discharge

Nobody wants to talk about discharge while pregnant, but here’s the thing: It happens. Like, a lot.

“When you’re pregnant, heightened hormones mean more discharge,” explains Melissa Goist, MD, an ob-gyn at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, in Columbus, Ohio.

But here’s the thing: it’s important to be able to tell the difference between normal discharge while pregnant, and discharge that signals a potential problem. Here, Dr. Goist breaks it all down for us, including what you can do about it.

What kind of discharge while pregnant is normal, and what’s not?

Here are all the types of discharge that can occur during pregnancy, and what each one means.

1. White discharge during pregnancy, or clear discharge, is normal if it’s odorless — and it serves an important purpose. “Vaginal discharge prevents infection by taking dead cells and bacteria out of the vagina and cervix,” says Dr. Goist, MD.

2. Clumpy, thick discharge during pregnancy that’s either white or yellowish could indicate a yeast infection, so you should call your doctor.

3. Brown discharge during pregnancy could indicate bleeding (it may also look pinkish). The cause may be harmless, such as sex or an exam by your doctor, but it could also signal an infection. Check in with your doctor to be safe.

4. Yellow discharge during pregnancy usually indicates bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, or STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infection), like Trichomonas, Chlamydia, or Gonorrhea, and definitely warrants a trip to your ob-gyn’s office.

5. Clear and watery discharge during pregnancy may actually be amniotic fluid, which could mean you’re going into labor. 

When should you be concerned about having discharge while pregnant?

Discharge that signals a STI is most concerning, says Dr. Goist. “Sexually transmitted infections can cause the most problems at the time of delivery if they are not treated by possibly infecting the newborn,” she adds. During your first trimester, your healthcare provider will test for many sexually transmitted diseases like Hepatitis B, syphilis, and HIV. However, if you are concerned about the possibility of a new STI, definitely tell your healthcare provider. As for the discharge, it may be a telling sign. “Sometimes yeast infections and STIs will not only create a vaginal discharge but also sometimes vaginal spotting can be associated with these problems,” adds Dr. Goist.

Bloody (soaking a pad) discharge could mean anything from an ectopic pregnancy, placenta previa, preterm labor, or the loss of your mucus plug, and should be checked out.

Lastly, if the discharge is clear or runny and flowing copiously, call your doctor—amniotic fluid should not “leak” unless you are going into labor.

What can you do about it?

If it is “normal” discharge, Dr. Goist says there is nothing you can do about it. Try wearing a pad in your undies, but never insert a tampon or douche to lessen the flow as they can introduce germs and change the bacterial levels in your vagina. However, if you’re concerned, see your healthcare provider. If there is an infection, your doctor will likely treat it with the same over-the-counter options you’d use if you weren’t pregnant.

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Photo: Getty