Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy
Well, mama if you’ve recently had a positive pregnancy test or suddenly find yourself in need of a daily panty liner, I’m guessing you noticed a change in your vaginal discharge. Pregnancy is filled with bodily changes and symptoms, and for some women different vaginal discharge can be an early sign of pregnancy.
This change, often perceived as an uptick, in vaginal discharge during pregnancy is very normal and tends to last through all three trimesters. For many mamas, it will actually continuously increase as your pregnancy progresses.
But what’s the deal with vaginal discharge during pregnancy? How do I know if what I’m experiencing is normal and when it’s a sign that something might be wrong? What are the best ways to stay comfortable and dry with so much discharge occurring?
Here is your complete guide to vaginal discharge during pregnancy-- also known as leukorrhea—so you’ll know exactly why it happens, what’s normal and what’s not.
In this article:
- What is leukorrhea or pregnancy discharge?
- What causes leukorrhea during pregnancy?
- What does leukorrhea look like?
- Is vaginal discharge normal during pregnancy?
- What other types of discharge occur during pregnancy?
- How to deal with discharge during pregnancy
What is leukorrhea or pregnancy discharge?
The official term for the discharge you notice during pregnancy is leukorrhea. It is a thin, white vaginal discharge that can have a mild smell or may be odorless. Many expectant mamas notice the presence of leukorrhea, and more discharge in general, very early in their pregnancies and find that it increases as their pregnancy progresses.
It might be something that you notice when you use the bathroom and wipe, or you may be experiencing an uncomfortable wetness or dampness in your underwear that requires the use of a daily panty liner. The exact amount of leukorrhea will vary for all women at different points in their pregnancy.
It’s important to know that this type of pregnancy discharge is totally normal and healthy. It doesn’t require medical attention. However, it is a good idea to take note of any changes in discharge and mention them at your prenatal appointments just to be safe.
Leukorrhea is not accompanied by itching, a particularly bad odor, or thick clumps, all of which are signs that what you’re experiencing may be outside the realm of normal, which we’ll look at more below.
What causes leukorrhea during pregnancy?
Leukorrhea, or a general increase in vaginal discharge during pregnancy, is caused by hormone changes in your body. It’s always the change in hormones with pregnancy symptoms, right? In this case, surges in estrogen levels are the culprit. All of the extra estrogen in your body increases blood flow to your pelvic region which stimulates the mucous membranes, resulting in more vaginal discharge.
The purpose of all this extra mucous and excess discharge during pregnancy is actually significant and helpful. The discharge removes dead cells from the vagina and birth canal. This shields you from infection and stabilizes bacteria, keeping you healthy!
What does leukorrhea look like?
Leukorrhea is a thin, white discharge. It doesn’t contain clumps and would not be described as thick. Leukorrhea shouldn’t have a foul odor, and may be completely odorless. Pregnant mamas usually notice it on their underwear or when they wipe after using the bathroom. It can occur in large amounts (especially later in pregnancy) but for some will be minimal.
Is vaginal discharge normal during pregnancy?
In short, vaginal discharge during pregnancy is very normal. Experiencing leukorrhea, the thin, white discharge discussed in this article, is very typical throughout the entire pregnancy. Most pregnant women take to wearing a daily panty liner to keep themselves feeling dry and comfortable. Without a liner, normal pregnancy discharge will often leave your underwear feeling wet.
What other types of discharge occur during pregnancy?
During early pregnancy, it is possible to experience brown or pink discharge. It occurs when the fertilized egg nestles into your uterus, sometimes resulting in light cramping and a pink or brown discharge. This discharge will not be bright red, will not soak a pad, and will not contain clots.
Spotting during pregnancy:
Some women continue to experience spotting-like discharge throughout their pregnancies, especially after sex, pap smears, cervical checks, or other pelvic exams. However, anytime you see blood, even spotting during pregnancy, a call to your provider is warranted.
Bloody Show/Mucus Plug:
As your due date approaches you may experience a distinct type of discharge known as bloody show or the mucus plug. This is often a sign that labor is close because it is a physiological way your body is preparing for the big day.
The mucus plug is essentially a glob of cervical mucus that seals off your cervix, which is the opening between the vagina and your uterus. Sometime before labor you will lose your mucus plug as your body prepares to dilate. For some mamas, they lose their mucus plug within a few days or hours of labor starting, but others can lose it weeks in advanced. It can even grow back!
You may experience the loss of your mucus plug as a form of discharge when you wipe or on your liner. It often looks kind of gel or snot-like, and can be streaked with pink, brown, or red blood. This discharge is also often referred to as bloody show.
Amniotic Fluid or Urine:
I didn’t feel like we could discuss discharge during pregnancy without mentioning your water breaking and leaking urine. Sometimes you will feel a wetness in your underwear, or a sudden gush that could in fact be your water breaking. This is amniotic fluid and you should contact your provider immediately if you suspect that this is happening! Typically, a broken bag of waters will result in a gush-like feeling, a continuous dribble down your leg or constant squirts of fluid.
However, far more often, women may think they are leaking amniotic fluid, when in reality it is leaking urine. Pregnancy incontinence is really normal during pregnancy because of all the pressure on your bladder. It seems to happen more often when you sneeze, cough or laugh really hard. Again, wearing a daily liner is a good line of defense against these leaks as well.
How to deal with discharge during pregnancy
Increased discharge during pregnancy can leave you feeling pretty uncomfortable and frustrated. Early on in my pregnancies I quickly took to wearing a daily liner and never looked back. The damp, wet feeling in your underwear gets old pretty quick.
Here are the best tips to deal with discharge during pregnancy:
- Wear scent-free, breathable pads or panty liners throughout your pregnancy. Keeping your underwear dry will leave you feeling more comfortable and result in less panty changes throughout the day. I like to opt for the long length liners because they provide more coverage
- Keep yourself clean down there with regular bathing
- Opt for cotton, breathable underwear
- Don’t use tampons, douches or wet wipes, which may disrupt the balance of healthy bacteria in your vagina and result in infection
When to call a doctor about vaginal discharge during pregnancy
So far we’ve focused on what’s normal in vaginal discharge. But there are cases where what you’re experiencing may be a sign of an infection or other issue. You should definitely call your provider if you’re experiencing:
- Discharge that is green or yellow
- Discharge that is thick, lumpy or ‘cheese-like’
- Discharge that has a strong or foul odor
- Vaginal itching
- Vaginal burning during sex or urination
- Leaking fluid that is brown or green in color (this could be amniotic fluid that contains meconium, baby’s first poop, and needs immediate medical attention)
- Any discharge or discomfort that is not normal for you!
These might be signs of common vaginal infections or imbalances, but it’s important to discuss treatment with your provider and not self-treat at home during pregnancy. This is so that your provider doesn’t miss a potentially more serious diagnosis that could put you at risk for things like pre-term labor.
Pregnancy discharge is just another lovely symptom
Well, mama, it’s likely that the vaginal discharge you’re experiencing during pregnancy, while annoying, is totally normal! Go grab a box of liners to get yourself dry and comfortable.
Try to remember that the discharge has an important job of flushing out bad bacteria and maintaining the right balance of good bacteria in your vagina and birth canal. Things should go back to normal after birth once your postpartum bleeding subsides.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Vaginitis, September 2017.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vaginal Candidiasis, August 2017.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bacterial Vaginosis, December 2016.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Bleeding During Pregnancy, July 2016.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Vulvovaginal Health, November 2015.
- Alli Wittbold