By now, I'm sure the initial excitement from the news of your pregnancy has worn off, and with your pregnancy setting in, your body must be experiencing all sorts of weird and mind-boggling changes. Breast swelling, enlarged veins, lengthened feet and most of all, you acquire what everyone calls “pregnancy glow”.
Even so, your body could continue to surprise you with yet another unexpected change – the pregnancy discharge.
So, what is a pregnancy discharge?
Pregnancy discharge (also called leukorrhea), or more commonly known, vaginal discharge is a thin, white, creamy fluid that comes from the vagina.
Now, before you start to worry, let me assure you that every woman has vaginal discharge whether they are pregnant or not. This is a completely natural way for women to expel fluids and dead cells from their bodies. Vaginal discharge is made up of fluids from your cervix, uterus and vagina. The production of vaginal discharge varies in different ways for different women: consistency, thickness, frequency and amount.
On the lookout, a healthy vaginal discharge:
Usually clear to milky white in color
Has a mild odor but not one of foul smelling
May leave a yellowish tint in your underwear
Thin to thick/mucus-like – different consistency following your menstrual cycle
Well, it may come as a shock to you, vaginal discharge is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. In fact, as your pregnancy progresses, the consistency of your vaginal discharge increases until the end of your pregnancy.
Pregnant women will experience an increase in discharge, especially during the first trimester of their pregnancy.
There will undoubtedly be changes in vaginal discharge during pregnancy. While you may not have noticed, it actually begins as early as the first two of your pregnancy week after your conception. Or even before you miss your period!
This is due to your body increasing estrogen levels and having an increased blood flow in the early pregnancy. These factors would then signal your vagina to produce more vaginal discharge.
Changes in vaginal discharge from early pregnancy to the labor date....
Early pregnancy discharge – light spotting/brownish discharge for a few days/weeks after conception.
During – thin, clear or milky white discharge, which gets thicker and heavier in the second and third trimesters.
Last stage – thick, sticky, stringy, clumpy, or jelly-like mucus discharge that may be clear, brown, pink, or tinged with blood.
Take note that vaginal discharge acts much like the saliva in your mouth – cleansing your vagina by trapping and expelling bacteria/germs to prevent infections. Hence, the extra boost in the vaginal discharge during pregnancy is meant to protect your baby from infections!
This pattern will continue throughout your whole pregnancy with the vaginal discharge becoming more noticeable and heaviest as you approach your labor.
When to see a doctor/ob-gyn about vaginal discharge in pregnancy?
Now, we have established that the increased vaginal discharge during pregnancy is a perfectly normal occurrence, if not slightly exasperating. We should focus on the possible vaginal infections that would affect the pregnancy and knowing when to call for a doctor.
Pregnant women should definitely keep an eye out for warning signs that may suggest pregnancy discharge becoming a problem.
Abnormal discharge is a sign of yeast infection. Consult with a healthcare professional when you notice:
An increase in vaginal discharge or a change in the appearance of the vaginal discharge before your 37th week. If it appears as clear and watery fluid, it could be a sign that you water has broken or you’re in preterm labor.
Inflamed looking vulva or an odorless, whitish discharge along with pain during urination, soreness, itching or burning. It may be a symptom of yeast infection.
A thin white or grey discharge that smells unpleasant. It could be a condition called bacterial vaginosis.
Yellow or green discharge with a foul odor that appears frothy. It can be symptom of trichomoniasis (a common sexually transmitted infection). Other symptoms are red, irritated, or itchy vulva/vagina and discomfort while urinating or during intercourse.
Your vaginal discharge has a strong and noticeable odor or has changed in color, amount, or consistency from your normal discharge.
Still confused on how to differentiate the colors? Here's an ultimate pregnancy discharge color decoder just for your convenience!
If you’re experiencing any sort of discomfort, or believe yourself to have a vaginal infection, seek out your healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Do not try to treat yourself with over-the-counter medications or “feminine care products” as it may aggravate your condition!
Is it my vaginal discharge or mucus plug?
Mucus plug is a lump of mucus that blocks the opening of your cervix around the 7th week of your pregnancy. It acts as a protective barrier against bacteria or infection from entering your uterus and harming your baby.
As your delivery date approaches, your cervix begins to thin out and dilate. Your baby's head drops lower and pushes against the opening, and the mucus plug may come out from your vagina in the form of mucus-like fluid.
Appear clear, yellow, green, brown, or tinged with blood.
Has a thick, sticky, stringy, jelly-like, or clumpy texture.
Come out in parts or in one go.
Don't worry if you don't experience it, not all women will lose their plug!
At this stage, any changes in vaginal discharge might have gone unnoticed or you may perceive a bloody, pink, or brown discharge. This is referred to as a "bloody show" and it could be a sign that warns you of your imminent labor.
Wait, how do I identify if it’s a vaginal discharge or if I'm leaking amniotic fluid?
Vaginal discharge comes out periodically in small amounts while amniotic fluid is a clear, if slightly yellowish fluid that leaks out steadily once your water breaks. It may trickle down legs like a leak or in one, big gush.
If you think your water has broken, and you're barely 34th week pregnant, contact your doctor immediately. A premature birth before the minimum 37 weeks will put the baby at higher risks for many health problems. Medications are needed to delay your labor and accelerate the development of your baby’s lungs and antibiotics to protect against infection.
That’s all really good to know but what can I do to keep my vagina healthy during the pregnancy and away from infections?
Here are some tips or advice for how you can avoid infections and have a healthy pregnancy!
Wash your vagina with a warm, wet washcloth only.
Avoid the usage of any strong chemical personal care products such as bubble bath, scented toilet paper and scented or deodorant soaps.
As an alternative choice, wear unscented panty liners to absorb excess discharge.
Avoid the tampons as it could lead to a higher risk of developing a uterine infection (e.g. yeast infections, chlamydia, gonorrhoeic, bacterial vaginosis, vaginitis, tuberculosis).
Wear underwear made from a breathable fabric
Eating a healthy diet and avoid overconsumption of sugar
Ask your doctor to recommend probiotic foods and supplements that are safe for consumption during pregnancy
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