Vaginal Discharge: What’s Normal and What’s Not

Vaginal Discharge

Every woman has some vaginal discharge every now and then. It often occurs at certain times during your menstrual cycle and can even be used to help judge when you are at your most fertile. Many women can also tell if they have contracted a vaginal infection by the appearance or odor of their discharge.

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy is usually quite normal. Most women say they experience an increase in discharge during their pregnancy. This increase is due to the higher levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone that you are experiencing. Because the discharge is sort of milky looking, the medical term for it is leukorrhea, which means a white discharge.

Leukorrhea is actually a good thing. It protects your vagina from infection by maintaining a healthy population of bacteria. This healthy balance of bacteria reduces the chances that nastier bacteria will take up residence.

When to be Concerned

Usually, a healthy vaginal discharge during pregnancy has the consistency of thin uncooked egg whites. Generally, it does not have any odor, or at least, doesn’t usually have an unpleasant one.

If you are experiencing a discharge that smells foul or is yellow, green, or grey, call your obstetrician or midwife. You might have a bacterial or yeast infection, or a sexually transmitted infection called trichomoniasis. Other symptoms of an infection include a discharge that is frothy or looks like cottage cheese.

Call your healthcare provider if you develop a rash or itchiness on your vulva. This can also be due to a vaginal infection.

Blood Spotting

About one in five pregnant women sees a small amount of dark or light brown or pink discharge during the early months of her pregnancy. This is actually a small amount of blood.

Spotting is usually not a problem, but call your obstetrician or midwife and let him or her know. Call your doctor or midwife immediately if you more than a few spots of red blood in your discharge or on your panties. There may not be a problem, but it is better to get their advice as soon as possible. You can find out more about blood spotting and what to do about it here.

What to Do?

For some women, vaginal discharge during pregnancy is no big deal; just a few damp spots in their panties. But some women experience a lot of discharge. If you are having a lot of discharge, try wearing a panty liner or a pad to help stay dry and to keep from having to change your panties a couple of times a day. Even if the discharge is heavy, do not use a tampon. Use a gentle soap and water to keep clean.

No matter what, do not use a vaginal douche. Never use a douche during pregnancy because it changes the normal chemistry and bacterial balance in your vagina. This can lead to a bacterial infection.

Valerie DeBenedette
Valerie DeBenedette is an experienced health and medical writer who lives about an hour north of New York City with a dog that is smaller than her cat. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and on websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

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