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Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Increased Vaginal Discharge is Expected

Learn How to Cope with Increased Vaginal Discharge in Pregnancy.

Most women experience higher levels of vaginal discharge during pregnancy. In the second and third trimesters, you may notice more vaginal discharge than before. This discharge is called "leukorrhea," and it's nothing to worry about. It's a universal pregnancy symptom, though some women have more discharge, and others less.

Some expectant mothers will have heavy vaginal discharge, and they're forced to wear panty liners to protect their underwear. (It's very important that you never use tampons to soak up the extra discharge.)

Other pregnant women just notice vaginal discharge when they're wiping after using the bathroom. You may fall in between heavy and mild discharge. Leukorrhea varies from woman to woman.

What is Leukorrhea?

You probably experienced leukorrhea before pregnancy, but it may be concerning since there's more of it now. Leukorrhea should have no scent (or a very mild smell). This normal vaginal discharge is milky (white) or cream in color, and the consistency is thick and sticky.

Leukorrhea is a mix of normal bacterial flora from your vagina, old cells shed from your vaginal walls, and secretions from the vagina and cervix. The higher levels of estrogen in your body during pregnancy are partly to blame for this discharge.

Causes of Increased Discharge in Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the elevated level of estrogen in your body causes the cells lining your vagina to multiply in number. It also thickens the layer of muscle in your vagina. These vaginal changes can all contribute to increased discharge.

Leukorrhea is an annoyance, and unfortunately, it won't be going away anytime soon. As you approach your due date, you may notice even heavier discharge. In the third trimester, you might have a hard time telling the difference between vaginal discharge and amniotic fluid.

Some women have concerns that increasing vaginal discharge may be a sign of leaking amniotic fluid. (Unlike vaginal discharge that's milky in color and sticky in consistency, amniotic fluid is usually clear with a slight yellow tinge. Sometimes, amniotic fluid is tinged with blood.)



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How to Cope with Increased Vaginal Discharge

To cope with all this increased vaginal discharge and to avoid having to change your underwear multiple times throughout the day, you should wear panty liners (a light pad) to soak up your discharge. Don't use tampons and avoid douching. Neither is considered safe during pregnancy.

It's important that you keep your vaginal area healthy and clean during pregnancy. Make sure that you always wipe from front to back after you use the restroom, and you should wear breathable underwear (such as cotton underpants).

How Can I Tell Normal Discharge From An Infection?

Remember that vaginal discharge is normal during pregnancy, but you will want to call your doctor or healthcare provider if your discharge is foul smelling, or if it's accompanied with itching, burning, or is tinged with blood. These could all be signs of a vaginal infection. You will want to contact your healthcare provider to get appropriate treatment.

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