Discharge in pregnancy is almost like a crystal ball to a lot of ladies. We’re going to talk about color, consistency, and how it relates to the changes your body goes through during pregnancy.
Of course as with all of my articles, they are just informational. They should not be taken as medical advice and any questions or problems about the amount of discharge, smells, etc should be talked about with your provider.
Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy
First off – let’s talk a bit about why pregnancy discharge is different than regular discharge.
During pregnancy, you have a lot higher blood volume, in order to get enough blood to your baby and still function as a human at the same time. The amount of blood sent your vaginal walls is greatly increased.
Because of that, all of your tissues — and especially mucous membranes (think, mouth, vagina, bowel, nose) bleed a lot easier. Plus, they’re just sort of different (a lot of people say their mouth tastes different during pregnancy, and that might be part of it). Your vagina is working to create a mucus plug and to make sure your baby stays safe too. So, all of those things combine to make some serious changes (it also makes it so you have more bloody noses).
Mucus Plug Pro Tip — although I have that whole article about it — just as an FYI, the mucus plug is made from things in the birth canal early in pregnancy — like, mucus, blood, and dead cells. They all collect in the heck of your womb (called the cervix). Yum, right? 🤮
All of this will create a difference from your normal vaginal discharge. Remember healthy vaginal discharge keeps that part of your body clear of any infection, etc.
Many women find this change in discharge to be an early sign of pregnancy.
How do I know all this (and frankly, as I write this I’m a little sad I do know this much)?
Hello! I’m Hilary — many people know me as The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind this website Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I’ve seen a LOT of women who’ve come in with this issue, and seen a lot of providers counsel on this, so let’s dive in. Luckily, not literally. 😉
Don’t forget to grab my hospital packing list printable:
Questions to ask about Vaginal Discharge
I would recommend thinking about a few things:
What symptoms are accompanying the vaginal discharge?
If you’re experiencing things like:
Then, all of that means a lot more than just discharge alone. They may be signs of a vaginal infection or bacterial vaginosis — all of that needs a call to your healthcare provider. This is abnormal discharge.
Cramping with Vaginal Discharge:
If you’re having vaginal bleeding along with cramping (unless you’re past 35’ish weeks) it can be an indicator of preterm labor and you’d want to speak to your health care provider. There is a possibility of uterine infections that might cause you to cramp.
Itching with Vaginal Discharge
Itching can be an indicator of a yeast infection or some other type of infection. Again, you’d want to speak with your physician before you treat it.
Burning with Vaginal Discharge
Burning can also be a sign of infection along with the discharge.
All of those symptoms would certainly be something to bring to your doctor’s attention. Infections of your vagina can put you into preterm labor and need to be treated.
It can also be a sign of a bladder infection (UTI) too! If you have painful urination, talk with your provider!
Also, many women have STD’s that need serious attention before their baby is born.
Soapbox moment: I am seeing a lot of women with serious sexually transmitted infections treating them as unimportant and not getting prompt treatment (or taking the medication, or not having their partner take the medicine). This is VERY concerning as providers.
Your health is up to you, and you need to follow your doctor’s instructions! I also have a whole post on orange discharge during pregnancy.
If you’re looking for more info about pregnancy from about your third trimester through your first months post-baby — I recommend this class. Thousands of mammas have adored it and I think you’ll find it so helpful too!
Does the vaginal discharge smell?
Yup, it’s super gross. But your vaginal discharge smell is a strong indicator if is nothing important, or something you need to speak with your provider about.
If your discharge has a specific unpleasant smell — foul, or like a fishy smell… or something along those lines, you need to call your provider.
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Other things that can cause vaginal discharge
Prescriptions can cause a change in discharge. Especially if they’re vaginal suppositories like progesterone (my friend Katie has a great post about using progesterone during pregnancy)
Pregnancy Discharge Color
You may find a whole rainbow of colors in your panties…. and most aren’t anything to be concerned about.
Yellow discharge during pregnancy
Yellow discharge is often clear/white when it comes out — but as it dries, it’s yellowish.
If not accompanied by any of the symptoms I mentioned above, it isn’t usually an issue. If you find it bothersome, I’d certainly wear a pantiliner and speak to your doctor at your next appointment.
A note on liners: You may end up irritated by some pantiliners. I recommend getting unscented panty liners just to try to react to as little as possible.
Clear pregnancy discharge
This is very normal.
Because of the increased blood flow — it’s just part of that.
As you get closer to the end of your pregnancy — you might wonder if it’s discharge or if your water has broken.
It’s clear watery fluid you’ll want to call your provider, that could be amniotic fluid.
All of that is really normal.
In your later weeks of pregnancy, you will have a LOT of discharge, and it’s super annoying. Just be aware it’s normal. Did I mention my favorite pantiliners come to your house for just a buck?
Pink discharge during pregnancy
Often this has some red in it. Small amounts of blood are OK. If you have bleeding that’s much bigger than a quarter, I would call your provider.
Often your vaginal wall tissues can be irritated by things like sex, wiping aggressively, walking…. frankly, sneezing. There is just a LOT of blood flow to those tissues, so it’s not unusual.
Also, bright red blood is more worrisome than brown….
FYI, when you are in labor you will have what is called “bloody show” — it is normal, but can seem scary — so stay in close contact with your provider. Any heavy bleeding while at home should 100% be called into your provider (and if it’s a lot, head directly into labor and delivery). Talk with your provider about how much is too much for you (it can vary depending on any placental issues).
Streaks of blood (either in mucus or when you wipe with toilet paper) can be normal, but ask your provider if it’s OK for you (can be problematic depending on any placental issues). Things like placenta previa would be a time that you have to be extra careful.
It also isn’t too unusual to bleed a small amount after sexual intercourse (because of how vascular your birth canal walls are during pregnancy).
Brown discharge during pregnancy
That is usually old blood. As blood dries and oxidizes it turns brown.
That means the bleeding isn’t new.
Small amounts are normal, they can even be losing your mucus plug. But, large amounts are something you should probably call about.
Thick white discharge
White vaginal discharge can sometimes be a yeast infection. Many people say this looks like cottage cheese.
Again, really important to note a change in smell or any other symptoms with it. It is worth a call to your provider.
Is discharge a sign of pregnancy?
I don’t find that you can really tell if you are pregnant based on your discharge. There are a lot of other early pregnancy symptoms that are a bit more trustworthy (as is a positive pregnancy test).
Discharge in early pregnancy
As those tissues get more blood flow it’s normal to get changes in discharge during your first trimester. Early pregnancy discharge can be white, watery and even a bit smelly. Totally normal. All questions should be directed to your provider.
Discharge at the end of pregnancy
As you get closer to your due date, what’s going on down there will change a lot. It’s also very normal as that blood supply is so great to your uterus.
Wrap-up: What’s the take-home about vaginal discharge during pregnancy?
The MOST important thing is to take into consideration the WHOLE picture.
The symptoms, the color of it, how you’re feeling, etc.
During pregnancy you’re going want to make sure you’re taking care of that area a bit more. Wearing cotton underwear is a good idea.
As you monitor your pregnancy, it’s not normally just ONE thing that’s out of whack. Usually, your body shows you in a few ways — so just be mindful.
And of course, keep hydrated, and do your kick counts to make sure baby is safe!
Ok, now that we’ve gone over ALL of that (PHEW) — please consider checking this class that will simplify a lot of pregnancy for you.
If you feel like you’re not quite ready for that full class, grab my Free Beginning Prenatal Class to get you started: