Causes of Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

Many women become anxious about vaginal discharge during pregnancy but usually the discharge may be considered normal if it is odorless, thin in consistency and white in color. However, vaginal discharge that is yellowish or greenish in color, looks like cottage cheese or has an unpleasant smell may indicate an infection, especially if accompanied by vaginal itching. A blood stained or brownish discharge may be a cause for concern too and needs to be brought to the doctor’s notice.

Normal Vaginal Discharge in Pregnancy

Early Pregnancy Discharge

In early pregnancy, vaginal discharge may increase due to the rise of hormones such as estrogen and as a result of greater blood flow to the vagina. The discharge that is normally seen during pregnancy consists of vaginal and cervical secretions, dead skin cells and bacteria naturally found in the vagina. This thin, white discharge with little or no odor is not a cause for concern. In fact, it may be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy and does not need any treatment. If copious, you may need to wear a sanitary pad to make you feel more comfortable.

Late Pregnancy Discharge

Towards the end of pregnancy, a slow trickle or a gush of fluid discharged from the vagina may be caused by amniotic fluid discharge or breaking of water. Sometimes, a thick mucus discharge tinged with blood is seen just before delivery of the baby. This is known as “show”, which is a sign that delivery is imminent.

Abnormal Vaginal Discharge in Pregnancy

Vaginal Infection Discharge

Vaginal discharge may be a sign of vaginal infection, such as bacterial vaginosis, vaginal fungal or yeast infection, trichomonal vaginitis, or sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s).

  • A thin, white or grey discharge with a typical fishy odor, along with vaginal itching and burning may indicate bacterial vaginosis. It is not a sexually transmitted infection.
  • A thick, white, curdy or cottage cheese type of discharge, usually odorless, with intense vaginal itching may point to a vaginal yeast infection (vaginal candidiasis). The infection is usually not transmitted sexually.
  • A yellowish-green or grey, thin, frothy, fishy smelling discharge with vaginal itching and burning is most likely to be a Trichomonas vaginalis infection, which is a sexually transmitted infection. A yellowish vaginal discharge with vaginal itching and burning urination can be a symptom of other sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Miscarriage and Ectopic Pregnancy Discharge

Slight blood-stained discharge or spotting during pregnancy may be normal in some women, but it could be a more ominous sign indicating a threatened abortion or a miscarriage in early months of pregnancy and should always be brought to your doctor’s notice. Bleeding from the vagina in the first trimester of pregnancy, especially if there is severe abdominal pain, fever or dizziness, may be a sign of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.

Placenta Previa and Abruptio Placentae

Discharge of blood from the vagina in latter half of pregnancy could be a dangerous sign which needs immediate medical attention. It may be due to placenta previa (a low-lying placenta which partially or completely covers the cervical os – opening to the birth canal) or abruptio placentae (the placenta breaks away from the uterus before delivery of the baby).

A pregnancy can be a stressful time for any mother, especially so for first time mothers, and the presence of any vaginal discharge should be investigated. Even if it appears to be a normal discharge, the confirmation from a medical professional can be comforting and reduce any unwarranted stress on the mother.

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