Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy – What Is Normal?

8 min read

Written by Editorial Team

Editorial Team

Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be as perplexing as it is exhilarating. 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 concern. One of the important changes that can be noticed and experienced from the kickoff of the pregnancy is vaginal discharge, which can differ in consistency or thickness, frequency, and amount as the pregnancy progresses.

It is important to understand and differentiate between 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. pregnancy pillow

In This Article

What is Normal Vaginal Discharge During 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 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.

Causes of Changes in Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

Causes of Changes in Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy.

Here are some of the common causes for the changes in vaginal discharge during pregnancy:

  • The pregnancy hormones (estrogen) play an important part in bringing about changes in 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 toward the vaginal area. This is another cause of the increased vaginal discharge.
  • Another reason is the changes that happen to the cervix as the pregnancy progresses. This change in the cervix influences 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?

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 start to thin and dilate – an early sign of labor. This early sign of labor is called “the show”.

[Read: Early Signs That Labor is Coming Soon]

Top 5 Causes of 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 abnormal. The abnormal discharge can be due to:

1. Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually transmitted infections can be a cause of abnormal vaginal discharge. Some of the commonly found sexually transmitted diseases are:

a) Chlamydia

This curable bacterial infection is sexually transmitted. Increased vaginal discharge, 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.

b) 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.

c) 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, and a child born with severe neurological problems are eminent among the mother with untreated syphilis.

d) Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis also called trich, is the 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 the cervix inducing preterm labor, and delivering an underweight baby.

[Read: STDs During Pregnancy]

2. Yeast Infection

Yeast infection.

An 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 been proven to pose 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.

3. Complications of the Placenta

Bright red discharge (more than the usual case of spotting) can be an indication of placental issues like placenta previa and placental abruption.

4. Bacterial Vaginosis

BV is generally caused due to an 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.

5. 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 is 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 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.

[Read: How Will I Know If I Am Leaking Amniotic Fluid?]

Do’s and Don’ts If You Have a Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

Do's and Don'ts If You Have a Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy.

Some do’s and don’ts to follow if you have vaginal discharge during pregnancy:

  • 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 increasing the chances of infection. Besides, blowing air and water into the vagina during pregnancy is quite dangerous.
  • Never 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 increasing the intensity of the infection.
  • Do not use tight or nylon underwear or pants.
  • Do wear loose, breathable cotton clothes.
  • Never wear a cotton panty liner.
  • Dry gently the private parts after every wash with 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?

Here is the list of ways you can 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 of which increase 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?

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:

  • STDs 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 as safe for the unborn baby.

Therefore, once the type of infection is recognized and treated by the doctor, 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.

Read Also: Yellow Discharge During Pregnancy: What’s Normal And When To Seek Help?


1. Is Daily Vaginal Discharge Normal?

It is normal to have some discharge every day. It’s impossible to avoid because it’s your body’s way of keeping your vagina clean and healthy.

2. Can Stress Cause Vaginal Discharge?

An increase in vaginal discharge may also be the result of hormonal imbalances brought on by stress or other health issues, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

3. What Can I Drink To Stop Discharge?

White discharge can be eliminated by routinely consuming rice starch (the water used to cook rice).

Editorial Team,

With a rich experience in pregnancy and parenting, our team of experts create insightful, well-curated, and easy-to-read content for our to-be-parents and parents at all stages of parenting.Read more.

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