Pregnancy Discharge 101

The female body is simply amazing, but let’s face it, at times the bodily changes that can occur can be pretty off-putting! One of those times is undoubtedly during pregnancy when discharge becomes a whole new ball game! Discharge during pregnancy is known as ‘leukorrhea’, and though it’s often entirely different to what you have experienced before, it is very natural and nothing to stress over. Here’s everything you need to know:

What actually is leukorrhea?

It’s the medical term for the milky white (or sometimes clear) fluid that comes out of your vagina while you are pregnant. It should have a very mild smell or be odourless, and as your baby grows, the amount of discharge often increases. You will likely have experienced discharge before between your periods, and leukorrhea is similar, though usually a tad heavier.

Why does it happen?

Vaginal discharge changes throughout your menstrual cycle due to fluctuating hormone levels, and changes once again when you become pregnant. Your estrogen levels will increase during this time, which causes more blood to flow to the pelvic area. This in turn stimulates the mucous membranes, and voila! Vaginal discharge that increases as your pregnancy progresses. It’s really helpful as it removes dead cells from the vagina, helping to protect it from infection and balance the healthy bacteria in the birth canal, ready for your baby to be born.

Simultaneously, your cervix changes during pregnancy, which can also affect vaginal discharge. The walls of the cervix and vagina soften ready for birth, and towards the very end of your pregnancy your baby’s head can often press against the cervix, leading to even more vaginal discharge.

Let’s talk colour 

Just like your regular discharge, leukorrhea is typically either white or clear the whole way through pregnancy, but some colours to watch out for are brown, pink, green or yellow. Brown or pink discharge is usually nothing to worry about at all. In fact, in early pregnancy this can sometimes be an indication of ‘implantation bleeding’, a small amount of bleeding that occurs just after the fertilised egg has attached to the wall of your uterus.

If you are already pregnant, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or healthcare worker about any brown or pink discharge, and of course any unexpected blood, to make sure everything is A-OK. Similarly, green and yellow discharge shouldn’t be ignored, as this could be sign of an infection. If you notice discoloured discharge, seek advice from the healthcare professional who is monitoring your pregnancy.

What should you watch out for?

Vaginal discharge is very normal and healthy throughout pregnancy, but it’s always good practice to keep an eye on how it is progressing, and any changes that occur, as these are a good indication of what’s going on inside.

It could be a sign of infection if your leukorrhea becomes...

  • Lumpy in consistency
  • Much thicker than before Itchy on your skin
  • Particularly smelly, with a fishy odour

If you think your discharge has changed or something doesn’t feel right, never be afraid to speak to your doctor or healthcare professional to make sure everything is as it should be.

Will it get heavier near the end of pregnancy?

Yes! The closer you get to the birth, the more intense the discharge becomes - but don’t worry, this is all very normal. In the last week or so of your pregnancy, the discharge may even contain streaks of pink, sticky mucus that is jelly-like in texture. This is referred to as a "show", and occurs when the mucus that has been in your cervix during pregnancy is released - a sign that your body is ready for the birth. In the days leading up to labour, you may experience a few of these “shows”, so you’ll know the big day is getting closer.

How to manage discharge

If your leukorrhea is driving you a little loco, here are a few ways to keep on top of it:

  • Take regular baths to dislodge as much of the discharge as possible, to stay clean, and to keep bacteria balanced 
  • Wear pads or liners to absorb as much of the discharge as possible
  • Do not use tampons, as they can introduce unhealthy bacteria into the birth canal
  • Avoid wipes, which can alter the pH of your vagina and increase your chance of infection
  • Wear breathable underwear to help you feel fresher down there

When to seek medical advice

Leukorrhea is nothing to worry about, as excess discharge while you’re expecting is perfectly normal. However, as always, we recommend that if anything doesn’t feel right to you, don’t hesitate to discuss it with your doctor or healthcare professional. If your discharge has a bad-smelling odour, takes on a different colour, or becomes itchy or sore in your vagina, this could be a sign of an infection that may require treatment. Similarly, if you experience pain when you have a wee, speak to your doctor to make sure everything is in order. 

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