The kinds of changes that go on in the body of a pregnant woman can be mind-boggling to say the least. Given the numerous changes that our bodies go through the task of identifying what is supposed to be normal and what necessitates a visit to the doctor becomes quite difficult indeed.
Vaginal discharge is one such thing which changes its nature throughout pregnancy thereby leading to much confusion in the minds of pregnant women. All of us have experienced vaginal discharge or leukorrhea between periods. Leukorrhea also occurs during pregnancy - the only difference being that during this period, the discharge becomes heavier in nature and varies in frequency, color and thickness as pregnancy progresses.
While an excess production of vaginal discharge can sometimes be irritating, its presence is quite essential as it serves the important function of protecting the birth canal from infections and maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina.
Normal vaginal discharge occurs throughout pregnancy and peaks towards the end, as towards the completion of pregnancy the baby’s head presses against the cervix leading to an increase in discharge. Normally the discharge is a thin, clear milky white liquid, but sometimes it can be brown or pink. As long as you are just spotting it’s fine, especially after you have had intercourse.
But if the discharge is greenish, yellowish or has a foul odor, it means there is some infection. During the last week of pregnancy the discharge might even contain streaks of thick mucus and some blood. This is known as “show,” that happens when the mucus present in the cervix comes away. There is nothing to worry about it as it’s a sign that the body is getting ready for birth.
While an increase in vaginal discharge is expected during pregnancy it’s always safe to be on the lookout for any abnormal discharge and inform the doctor if you sense anything wrong. Here is taking a look at some of the discharges and leaks that occur during pregnancy. Read on to know which discharges are simply annoying and which signal a serious problem that requires medical attention.
7 What to Do About Discharge During Pregnancy
If you experience these symptoms you must contact your doctor.
- Leaking amniotic fluid (contact your doctor right away)
- bleeding or spotting
- discharge that looks like cottage cheese
- discharge with the smell of yeast
- yellow or green discharge
- itching and irritation in the vaginal lips
- pain during sex or urination
If you are having a lot of discharge and it is not due to any underlying cause then there is nothing you can do to stem the flow. But you can adopt certain measures to stop the situation from embarrassing you.
- To avoid an embarrassing situation you can use panty liners to absorb the extra discharge during pregnancy. But it's not advisable to use tampons during this period as they can further lead to infections in the genital area.
- To keep the genital area healthy, keep the area clean and wear loose clothing. It's preferable if you use cotton underwear and garments.
- Further you mustn’t douche the genital area as douching can upset the normal balance of flora in the vagina and increase the risk of a vaginal infection. Moreover, doctors discourage pregnant women from douching as in rare cases it is seen that air enters the circulatory system through the vagina which can cause severe complications for the mother and the baby.
- Avoid using scented toilet paper, deodorant soaps and hygiene sprays on the genital area as these can further aggravate the situation. Also do not apply scented wipes on the vagina to prevent the unpleasant odor because it could change the ph levels in the genital tract leading to an increase in infections.
6 Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Similar to a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis is an infection that is caused due to an imbalance in the bacteria normally found in the vagina. While most of the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis are similar to yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis generally produces a fishy-smelling discharge that is most noticeable after sex.
You might also feel an itching and burning sensation during urination. While bacterial vaginosis starts out as a vaginal infection, it can sometimes get into the uterus and cause the membranes to rupture prematurely leading to preterm birth. If you feel you have bacterial vaginosis contact your doctor as soon as possible. There are medicines which can help get rid of the symptoms without endangering the fetus and also decrease the likelihood of preterm labor.
Bacterial Vaginosis occurs when there is an over production of naturally occurring bacteria in the vagina, and is actually quite common. So if you happen to get this in your lifetime, know that you're not alone. Roughly 29% of women in the US suffer from this at some point, and 25% of all pregnant women can develop this as well. Some common factors in developing bacterial vaginosis include:
- multiple sex partners
- Using an IUD for birth control
- Recent antibiotic use
- vaginal douching
- cigarette smoking
Leaking urine is quite a normal side effect of pregnancy. As the uterus grows in size it places extra pressure on the bladder leading to the occasional leakage of urine. This is also the reason why pregnant women feel the urge to urinate more frequently. However, sometimes a woman can get confused regarding the nature of the leak. For example, she might be leaking amniotic fluid, but might dismiss it as just urine.
This confusion is one of the biggest mistakes one can make during pregnancy, because leaking amniotic fluid any time before the due date can be disastrous. To be on the safe side, you must consult a doctor, but before you rush off to see your OBG you can check for yourself whether you are just leaking urine or something else. If you are wetting yourself occasionally, such as leaking when you have a good laugh, cough or sneeze, then it's most likely urine.
The color and smell can also indicate whether you've wet yourself or whether you're leaking amniotic fluid. If you're just leaking urine, there's no reason to worry, but it can be quite embarrassing at times. To help get over the problem you can do Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles around the vagina which are contracted and released to help control the bladder.
Additionally, you can also practice “prophylactic voiding”—where you go to the bathroom before you feel the actual urge of needing to go. But no matter what, you must never stop having lots of water in an attempt to solve the problem.
4 Amniotic Fluid
If you are experiencing a thin discharge it can be a bit difficult to decide whether it’s just plain leukorrhea or amniotic fluid that is leaking out. It can be quite a challenging task to identify leaking amniotic fluid as more often than not it's confused with urine. But there are certain ways by which you can help differentiate between the two.
Amniotic fluid is a clear liquid and generally odorless, but sometimes it can appear to be tinged with blood or mucus. And unlike urine, this leakage doesn’t happen in spurts; it leaks continuously. If your membranes have been ruptured, you are going to continuously leak fluid. If you have any doubts regarding the nature of the fluid, put on a pad and lie down on the bed for around 30 minutes.
If upon standing up you feel liquid coming out, then it could be amniotic fluid. Always remember, a woman must never leak amniotic fluid until she goes into labor. So if at any time you feel you are leaking amniotic fluid then do not waste any time and contact your doctor right away.
3 Yeast Infection
Yeast infections are caused by a fungus that lives in the vaginal area. As a result of the hormones proliferating in the body and the changing chemical environment of the vagina, a pregnant woman is more likely to be afflicted by a yeast infection. If you have a yeast infection, you are going to experience soreness, itching and redness in the vaginal area in addition to an odorless, cottage cheese like discharge.
Some women also have pain during intercourse and a burning sensation when they urinate. Although a yeast infection doesn’t pose any danger to the mother and the baby, still the symptoms can cause much discomfort to a pregnant woman. If you are troubled by your symptoms you can consult your doctor regarding treatment.
The doctor is first going to rule out any sexually transmitted disease or bacterial vaginosis as they mimic some of the symptoms of yeast infection. If there is no issue, he can prescribe suppositories and over-the-counter vaginal creams that can help you rid yourself of your itchiness.
To avoid a yeast infection you can adopt the following measures:
- Wear loose breathable clothing
- Wear cotton undergarments
- Keep your genital area dry after taking a shower or exercising
- Do not apply douches or perfumed soaps in the genital area
- Add yogurt and other fermented foods to your diet to promote the growth of healthy bacteria
- Always change out of wet clothing immediately
- Bubble baths may be tempting but avoid them as they can irritate the vagina
2 Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Another cause of abnormal discharge are STDs or sexually transmitted diseases that are contracted through sexual contact. If you have an abnormal discharge and your doctor has ruled out a yeast infection, he will likely test you for STDs, particularly if you had unprotected sex and have been with multiple partners recently.
Even if you do not have any symptoms it is safer to get yourself tested because some STDs can cause premature labor and uterine infections post birth so it's always better to get tested just in case. In fact, certain diseases like HIV, genital herpes and syphilis may not cause vaginal discharge, but can be passed on to the baby during pregnancy or at birth.
If left untreated, STDs can cause serious problems for the baby such as stillbirth, brain damage, low birth weight and blindness. Treatment options depend on the type of STD one has, but all of them are treatable, except HIV/AIDS and herpes. Antiviral medications may be able to keep symptoms of HIV/AIDS under control.
Some sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia remain in cervical secretions without showing any symptoms for months, so most of the doctors recommend routine chlamydia screening during pregnancy regardless of a woman’s current relationship patterns. Just knowing that you have an STD and getting treated for it is going to protect you and your precious baby so why not get tested in advance.
For instance, if you have genital herpes sores at the time of labor your doctor might recommend you to have a C-section to protect the baby from the disease. If a woman is HIV-positive the doctors can prescribe a medication that has the potential to reduce the chances of the virus passing on to the baby.
1 Seeing Red
Spotting is can actually be a symptom of pregnancy during the first trimester. Usually there's no reason for a recently pregnant woman to fear the worst as spotting during the first trimester is a result of the implantation process. In fact, according to American Pregnancy, 20% of pregnant women experience spotting during the first trimester of pregnancy.
It’s not uncommon for some pregnant women to spot after a round of sex or even a pelvic exam. However if the bleeding continues and it doesn’t stop shortly then you must get it checked out by a doctor for any bleeding during pregnancy is a red flag. A bright red discharge that exceeds an ounce could be a sign of placental abruption or placenta previa so contact your healthcare provider immediately.
It's suffice to say, that anytime you feel a sudden or unexpected change during your pregnancy that you should see your doctor immediately. Getting timely treatment for any condition you're going through can mean a world of difference for you and your baby.