the colour of pale urine rather than white and mucus-like.
Does different discharge colors mean when pregnant?
Discharge can change colour and consistency when you are pregnant, but this is often due to various reasons:
What does white discharge during pregnancy mean?
In most cases, white discharge during pregnancy is completely normal. However, if your white discharge is thick, clumpy, and resembles cottage cheese, you may have a yeast infection.
Other symptoms of a yeast infection include:
- Vaginal itching
- Vaginal soreness
- Vaginal redness
- Burning during urination
If you have an itchy vagina during pregnancy and a thick white discharge, you should make an appointment with your GP to check for vaginal thrush.
What does green discharge during pregnancy mean?
Green discharge is usually a sign of an infection that could affect your pregnancy, so you should make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. Typically, green discharge, especially when accompanied by a foul odour, is a sign of a sexually transmitted disease such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea.
Do not feel embarrassed or worried about going to see your GP about green discharge, as most infections can be cleared up with a course of antibiotics.
What does yellow discharge during pregnancy mean?
Yellow discharge during pregnancy can be a sign of an infection, especially if the discharge has a foul odour and you have other symptoms such as vaginal itching, pain during urination, pain during sex, or abdominal pain.
If you have yellow discharge, you should make an appointment with your GP or midwife as you may require treatment such as antibiotics to kill the infection.
What does brown discharge mean during pregnancy?
Brown discharge during pregnancy can be worrying, but, in most cases, it is no cause for concern. Brown discharge is discharge that is tinged with old blood and, in pregnancy, the most common cause of brown discharge is irritation.
As your body experiences a surge in hormones and increased blood flow, this makes your cervix much more sensitive. So, when you have sex or you undergo a pelvic exam, this can aggravate it and cause brown spotting or discharge.
If you are nearing the end of your pregnancy, brown discharge can also be a sign that your body is preparing for labour.
If you are worried about brown discharge during pregnancy, you can always make an appointment with your GP or midwife to put your mind at rest.
When to call your doctor about vaginal discharge during pregnancy
If your vaginal discharge during pregnancy is thin, clear, or milky, then you do not need to call your doctor as this is a normal pregnancy discharge.
However, if you notice any of the below symptoms, it can be a good idea to make an appointment with your GP or midwife:
- Green or yellow vaginal discharge
- Foul-smelling discharge
- Discharge with a thick or lumpy consistency
- Vaginal burning or itching
- Pink or brown streaks in your discharge
- A pale-urine colour discharge
The most important thing to remember is to pay close attention to your discharge and to be vigilant of any changes.
What are the most common vaginal infections during pregnancy?
Although nobody wants to get a vaginal infection during pregnancy, these are, in fact, very common. There are two vaginal infections that many women experience during pregnancy, and these are bacterial vaginosis and thrush.
Bacterial vaginosis pregnancy
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is one of the most common vaginal infections in women. BV is an infection of the vagina that is caused by bacteria. Although the vagina needs bacteria, if there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria (anaerobes) and not enough good bacteria (lactobacilli), then an infection can occur.
BV affects approximately 1 million pregnant women each year and is recognisable by the following symptoms:
- A thin grey, white or yellow discharge
- A fishy-odour
- Burning during urination
- Vaginal itching or irritation
There are several possible causes of BV, including unprotected sex, having multiple sex partners, and using antibiotics.
In terms of bacterial vaginosis treatment during pregnancy, if you have a mild case of BV, then you can buy BV treatment over-the-counter or online without the need for a prescription such as Multi-Gyn ActiGel. There are not known contraindications during pregnancy. Discuss the options with your doctor.
If you think you are unsure that you have bacterial vaginosis, buy a BV test kit online or at your local pharmacy or book an appointment with your GP.
However, if you have more severe symptoms or you are struggling to shift the infection, your GP can prescribe antibiotics.
Yeast infection (thrush) pregnancy
Thrush is another very common infection during pregnancy and typically occurs due to all the hormonal changes going on in your body. Thrush is particularly common in the third trimester.
Thrush is a yeast infection that is caused by candida, a type of fungus. Candida usually lives harmlessly in the vagina as it is kept under control by the good bacteria.
However, if the balance of bacteria in the vagina becomes disrupted, such as when you are pregnant or taking antibiotics, an infection can occur.
You can recognise a pregnant yeast infection by the following symptoms:
- Thick, clumpy white discharge that resembles cottage cheese
- Vaginal itching and irritation
- Soreness and burning during urination
- Pain or discomfort during sex
- Redness around the vulva
If you have candidiasis in pregnancy, you should make an appointment with your GP or midwife before using over-the-counter treatments or home remedies for thrush. Typically, they will prescribe a pessary that is inserted directly into the vagina, which contains clotrimazole, an antifungal medication.
You should not take thrush tablets if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have thrush when your baby is born, then they may catch this infection. This is not something to be worried about as it can be easily treated.
Swollen vagina during pregnancy
A swollen vagina during pregnancy is not uncommon and can be caused by several different factors.
Increased blood flow
One of the most common causes of a swollen vagina during pregnancy is increased blood flow. Your blood volume increases during pregnancy to support your growing baby, and, as your uterus grows, you can experience an increase in pressure of the blood vessels in your pelvis. This, in turn, can cause a swollen vagina.
A yeast infection can also cause your vagina to become swollen. This is due to inflammation that is a result of the infection. You may also notice vaginal itching, soreness, and redness if you have a vaginal yeast infection.
Varicose veins are swollen, bumpy veins that typically develop in your legs. However, they can also develop on your vulva during pregnancy. These are not dangerous, but they can cause vaginal swelling.
Sometimes a swollen vagina during pregnancy can be caused by excess fluid trapped in your body’s tissues. This is a normal side effect of pregnancy and nothing to worry about.
How to care for your vagina during pregnancy
There are many ways that you can take care of your vagina and your vaginal health during pregnancy, including:
- Wear breathable, cotton underwear
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes
- Avoid shapewear which puts extra pressure on your bladder and uterus
- Keep your vagina clean and dry
- Use intimate care products to stay fresh
- Avoid scented or harsh soaps
Pregnancy and vaginal health FAQs
Is a yeast infection a symptom of pregnancy?
Yeast infections are very common during pregnancy and are not something to be overly concerned about. If you think you have a yeast infection during pregnancy, you should visit your GP or midwife for treatment.
Is vaginal discharge a sign of pregnancy?
Vaginal discharge that is watery and has a mucus-like consistency is a sign of pregnancy. This discharge is known as leukorrhea and is perfectly normal. If your vaginal discharge is yellow, green, or thick, white, and clumpy, this could be a sign of an infection.
What does vaginal discharge look like when pregnant?
Vaginal discharge during pregnancy is usually watery, thin, and mucus-like. This discharge is known as leukorrhea and is designed to protect you and your baby. If you notice that your vaginal discharge is yellow, green, thick, and clumpy or has a bad odour, this could be a sign of an infection, and you should book an appointment with your doctor or midwife.
What colour does a pregnant woman discharge?
Pregnant women should have thin, clear, or milky discharge. However, when a pregnant woman experiences infections, it can be yellow or green. Sometimes, discharge is also brown due to discharge mixing with old blood.
When should I be worried about vaginal discharge during pregnancy?
An increase in vaginal discharge is completely normal and nothing to be worried about. However, if you notice a change in colour, such as yellow or green discharge, or your discharge starts to smell unpleasant, this could be a sign of an infection.
If you experience vaginal itching, soreness, or you have pain or burning during urination, then these are also signs that you have an infection.
Are yeast infections bad during pregnancy?
Yeast infections in pregnancy are common and can be easily treated with over-the-counter antifungal medication. Pregnant women should not take oral thrush medication but instead use an antifungal cream or pessary.
If you are worried about yeast infections during pregnancy, make an appointment with your GP or midwife.
Is it normal to have a yeast infection during pregnancy?
Yes, it is. Due to all the hormonal changes that will be going on in your body, you will likely experience yeast infections at least once.
How to treat a yeast infection during pregnancy
You can have a pessary. This is inserted directly into the vagina and contains clotrimazole, an antifungal medication. Do not take tablets to combat the infection.
Can you use BV gel when pregnant?
Yes, you can safely use BV gel when you are pregnant. Bacterial vaginosis is common in pregnancy and can be treated with either an antibiotic that you take orally or a cream or gel that you insert into your vagina. BV treatment is safe both for you and your baby during pregnancy and can help to reduce your risk of sexually transmitted diseases.
Can candidiasis affect pregnancy?
If not treated, candidiasis could cause complications in pregnancy, such as low birth weight and premature delivery.
What causes yeast infection during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, your body is flooded with hormones which can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in your vagina. This can cause vaginal infections such as thrush, also known as yeast infections. Yeast infections can be easily treated during pregnancy with an antifungal pessary and cream.