Is vaginal discharge normal during pregnancy?

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Experiencing more vaginal discharge than usual? Count this among the many joys of pregnancy (note our sarcasm). Like most symptoms expectant moms suffer through, an excess of discharge can likely be blamed on fluctuating hormones, surging estrogen, and increased blood flow to the vagina.

The stuff you’ll find in your underwear is called Leukorrhea, which is simply a fancy name for an odorless, thin, white discharge. (If this doesn’t describe your discharge, keep reading below.) With more blood pumping to your nether regions, your cervix and vagina secrete more fluids, mostly consisting of ordinary bacteria and cellular refuse. While it may be a nuisance, noticing an increase in vaginal discharge during pregnancy is normal.

How to survive

No grown woman wants to spend her day feeling as though she’s had a toddler-style accident. Here are a few proven, simple steps to take to keep yourself comfortable until delivery day. Please note that we always encourage expectant moms to alert their health care providers to any new pregnancy symptoms. 

Pack a spare

It never hurts to go prepared. Translated into action, this means packing a spare set of underwear for your workday to ensure you’re as comfortable as can be–despite wetter conditions.

Wear a liner

A thin, barely noticeable panty liner can be a lifesaver if you’re battling an increase of vaginal discharge during pregnancy. Keep a few in your handbag to ensure you feel fresh and dry throughout your day. Many companies, such as L Organic and Seventh Generation, offer non-toxic, chemical-free varieties if you’re concerned about day-to-day wear.

Forget douching

Repeat after us: the vagina is self-cleaning and douching may cause more problems than it solves. Especially during pregnancy, health care providers advise women to forgo douching treatments that may upset the vagina’s natural balance of good bacteria.

Red flags

While a thin, milky-white, and odorless discharge is normal during pregnancy, the following characteristics of vaginal discharge require a call to your doctor or midwife right away:

Clear and watery: May signal that your bag of waters has broken and that you’re now leaking amniotic fluid. An immediate trip to your health care provider can determine whether it is in fact amniotic fluid or urine leakage. If you suspect your waters have broken, we advise you to call your doctor or midwife immediately.

Frothy, chunky, foul-smelling, or any color but white: May signal an infection such as bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection. Visit your health care provider for a diagnosis and proper treatment. Do not attempt to treat an infection with over-the-counter products without first getting the green light from your doctor or midwife.

Bloody: You may notice blood after a cervical check, pelvic exam, or even sex. Play it safe and alert your health care provider, as blood-tinged discharge may also be a sign of infection or pre-term labor.

The bottom line

While an excess of vaginal discharge may be yet another pesky aspect of pregnancy, it’s more than likely nothing to worry about. There are several natural, safe options for staying comfortable and dry during pregnancy. As with any new symptom, we encourage you to alert your doctor or midwife–especially if your discharge falls outside the description of odorless, thin, and white. 

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