When it comes to pregnancy, moms and their bodies take on a lot of changes. Some are thrilling, like sporting a baby bump. Some are less so, like the seemingly shrinking bladder. Then there are those you’d rather not discuss—with anyone. Ladies, there’s discomfort in discharge, but there needn’t be. Most women experience it in some form as a natural part of their nine-month journey.
Good to flow
Things down under are about to get wet—and not just because you have to pee 17 times a day. Vaginal discharge is a healthy and normal part of womanhood, one that happens to amp up its flow during pregnancy. So if you notice an increase, it’s nothing to worry about. Higher estrogen levels, along with 30 to 50 percent more blood coursing through you (and circulating near your vagina), are behind the sudden surge in secretions.
Normal discharge, what doctors call leukorrhea, is a mix of old cells from the vaginal walls and secretions from the vagina and cervix. You’ve probably seen leukorrhea before, so you know its cream color and little-to-no odor are signs that all is well.
Plug it in
Discharge does more than dampen your mood. The mucous plug forms early in pregnancy when secretions from your cervix create a barrier to protect the uterus from the unsterile vagina.
The closer you get to your due date, the more discharge you’re likely to see. In fact, keeping an eye below the belt line may help you recognize early signs of labor, says Jenny Jaque, MD, OB/GYN and co-founder of Health Goes Female in Los Angeles. Grab the hospital bag if you notice a sudden mucous-like discharge that’s thick and tinged with blood—or a rush of thin clear fluid, which is also known as your water breaking.
Changes in discharge could be the result of an infection, sexually transmitted disease or other health concerns, such as placenta previa. Jaque recommends letting your healthcare provider know about any noticeable changes in discharge, but here’s what to look for from the common culprits:
- Leaking amniotic fluid. If you’re feeling soaked through, even after a change of intimates, then take a look down low. Discharge that’s thin, clear and odorless is a safe bet your water broke. The liquid you’re leaking is from the now ruptured amniotic sack, which means your wee one is on the way.
- Leaking urine. Moms-to-be are accident-prone, so don’t worry if it seems you’ve sprung a leak. Chances are it’s just a much needed bathroom break. (It happens to the best of us.) If you’re unsure about the clear or yellow liquid, the nose knows.
- Yeast infection. Due to changes in hormone levels, pregnant women tend to rack up far more of these, especially around the second trimester. Beware of thick, white discharge paired with itchiness.
- Bacterial vaginosis. Catch a whiff of something fishy, particularly post-sex (when discharge mixes with semen), and you might want to check in down there. Thin discharge that’s gone gray could be the result of a vaginal infection. Bacterial vaginosis accounts for 40 to 50 percent of reported cases of vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina).
- Trichomoniasis infection. This is one—if you spot the symptoms—that will leave you wondering, “What just came out of me?” Green or yellow discharge that’s frothy and foul smelling points to trich, a parasite that can lead to preterm delivery. Other sure signs include itching and pain during sex or urination.
- Chlamydia. Another odorous offender that comes with green or yellow discharge is one of the more prevalent STDs. Its symptoms aren’t always immediate, but they usually make an appearance within three weeks of infection.
- Spotting. About 25 percent of women have light bleeding during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. It’s rarely cause for concern, but don’t hesitate to let your doctor know what’s going on. (Tip: It helps to wear a pad to keep tabs on your flow.)
Once you’ve swapped your bump for a brand–new bundle of joy, it will take a few weeks for your lady parts to feel prepregnancy normal again. After delivery, you’ll shed blood and tissue lining your uterus, a discharge known as lochia. This process can take up to two weeks, with lochia changing from a bright red color to a dull brown. If the bleeding lasts more than 14 days or comes with cramps and a fever, you’ll want to pay your doctor a visit pronto.
Now that you know what’s normal and what’s not, you can rest easy through all of pregnancy’s highs—and flows.