It is common to experience some vaginal discharge during pregnancy. This is normal and completely harmless. Leucorrhoea is the term given to normal vaginal discharge when pregnant. It looks like a mild musky and smelly milky fluid. It is discharged from the cervix. The discharge increases because more blood is flowing to the uterine area; it also increases as you approach labor. Read on to learn what causes your vaginal discharge during pregnancy, how you should deal with it and when you should worry.
Causes of Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy
In early and middle stages of pregnancy. The reason the discharge from your vagina increases when you are pregnant is because the estrogen levels increase and there is greater blood flow to the area. The discharge comprises of cervical and vaginal secretions, normal vaginal bacteria and old cells that have aligned on the vaginal walls.
When approaching labor. The bloody mucus that your see when you are almost going into labor is made up of the secretions that have built up in your cervical canal. This is simply the layer that seals the cervix during pregnancy, which creates a sort of protective barrier known as a mucus plug. When the cervix begins to thin out during labor, it expels this mucus membrane. This is what comes out looking like a heavy layer of mucus, which at times contains traces of blood.
When Should I Worry About Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy?
If the discharge is thin and clear, it can make it hard to detect whether it is normal vaginal discharge or whether you are leaking amniotic fluid. Call your caregiver if you are in doubt.
1. Signs of Preterm Labor. You need to contact your caregiver immediately if you are under 37 weeks and the discharge suddenly increases or the type of discharge changes. This may be a preterm labor sign.
2. Signs of Vaginal Infection
- Also, contact your caregiver in case you think you have an infection. This is characterized by an odorless white discharge that may be causing you pain or discomfort while urinating or having intercourse. Itching burning and soreness are also common causes of infection.
- If you experience a gray or thin white discharge that is frothy and has an unpleasant smell, you may be suffering from a different kind of infection known as bacterial vaginosis.
- Yellowish green discharge with an unpleasant smell signifies trichomoniasis or an STI. Possible symptoms include an itchy, irritated and reddish vulva and discomfort as you pass urine or have sex.
Warning: If you suspect that you have an infection during pregnancy, avoid treating yourself with over the counter medication. The symptoms can be hard to distinguish and it is advisable to first see your doctor for a diagnosis.
3. Changes in Vaginal Discharge. If the vaginal discharge changes in appearance, it may need to be treated. You need to contact your doctor in case the discharge is:
- Fishy smelling and unpleasant
- Watery and white or grey
- Yellow or green and frothy
- Thick and curd like
Also, see your doctor if you feel:
- Pain while urinating or having sex
How to Deal with Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy
If your post-pregnancy discharge is not caused by an infection, you cannot do anything to stop the flow. However, using panty liners to absorb the discharge can ease the discomfort.
- You need to keep the genital area clean and healthy. You can do this by wiping from front to back and wearing underwear made from cotton. Avoid wearing tight pants, bubble baths, toilets paper or scented pads.
- Avoid douching as this upsets the balance of the vaginal flora, which can lead to a vaginal infection. Doctors also discourage this during pregnancy as it can transfer air to your circulatory system through your vagina, which leads to serious complications.
- Do not use tampons when pregnant. These can introduce bacteria to your vagina which can lead to infections.
More Tips on Preventing Vaginal Infection During Pregnancy
Truth be told, there is no sure way of preventing vaginal infection while pregnant. Even so, there are a few tips that can help you with preventing infections. They include:
- Avoid using vaginal deodorants, scented panty liners or washing products
- Make use of non-biological detergents when washing your undergarments
- Avoid scented soaps, antiseptic liquid or bubble baths
- Wash your hands before and after you touch your genitals
- Ensure your vagina is well lubricated before intercourse
- Wear loose skirts or trousers
- Avoid using too much alcohol and smoking while pregnant
It is also a good idea to take live yogurt every day. It contains live cultures (probiotic lactobacillus acidophilus), which help in maintaining a healthy vaginal PH.