Vaginal Discharge during Pregnancy

Vaginal Discharge during Pregnancy

All women experience vaginal discharge throughout their lives, but especially so during pregnancy. Girls usually start to have vaginal discharge shortly before going through puberty and continue to have it throughout the rest of their lives with it increasing during pregnancy and decreasing greatly after menopause. Vaginal discharge during pregnancy certainly can be completely normal and there is usually no reason to worry. However, vaginal discharge during pregnancy can also be a sign of problems and complications. For this reason, it’s very important to understand the various types of vaginal discharge. That way you can know what is normal and what is not so that you can get medical attention if necessary.

Why Vaginal Discharge Increases During Pregnancy

Vaginal discharge tends to increase when a woman becomes pregnant. This happens for several reasons. One reason is simply that the increased blood flow that naturally occurs during pregnancy causes an increase in the amount of vaginal discharge. Additionally, the increase in pregnancy hormones, such as oestrogen, can add to the increased vaginal discharge.

Purpose of Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

The increased vaginal discharge that women experience during pregnancy actually plays a critical role in helping to prevent infections. The reason that the increased vaginal discharge can help to prevent infections is that normal vaginal discharge has high acidity. The high acidity helps to keep away potentially harmful bacteria without harming the naturally occurring beneficial bacteria in the vagina.


Normal Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

Normal and naturally occurring vaginal discharge is known as leucorrhoea. Leucorrhoea is the same type of vaginal discharge that you should expect and experience during your pregnancy, only in larger amounts. You’ll especially notice the larger amounts if you were on the birth control pill prior to pregnancy as the pill often reduces the amount of vaginal discharge a woman normally experiences. This normal vaginal discharge of pregnancy is typically either clear or milky white in colour. If it has any odour, it should not be offensive, but might have a mild or even musky smell to it. It’s very likely that it won’t have any odour at all, however.

How to Deal with Increased Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

While increased vaginal discharge during pregnancy is completely normal and harmless, it can be annoying. There are some things that you can do to help you deal with the annoyance of increased vaginal discharge during your pregnancy. One simple thing you can do is to wear panty liners during your pregnancy to absorb the increased vaginal discharge. Just make sure to avoid scented panty liners as they can increase your chance of infection. Regularly wearing panty liners during pregnancy can be irritating to some; if that’s the case for you, an alternative option is to simply change your underwear multiple times each day. You can also take care to keep the outside of your vagina, or vulva, clean and dry using nothing other than water and unscented soap. Wearing loose clothing that allows airflow can be helpful as well when dealing with annoying increased vaginal discharge during pregnancy.

Mucus Discharge in Late Pregnancy

In late pregnancy, many women experience what is called “show”, “mucus show”, or even “bloody show”. This “show”happens when the woman loses her mucus plug and it is completely normal. In pregnancy, increased hormone production causes increased cervical fluid. This fluid collects in the cervix, becomes very thick, and forms a plug. The plug provides an additional layer of protection for the baby throughout the pregnancy. As labour nears, the cervix begins to dilate and soften which releases the mucus plug from the cervix. This can happen weeks, days or just hours before labour begins. It can even happen during labour. When the mucus plug is lost, it appears as a thick discharge from the vagina. It can happen slowly over time or all at once. There may be streaks of red, pink or brown in the mucus as well and this is also completely normal.


Abnormal Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

Although it’s completely normal to experience vaginal discharge during pregnancy, sometimes vaginal discharge can be a sign that something is wrong. Anytime the vaginal discharge you experience during your pregnancy is an abnormal colour, has a strange or offensive odour, is irritating, painful, or itchy, you should seek advice from your pregnancy health care provider. It can be a sign of an infection or other potential problems. One of the most common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge during pregnancy is thrush.


Thrush is a yeast infection that is common during pregnancy. While it can occur in other places such as on the nipples or in the mouth, thrush typically occurs in the vagina. It is caused by the overgrowth of a fungus known as candida. Candida can be present in the vagina during pregnancy without causing any problems, but when the natural balance of healthy bacteria in the vagina is upset, candida can multiply and cause thrush. Signs of vaginal thrush during pregnancy include inflammation, soreness, itchiness, dryness, redness, white spots in the vagina, and thick white vaginal discharge that can resemble cottage cheese. Thrush during pregnancy is easily treatable but you should always consult your pregnancy health care provider about treatment options as soon as possible.

Preventing Thrush During Pregnancy

While there is no way to guarantee you won’t get thrush during your pregnancy, there are some simple measures that you can take to help avoid it. These preventative measures include:

  • Wearing loose pants or skirts
  • Wearing cotton underwear
  • When using the loo, always wipe from front to back
  • Quit smoking (smoking during pregnancy increases chances of infection)
  • Avoid rinsing the inside of the vagina (douching)
  • Use unscented soaps and avoid bubble baths
  • Change your underwear often

Other Causes of Abnormal Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

While thrush is one of the most common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge during pregnancy, it is certainly not the only cause of it. There are plenty of other things that can cause abnormal vaginal discharge during pregnancy, such as:

  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Trichomoniasis
  • STIs (Sexually transmitted infections)

Signs That Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy is Abnormal

If at any point during your pregnancy, your vaginal discharge appears different than normal, you should consult your pregnancy health care provider for advice and to rule out any serious problems or conditions. However, there are specific things that you can look out for when it comes to abnormal vaginal discharge during your pregnancy. If you experience any of the following, please consult your pregnancy health care provider as soon as possible.

  • Bright red or pink discharge
  • Brown discharge
  • Thick white discharge similar in appearance to cottage cheese
  • Yellow/green discharge
  • Foul smelling discharge
  • Watery discharge

Enjoy Your Pregnancy

Most of the time, vaginal discharge during pregnancy is completely normal and there is nothing to worry about. If you notice any changes in your vaginal discharge, be on the safe side and consult your pregnancy health care provider. The increased vaginal discharge of pregnancy can certainly be somewhat burdensome, but remember that it won’t last forever, and try to enjoy this precious time in your life as you await your dear bub’s arrival.