Pregnancy can be as perplexing as it is exhilarating, and when you get to be pregnant, your body experiences several changes and it’s not generally simple to tell which changes are normal and which are reasons for concerns. One of the important change that can be noticed and experienced from the kickoff of the pregnancy is the vaginal discharge, which can differ in consistency or thickness, frequency and amount in as the pregnancy progresses. It is important to understand and differentiate normal and abnormal discharge throughout the time of pregnancy. This is because, the abnormal discharges, which happen due to infections, can move up to the uterus creating unwanted issues and will place the whole pregnancy and delivery in danger.
What Is Normal Vaginal Discharge In The Course Of Pregnancy?
Normal vaginal discharge amid pregnancy is called leukorrhea. It is a thin, milky white, smooth, and odorless or mildly smelling vaginal discharge. Leukorrhea is considered as one of the earliest pregnancy symptoms, as you may be able to observe it towards the end of the 12th week of pregnancy. As your pregnancy advances, this discharge is expected to increase and turns out to be more obtrusive. This grows heavier towards the end of the pregnancy.
Leukorrhea is quite normal and nothing for you to worry about
What Causes Changes In Vaginal Discharge In The Course Of Pregnancy?
- The pregnancy hormones (estrogen) play an important part in bringing about changes in the vaginal discharge. This hormone prompts the cervical gland to secrete more cervical fluid. This secretion gradually thickens resulting in increased vaginal discharge
- Throughout the pregnancy, the flow of blood increases towards the vaginal area. This is another cause of increased vaginal discharge
- Another reason is the changes that happen to the cervix as the pregnancy progresses. This change of the cervix influences the vaginal discharge
- As the pregnancy progresses, the vaginal wall and the cervix start to soften. Therefore, the body produces more vaginal discharge to prevent possible infections
- Towards the end of the third trimester, the baby’s head starts to press against the cervix. This often prompts an increased vaginal discharge
What Is Known As “the show” In Pregnancy?
Towards the end of pregnancy (this can happen days or hours before the labor begins), the discharge contains a dash of thick mucus. A trace of pink, brown, or red color can be found in the discharge (which is the tinge of blood). This happens when the small blood vessels in the cervix break as the cervix starts to thin and dilate – an early sign of labor. This early sign of labor is called “the show”.
What Causes Abnormal Discharge During Pregnancy?
The abnormal discharge indicates the increased chances of complications in the pregnancy. Therefore, it is very important to identify an abnormal discharge and the possible reasons behind that. Any vaginal discharge other than leukorrhea can be considered as abnormal. The abnormal discharge can be due to:
- Sexually transmitted diseases: Sexually transmitted infections can be a cause for the abnormal vaginal discharge. Some of the commonly found sexually transmitted diseases are:
- Chlamydia: This curable bacterial infectionis sexually transmitted. Increased vaginal discharges, pain during urinating, and abdominal pain are the symptoms of this infection. The signs usually come out after about three weeks of exposure to the infection.
This infection travels up through the cervix and if left untreated, this can cause PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) and can cause pneumonia and eye infections and even blindness in the unborn child
- Gonorrhea: This is a highly infectious sexually transmitted disease.Increased and irregular vaginal discharge is the principal symptom of this infection. Painful urination and bowel movements are usually associated with this infection.
If left untreated, gonorrhea increases the risk of miscarriage and premature birth
- Syphilis: This is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. Increased foul smelling discharges along with round small sores in the vagina are the vital signs of this infection. If left untreated, this infection has a long-term effect on the baby as this infection can pass to the baby through the placenta.It can also reach the baby in the course of delivery (through contact with the sores).The chances of stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, death of the baby immediately after birth, a child born with severe neurological problems are eminent among the mother with untreated syphilis
- Trichomoniasis: Trichomoniasis also called trich, is a most commonly found sexually transmitted infection caused by a parasite. Profuse vaginal discharge, which is often foul smelling and appears foamy and yellow-greenish in color is the main symptom. Itching and burning sensation and pain while urinating are usually associated with this infection.If left untreated, it can cause inflammation of cervix inducing preterm labor, and deliver anunderweight baby
- Yeast infection: Increased amount of odd smelling (like yeast/bread)mostly white (sometimes, yellowish) cottage cheese-like vaginal discharge is the main sign of this infection.Though this infection has not proven to possess any risk in the course of pregnancy, it can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as redness and itching of the lips of the vagina and a burning feeling while urinating
- Complications of placenta: Bright red discharge (more than the usual case of spotting) can be the indication of placental issues like placenta previa and placental abruption
- Bacterial vaginosis: BV is generally caused due to the imbalance in the number of healthy bacteria in the vagina. A fishy smelling discharge followed by itching or burning sensation is the main symptom. It normally starts as a simple vaginal infection.However, it can eventually grow into the uterus causing premature rupture of the membrane and premature delivery
- Amniotic fluid leakage: There is always a probability of mistaking leakage of amniotic fluid as urine leakage, which is quite common in the course of pregnancy as the growing uterus put pressure on the bladder. Until the labor begins the amniotic fluid are not supposed to leak. Once the leakage starts, it cannot be stopped as the leakage is due to the rupture of the membrane. Therefore, it is important to confirm whether the discharge is due to the amniotic fluid leakage. This is possible by trying the following method. First, lie down for 30 minutes after putting on a pad. After 30 minutes, slowly stand up. If you feel a small spurt while you stand, it could be the amniotic fluid leakage
Do’s And Don’ts If You Have A Vaginal Discharge
- Do not attempt to treat the vaginal discharge yourself with over the counter medications
- Do not douche, as the spray with water can affect the vaginal flora(friendly bacteria of lactobacillus species,colonized in the vagina, which helps in keeping the vagina healthy), thereby increases the chances of infection.Besides, blowing air and water into the vagina during pregnancy is quite dangerous
- Do not use tampons in the course of pregnancy. Using tampons not only increases the infection by introducing new germs to the vagina, but also will not allow you to track the quantity of the discharge which is very vital
- Never use washes and wipes to clean the vagina and to resist the odor. The chemicals in the wash and wipes could change the pH in the genital tract, thus increases the intensity of the infection
- Do not use tight or nylon underwear or pants
- Do wear loose, breathable cotton cloths
- Do wear a cotton panty liner
- Dry gently the private parts after every wash with a smooth cotton fabric.You should always wipe from front to back
When Should I Contact My Doctor For Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy?
Never take any risk. It is always safe to consult your doctor soon if the discharge deviates from the symptoms of normal discharge. The odor and color change of the discharge definitely requires medical attention. Itchiness in the vagina, burning sensation during urinating, color change of the discharge, and strong and foul smell of the discharge, or thickened discharge which is similar to curd etc.always indicates some sort of infection.
How Can I Prevent Getting A Vaginal Infection?
- Include fermented food items and yogurt in your diet that promote the number of healthy bacteria, thereby decreasing the chance of infections
- Do not smoke. Smoking increases the chances of vaginal infection
- Always wear a loose cotton dress and cotton underwear, which is not tight
- Do not take a bubble bath, or use scented toilet paper, feminine hygiene spray, scented pads, and deodorant soap all which increases the chances of infection
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after cleaning the vulva (outer genital area)
How Can I Get Rid Of The Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy?
If the reason for the discharge is not any kind of infection, then there is nothing to be done other than using a cotton panty liner to absorb the vagina discharge.The vaginal discharge due to:
- STD’s can be safely treated with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor
- Yeast infections are usually treated with anti-fungal medicines (in the form of a cream or gel) which can be inserted into the vagina
- Bacterial vaginosis is treated with antibiotic creams and sometimes with capsules
- Trichomoniasis is treated with a course of oral metronidazole, which is regarded safe for the unborn baby
Therefore, once the type of infection is recognized and treated by the doctor, the vaginal discharge is not an issue in the course of pregnancy. It is the expecting mother’s duty to inform the doctor as soon as she observes some changes in the vaginal discharge to avoid serious consequences.