When you first discovered you were pregnant, you probably thought more about baby names and nursery décor than you did about vaginal discharge. Unfortunately, vaginal discharge is one of those little secrets no one seems to talk about when they’re swapping stories about morning sickness and marathon labors. But for the newly pregnant woman, vaginal discharge is often a source of anxiety.
Even when you’re not pregnant, you probably experience some amount of discharge at various stages during your menstrual cycle. But as estrogen levels increase during pregnancy, the discharge becomes heavier and thicker. Rest assured this normal pregnancy discharge, called leukorrhea, is just one more symptom you’ll have to put up with for the next nine months. Dr. Waverly F. Peakes, an obstetrician gynecologist with Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, explains that leukorrhea is a product of increased cervical gland secretions. Leukorrhea is normally clear or white and has little odor. Also, the amount of discharge varies from woman to woman.
Leukorrhea that changes color or consistency, or develops a bad odor, can be a cause for concern. Blood-tinged discharge very early in the pregnancy might be a sign of normal implantation bleeding. However, you should call your health care provider to evaluate the cause of the bloody discharge, especially if you experience any abdominal cramping. Jeanne Faulker, R.N., a contributor to the Fit Pregnancy website, says light spotting can also occur after sexual intercourse, due to the increased sensitivity of the cervix. If vaginal itching or irritation, or a burning sensation during urination, accompanies vaginal discharge, they could be symptoms of an underlying infection. Rarely is vaginal discharge during pregnancy related to sexually transmitted diseases, such as trichomoniasis, chlamydia or gonorrhea.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Call your health care provider at any point the leukorrhea looks or smells abnormal, or if you experience vaginal irritation or cramping. If nothing else, she can perform a pelvic and cervical exam, as well as check the baby’s heartbeat, to assure you the pregnancy is progressing normally. If she suspects an infection, such as a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis, she will swab and culture the discharge. Over-the-counter (OTC) creams and prescription antibiotics can alleviate the symptoms. If you are concerned about the amount of discharge, wear a panty liner. Do not use tampons to control the flow of discharge. Also, do not douche or use feminine sprays or wipes as doing so can upset the natural balance of vaginal bacteria.
- pregnant women belly image by Slobodan Vasic from Fotolia.com