Vaginal discharge during pregnancy, what’s normal?
You may notice more vaginal discharge during your pregnancy and might be wondering whether it’s normal, find out whether it’s usual and why this happens
What is normal discharge during pregnancy?
Vaginal discharge is normal in all women from puberty to menopause and you will notice there’s quite a bit more discharge in pregnancy as it's an early pregnancy symptom.
Normal discharge - medically known as leucorrhoea - is a mild-smelling clear or white milky fluid that comes from your cervix and keeps your vagina clean. The reason there’s more of it during pregnancy is because more blood is flowing to the area.
During pregnancy the cervix and vaginal walls get softer and discharge increases to help prevent infections travelling up from the vagina to the womb.
Increased discharge during early pregnancy is normal - and temporary so there’s no need to worry about. You may find it helpful to wear a panty liner and it’s important to keep clean and use unscented washing products. But, rinsing out your vagina (douching) is never advisable as it alters the natural bacterial balance and leads to an infection.
What isn’t normal?
A normal vaginal discharge should be clear and white and not smell unpleasant. Abnormal or unhealthy discharge needs to be checked out. Look out for changes in your discharge and go to see your GP if it becomes
- Unpleasant or fishy-smelling
- Sore or itchy
- Thick and curd-like in substance
If you experience any of these - or if you have pain during sex in pregnancy or urination - it may be a urinary tract infection (UTI) or a vaginal infection which will need to be treated to avoid any risk to the baby. Thrush is quite common and generally doesn’t pose a risk to the baby, but can be very unpleasant for the mum-to-be and some treatments are not recommended in pregnancy.
Bacterial vaginosis is an infection caused by an imbalance in the bacteria normally found in the vagina. It can be asymptomatic but it can produce a fishy-smelling discharge and/or itching and burning. This may be more noticeable after sex. This needs to be treated in case it transcends into the uterus and causes harm to the baby. If you develop bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy there’s a small chance of complications such as premature birth or miscarriage, so it's important to get treated.
Any spotting or bleeding should also be checked out.
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Preventing vaginal Infection
To prevent thrush and other vaginal infections there are some steps you can take:
- Wear loose fitting cotton underwear
- Avoid perfume-scented soap or bath products
- Use non-biological washing products
- Avoid tights and tight trousers
- Ensure you are well lubricated before sex
- Wipe front to back after going to the toilet
- If you smoke, try to quit. As well as being bad for the baby, smoking makes you more prone to bacterial vaginal infections
- Try eating a pot of live yoghurt daily to keep infections at bay.