If you’re newly pregnant, especially for the first time, you may be bewildered about the numerous vaginal changes and vaginal health testing you need. You may have noticed your vagina is a deeper color due to increased blood flow and looks or feels swollen, again due to that extra blood in the area. But is vaginal discharge OK? What amount is normal, what should it look like, and when should you have vaginal health testing?
Discharge in Pregnancy and Vaginal Health Testing
An increased amount of vaginal discharge during pregnancy is one of the many changes expecting women face. Hormonal changes in the cervix and vagina cause increased production of cervical mucus. This discharge can be completely normal — and may not require vaginal health testing.
Vaginal discharge changes throughout pregnancy and can go from thick and sticky to thin and watery. Discharge can be a little thicker and whiter than when not pregnant, and there’s typically more of it. Normal vaginal discharge during pregnancy is called leukorrhea and is thin, white, milky, and mild smelling.
Scientists have discovered that the good bacteria in the vagina produce lactic acid and a low pH environment (4.5) that protects you against threats like yeast infections, urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, and STIs. And researchers believe the more we learn about how the vaginal microbiome works, the better we’ll be able to prevent and treat STIs and other vaginal infections in the future.
However, some pregnant women have thought their water may have broken due to a lot of discharge. But when the amniotic sac breaks it’s much more obvious than ordinary, albeit even a lot, of discharge. It’s more like an uncontrollable gush of warm water that continues to flow to a trickle. If you have any concern that your water broke, you should contact your OB/GYN right away for an evaluation.
How Much Discharge is Normal During Pregnancy?
The amount of discharge a pregnant woman has varies from one woman to another and one pregnancy to the next and can even wax and wane throughout your pregnancy. You should get vaginal health testing if you have any itching or burning associated with the discharge, if it has a strong odor or is yellow or green. Never assume it is an infection and treat it yourself though.
What about Spotting While Pregnant?
While spotting can be normal, you should mention it to your doctor. That’s especially true when the spotting:
- Is a large amount that could soak a pad
- Last more than a day
- Is accompanied by cramping
Discharge Close to your Due Date
When you’re nearing your due date, the thick plug of mucus (often called a mucus plug) that blocked your cervix from bacteria entering the uterus may get pushed into the vagina. This is normal as your body is preparing the cervix for opening and dilating to deliver your baby soon.
You might notice an increase of clear or bloody vaginal discharge from the mucus. This may happen several days before labor begins or at the first sign of labor. If you have heavy bleeding, however, contact your OB/GYN right away as that could be a sign of a problem.
When in Labor
Finally, as you prepare to go into labor, your water will often break. This is the amniotic sac that protects your baby in the uterus. When your water breaks it can feel like an uncontrollable gush of water, a clear, steady stream, or even a constant trickle. Once your water breaks, you should head to your delivery facility or hospital since you’re now in labor. Timing is important because the longer it takes for your labor to start after your water breaks, the more chance you or your baby have of developing an infection. Getting to your birthing facility to minimize these risks while in labor is important.
When Vaginal Health Testing is Needed
You’ll need to contact your maternity health provider if your vaginal discharge is green or yellowish, accompanied by a foul or fishy odor, and includes burning, itching or redness. These may be signs of an infection like a yeast infection, STI or bacterial vaginosis, infections that will require vaginal health testing and/or treatment. Notify your doctor if there is a change in your vaginal discharge or you notice any of these symptoms.
While vaginal discharge during pregnancy can be confusing, learning the various times for it and types of discharge can help you understand when vaginal health testing is necessary or when discharge is a normal part of pregnancy.