Everything There Is To Know About Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

Vaginal discharge is a bodily fluid that keeps your vagina clean. It helps to stop infections developing in your vagina and is a normal (and useful) bodily function.

Normal vaginal discharge changes during your menstrual cycle, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Discharge varies from person to person; some people have a lot of discharge, while others may only have a little. 

Normal discharge should be either clear, white or cream-coloured and shouldn’t have a strong smell. 

Abnormal discharge is usually caused by an infection or some medications and health conditions. Or even products that irritate your vagina or vulva.

Is Vaginal Discharge Normal in Pregnancy?

Absolutely! You may notice more discharge than usual during pregnancy. This increase in discharge is a result of higher levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. The increase also helps to prevent infections travelling up from the vagina into the womb. 

This discharge is called leucorrhoea and is usually white or clear and doesn’t have a strong smell. 

The discharge amount will increase further towards the end of your pregnancy. In the last week or so of your pregnancy, you may notice that the discharge contains streaks of sticky, jelly-like, pink mucus - this is called a “show”.

What Is a “Show”?

A show is the mucus that has been present in your cervix throughout pregnancy coming away. It is a sign that your body is preparing for birth. You may have one or several small “shows” in the days leading up to your labour starting. 

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Should Vaginal Discharge Change During Pregnancy?

As mentioned above, you may notice more vaginal discharge during pregnancy; however, the discharge itself should look like normal discharge. Your vaginal discharge may be abnormal if:

  • It is bloodstained 
  • It has an unpleasant smell 
  • Looks green, grey or brown
  • It is accompanied with pain, burning or itching 
  • Is watery, has a “cottage cheese” like appearance or froth

Infections During Pregnancy 

During pregnancy, you have a higher chance of getting two different infections; vaginal thrush and bacterial vaginosis (BV). 

Symptoms of Thrush:

  • Thick, white “cottage cheese” like discharge
  • Itching and irritation around the vagina 
  • Soreness and/or stinging when you wee or during sex

If you think you may have thrush, it is important to speak to your doctor, pharmacist or midwife. Thrush is easy to treat; however, there are some medicines that you shouldn’t use to treat thrush while pregnant. 

Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis: 

  • White/greyish/green discharge 
  • Discharge is often thin and watery 
  • Fish like smell
  • Itching or general discomfort 

Of those who have bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy, around half of them don’t have any symptoms. Neither infection is routinely tested in pregnant as they will not harm your baby nor increase the risk of preterm birth. 

How To Keep Your Vagina Healthy Before and During Pregnancy

Maintaining good vaginal health is important during pregnancy as it helps to prevent infections. The vagina is self-cleaning, so you only need to use water and plain soap when washing your vagina. 

You can help prevent thrush in pregnancy by wearing loose-fitting cotton underwear. 

You should also try to avoid using:

  • Perfumed shampoos, soaps, bubble baths or gels
  • Scented hygiene wipes 
  • Vaginal deodorants
  • Douches/washes
  • Washing underwear with strong detergents 
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What’s the Difference Between Your Waters Breaking and Vaginal Discharge?

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if it’s amniotic fluid or vaginal discharge. If your waters break, you will feel liquid trickling or gushing from your vagina, which you will be unable to hold in - this usually happens during labour, but it can happen earlier. In some cases, this can happen before you reach full term. 

If you are unsure or you suspect your waters have broken, you should contact your maternity unit and let them know what has happened. If you are full-term, you may not have to go into hospital immediately - your healthcare professional will tell you what you need to do. 

When Should You Seek Help?

You should speak to your doctor, a pharmacist or your midwife if you notice any vaginal discharge that is not normal for you. 

You should also contact your maternity unit urgently if you notice any of the following:

  • Your discharge is watery 
  • Your baby is moving less than usual
  • Your waters have broken and are green, brown or contain blood
  • You are bleeding 
  • Your discharge changes
  • You are leaking or gushing fluid and are less than 37 weeks 
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