Vaginal Discharge in Pregnancy (Leukorrhea)
Have you noticed that you have more vaginal discharge now that you’re pregnant? Increased vaginal discharge is a common pregnancy symptom that you may experience throughout your entire pregnancy – starting from the first trimester and lasting until you deliver.
What is Leukorrhea?
The vaginal discharge that you’re experiencing in pregnancy is normal leukorrhea – which is the odorless (or very mild smelling) vaginal discharge that you might have seen in your underwear before you had a bun in your oven. Leukorrhea is usually milky in consistency, and it should never be foul smelling. (That would signal a vaginal infection or a sexually transmitted disease of some kind.)
Leukorrhea in pregnancy can be a huge nuisance, and while there isn’t anything you can do to stop the abundance of this discharge, you can wear panty liners to soak it all up. Use pads; not tampons. (Using tampons during pregnancy can be dangerous, and it is never recommended.)
You should also keep your vagina and genital area clean and healthy by wiping from front to back. Don’t use any scented pads or hygiene sprays, or anything else that might irritate your vagina. It is also important that you do not douche!
Leukorrhea is normal in pregnancy!
Causes of Leukorrhea in Pregnancy
During pregnancy, you have a lot more leukorrhea than normal, due to the increased levels of estrogen in your body and there’s more blood flowing to your vagina and private parts. (Keep in mind that you have double the blood volume, and there is more blood pumping through your body during pregnancy. These circulatory changes also contribute to heightened sensation during intercourse, and they’re related to more discharge in pregnancy.)
Vaginal discharge in pregnancy is comprised of the secretions from your cervix and your vagina, as well as the shed cells from the walls of your vagina and the usual bacterial flora that comes from your vagina.
Early in pregnancy, secretions from your cervix fill up the cervical canal to produce a protective barrier that protects your uterus from outside germs and bacteria. This protective barrier is what’s called the mucus plug (which is dispelled in the early stages of labor, after your cervix starts to thin out and open up to prepare for your child’s delivery.) When the mucus plug is discharged, you will notice vaginal discharge that is tinged with blood. Some women lose their mucus plug in one big glob. Don’t mistake this as normal leukorrhea.
When to Call the Doctor about Leukorrhea?
Vaginal discharge in pregnancy isn’t anything to be alarmed about. However, in the third trimester, as you approach your due date, it will become increasingly difficult to tell normal leukorrhea apart from leaking amniotic fluid. If you can’t tell the difference, don’t hesitate to call your healthcare provider.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to call your doctor about vaginal discharge if you notice a change in how much discharge you’re producing, or there’s a change in the type of vaginal discharge – for example, you’ll want to call your caregiver if your discharge suddenly becomes watery, mucus-like, or it is tinged with blood. All of this can be a sign that you’re in labor.
During any point in pregnancy, if your vaginal discharge comes with pain during urination, pain during sexual intercourse, your vulva looks swollen or inflamed, or you have itchy or burning in that area, contact your doctor. This can be a sign of a yeast infection, which needs to be treated.
Leukorrhea should be odorless or have a very mid scent. If your vaginal discharge smells bad – with an unpleasant odor, a fishy smell, etc. – contact your doctor.
If you think you might have an infection, don’t try to treat yourself. Not all over-the-counter medicines are safe for your unborn child. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.