Everything you need to know about vaginal discharge during pregnancy

Health
30/09/2021
Vaginal discharge during pregnancy is completely normal. Learn more about ordinary vaginal discharge, smelly vaginal discharge and other changes that can happen during pregnancy.

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It’s not the most glamorous of subjects, but vaginal discharge is a fact of life. All women have some vaginal discharge. It starts in the year or two prior to puberty, and continues throughout life, coming to a stop after the menopause. Vaginal discharge during pregnancy is completely normal, and helps prevents infections reaching the uterus from the vagina. We answer all your questions about vaginal discharge during pregnancy…

What sort of vaginal discharge during pregnancy can I expect?

What sort of vaginal discharge during pregnancy can I expect?

Just like the inside of your mouth and nostrils, the inside of your vagina is covered in mucous membrane, called vaginal discharge. This is produced by the body to moisten and cleanse the vagina.

The mucus which is made in the vagina in pregnancy, plays a part in protecting your developing baby from infections.

Changes in vaginal discharge can be one of the first signs of pregnancy, with the earliest being one to two weeks following conception and even before your missed period.

 

What does normal vaginal discharge look like?

Usually, this thin, milky, mild-smelling discharge is clear in colour but may look white or off-white when it is seen outside of your body, on your underwear or toilet tissue for example.

What is normal vaginal discharge during pregnancy can also be known as leukorrhea, caused by an increase in pregnancy hormones and blood flow to your reproductive organs.  It is similar to the vaginal discharge you might experience between periods, except heavier.  How much discharge you experience in pregnancy is different for everyone and might fluctuate, and could be compared to discharge sometimes being heavier before your period.  

 

But what does vaginal discharge look like in pregnancy exactly? - Actually much the same.  When pregnant, you just might notice more discharge than before and that is completely normal and healthy.

 

How does discharge change when pregnant?

The amount and consistency of vaginal discharge will vary from day to day. Some days you might have more vaginal discharge than others, and some days it might be thicker or waterier. You might notice fluctuations but the important thing to remember is that vaginal discharge during pregnancy is completely normal, and 43% of women say they experienced an increase in vaginal discharge during pregnancy. The amount of vaginal discharge during pregnancy can possibly increase until term, sometimes becoming quite heavy.

A lot of discharge during pregnancy has its benefits.  Vaginal discharge is usually at its heaviest in the final weeks of pregnancy, as you experience increased discharge during pregnancy, to reduce the risk of vaginal and uterine infections.  

 

Along with the volume of vaginal discharge, the colour can also change throughout pregnancy.  White discharge during pregnancy is common, but towards the last week or so of pregnancy, your discharge may contain some pink mucus.  It tends to be sticky and of a jelly-like consistency, and is your body’s way of saying that it is starting to prepare for labour.


When should I check with the doctor?

An increase in vaginal discharge during pregnancy is completely normal. However, it’s a good idea to see your doctor if you notice sudden changes in vaginal discharge during pregnancy, or if you experience smelly vaginal discharge during pregnancy, or if you experience blood loss.

There can be many reasons for unusual vaginal discharge and with the body being more susceptible to vaginal infections during pregnancy, it is important to be aware of anything out of the ordinary.  Call your doctor or midwife straight away if you have any vaginal bleeding or painful urination.

 

How can vaginal discharge during pregnancy suddenly change?

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy might change in colour. becoming yellow, green or grey. Or it might be an odour change, becoming strong or bad, so you might notice smelly vaginal discharge. The amount or consistency might change, or it could start causing pain, itching or burning.

You should see a doctor if you experience any of these changes to vaginal discharge during pregnancy because they may indicate an underlying problem like an infection, or the vaginal discharge may be amniotic fluid.

Smelly discharge during pregnancy

As unpleasant and embarrassing as it might be, smelly discharge during pregnancy is a surprising symptom that can affect many women.  Big hormonal changes can bring about all sorts of physical differences, including increased vaginal discharge, which can often cause a strong smell.  However, if the smell is particularly bad, it could be caused by a bacterial imbalance, which would therefore require medical attention.

 

If it is the hormones causing the smelly discharge when pregnant, then this will likely go away on its own once your baby is born.  In the meantime, it is a good idea to wear loose fitting, cotton underwear and avoid perfumed soap to best prevent the smell.

 

Spotting during pregnancy

Spotting during pregnancy is not uncommon, especially during the early stages. It’s often nothing to worry about, although you should still call your midwife or GP immediately if you have any bleeding from your vagina during pregnancy, just to be on the safe side.

Spotting during pregnancy can indicate many possibilities, depending on whether it’s heavy or light, the colour, how long it lasts and at what point during the pregnancy it occurs.  If occurring later on in pregnancy, it could potentially be something more serious, so always ensure to take precautions and seek medical advice to be sure.


How can I keep feeling fresh?

When experiencing vaginal discharge, some women find it comfortable to use pantyliners, that protect their underwear and to help them feel fresh and clean every day. Always Dailies Extra Protect Liners are so thin and light, you’ll forget you’re wearing them.

If you’re looking for a more natural comfort without the extra scent, another great option is to try all Always Dailies Cotton Protection Panty Liners, which are free from fragrances and ideal for sensitive skin, to let your vagina breathe.


Let us know your advice

We’d love to hear from you. Perhaps you’ve got a tip that will help other pregnant women?