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Discharge During Pregnancy; Normal Or Not?

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Pregnancy, for first-time moms, is an elating experience but can come with several concerns. There are a lot of changes taking place within your body during this period and you might wonder which is normal and which isn’t. Vaginal discharge during pregnancy is one of such changes. These discharges vary in frequency, consistency, and amount while pregnant.

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It is a normal occurrence to experience discharge at every stage of pregnancy. A healthy vaginal discharge, also known as leukorrhea pregnancy, is a clear or white, thin discharge with only a mild odour. The amount of discharge increases as the pregnancy progresses – this helps to reduce the risk of uterine and vaginal infection.

However, as you approach the final weeks of the pregnancy, you will notice heavy clear discharge containing mucus pink. The mucus at this point is jelly-like in consistency and sticky which means that the body is getting set for labour.

Sometimes, vaginal discharge during pregnancy can also be a pointer to an underlying problem. If this is your first pregnancy and you are wondering; is this discharge normal? Here are some things you should know about vaginal discharge during pregnancy.

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Colour Of Vagina Discharge During Pregnancy And What It Means

One of the things to be on the lookout for during pregnancy is the colour of the discharge. The different colours of vaginal discharge during pregnancy indicate different health challenges. The following would help you better understand the meaning of your vaginal discharge at every stage of your pregnancy.

  • Milky White Or Creamy Discharge With No Odor

This is usually a healthy and normal signal especially if the smell is mild. It suggests leukorrhea. There might be an issue if you are experiencing changes in its consistency and colour. A pregnant woman who is not at full term should consult a doctor or midwife whenever she notices an increase in the quantity of clear vaginal fluid that continuously leaks and at the same time is thick and jelly-like.

These changes might indicate preterm labour.

  • Lumpy And Whitish Liquid Discharge

A vaginal discharge that is lumpy and white or off-white liquid discharge looking like a block of cottage cheese may signal a yeast infection.

These infections are usually common during pregnancy because the body is susceptible to them at this point. Other symptoms signalling yeast infection are burning, painful urination or intercourse, and itching.

  • Yellow Vaginal Mucus Or Green Watery Discharge

A yellow vaginal mucus or green watery discharge during pregnancy is not a healthy sign; it suggests the presence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like trichomoniasis or chlamydia. The presence of STIs during pregnancy can bring about preterm labour or uterine infection after delivery. Some of the STDs causing organisms can travel through the placenta and affect the fetus, while the others can be passed to the baby at the time of delivery. Other likely symptoms could include redness or genital irritation. Sometimes, STIs do not cause any symptoms during pregnancy.

However, from findings credited to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STIs are capable of causing complications during pregnancy which can both affect the baby and the mother. Consequences of these infections become evident years after birth and can affect the child’s development and nervous system. For the mother, it can cause infertility.

Sometimes you might notice a yellow-like discharge but it’s merely a leaking small amount of urine.    

  • Gray Discharge

Gray discharge during early pregnancy may signal the presence of a vaginal infection known as bacterial vaginosis (BV) – especially if it comes with a strong fishy smell after sexual intercourse.

Bacterial vaginosis occurs as a result of bacterial imbalance in and around the vagina. Having multiple sex partners and douching are two common risk factors for BV. They are the most common vaginal infection during the pregnancy period.

  • Brown Mucus Discharge

Brown mucus discharge is a result of old blood getting out of the body – which might be an early sign of pregnancy. This type of discharge during pregnancy is often not a cause for alarm. 

However, it should become a source of concern when you notice dark brown discharge, consult your doctor or midwife immediately.

  • Pink

This is neither here nor there because it may or may not be normal. Pregnant women might notice pink-tinged discharge – early pregnancy signs or during the final weeks of pregnancy as the body gets ready for labour.

Besides, it might happen during an ectopic pregnancy or before a miscarriage. Other causes might be a result of vaginal infection or during sexual intercourse.

  • Red

This type of discharge during pregnancy requires the attention of your health care provider especially if the red discharge has clots, is heavy or is accompanied by abdominal pain and cramping.

These symptoms could mean ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage. It is recorded that about 10 per cent to 15 per cent of pregnancies end in pregnancy loss (miscarriage).

Bleeding in the advanced stage of pregnancy could pose a serious issue or could be a sign of preterm labour which will require the immediate attention of your doctor.

However, the red discharge could be less serious if it occurs during the first trimester – which might be due to infection or implantation. Reports have it that about 7 per cent to 24 per cent of women experience bleeding during pregnancy.

Factors That Cause Changes To Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

A woman usually experiences vaginal discharge throughout her menstrual cycle because of hormonal fluctuations. During pregnancy, these hormones continue to play an important role in the changes that occur in the vagina.

Changes to the cervix is also another factor that affects the vaginal discharge during pregnancy. As the vaginal wall and cervix soften, the body secretes more discharge to help fight against infection. At this point, the vagina is working extra time making sure that there is enough liquid to moist the cervix, keeping it sealed and healthy.

Also, your baby’s head could press against the cervix as you approach the end of your pregnancy – this also increases the amount of vaginal discharge.

How Does My Discharge Change When Pregnant?

The mucus plug is a protector that helps to prevent bacteria from gaining access to the uterus. It gives way and reappears towards the concluding part of your third trimester (third-trimester discharge) – close to the time of delivery.

At times, you could miss its appearance especially when it comes in smaller quantities and looks like the usual discharge. While sometimes it could come out in clumps, and a more snotty inconsistency. The mucus plug could also have some stains of blood.

So, it’s normal to have this vaginal discharge during pregnancy except when it’s a watery discharge, comes with odour, or with bloody stains. At this point, it would be appropriate to seek medical attention.

How Do I Deal With Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy?

An increase in the amount of mild-smelling vaginal discharge during pregnancy is okay but watch out for unusual odours and colours which usually signal the presence of an infection.

Antibiotics or other forms of medications can be prescribed by the doctor to treat any infection in the body.

However, the following are ways of maintaining a healthy vagina during pregnancy;

  • Do not engage in douching
  • Desist from the use of tampons because they can introduce bacteria into the vagina.
  • Use panty liners which will help to absorb excess discharge
  • Proper drying of the genitals after swimming or showering
  • Wipe the genital regions from front to back after stooling or urination
  • Wear breathable underwear
  • Desist from the use of scented feminine hygiene items (vaginal wipes) and personal care products such as soaps and toilet papers – these contain chemical additives that can cause changes to the pH of the vagina and alter it’s bacterial activities
  • Do not wear tight nylon pantyhose and jeans – they increase the risk of infection
  • Do not eat too much sugar – it encourages yeast infection.
  • Eat healthy. Eating safe probiotic foods and supplements during pregnancy helps to prevent bacterial imbalances in the vagina region.

When Do I See A Doctor?

It is usually advisable to inform your health care provider of any unusual discharge during pregnancy, because it might be a symptom of an infection that needs urgent treatment. If these infections are left untreated, complications could arise.

Conclusion

It is often normal to notice an increase in the amount of discharge during pregnancy. However, unusual discharge that comes with pungent odours or discomfort in the abdomen or vagina area is a sign of a health challenge that requires urgent medical attention. The same goes for discharge that is yellow, green, or gray.

Pregnant women should seek immediate medical attention if they notice persistent heavy spotting, or bleeding associated with cramps and pain.

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