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Normal Vaginal Discharge in Pregnancy
“Discharge normally in pregnancy is usually cream in color. It’s usually thin. It can be heavy at some times and be lighter at other times. But if you’re feeling itching or burning or have thick white curd-like discharge or it has an odor, a strong fishy odor, those are big red flags for either a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. That we can help. The other discharge is pretty normal during pregnancy. Like I said, it waxes and wanes. Some days (are) heavy. Some days (are) light. But always, when in doubt, check it out.”
Vaginal Discharge; Is this Normal?
One of the most common questions I receive from women during exams is, “Is this discharge normal?” We’ll break down the different types of vaginal discharge women experience and discuss when it may be necessary to schedule a visit with your provider.
What is Vaginal Discharge
Vaginal discharge is the fluid that is released by the vagina and the cervix. It is a normal part of your body’s defenses and can be a useful indicator of overall vaginal health. Vaginal discharge is normal and helps to clear out the bad bacteria and dead cells from the body and keep the vagina clean and prevent infection. Normal vaginal discharge can vary in color and amount, ranging from clear to creamy white. The amount of discharge changes throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle and can have a slight odor as well. However, an odor that is foul or has a slightly fishy odor may be a sign of infection.
Changes Throughout the Month
It is normal the first few days after your period to have little to no discharge. Then, the discharge changes to a white discharge and becomes thicker. In the days leading up to ovulation, discharge changes to a clear sticky appearance similar to the consistency of egg whites. Then, just before your next period, your discharge can change again to a thick white consistency. All of these changes are normal and nothing to be concerned with and can actually help to pinpoint when you may be the most fertile.
The hormones of pregnancy greatly affect vaginal discharge. During pregnancy, normal vaginal discharge increases in amount and can appear more watery, and has a mild odor. Similarly, the hormonal changes that occur during perimenopause and menopause result in less vaginal discharge due to lower estrogen levels.
Color Changes to Look For
Thick White Discharge
Thick, white discharge can be totally normal. However, if you are experiencing a foul odor such as a fishy odor or any irritation or itching, that may be a sign of an infection that may require treatment. Yeast infections are the most common cause of abnormally thick, white discharge. A yeast infection is caused by an overgrowth of fungus in the vagina. Typical symptoms associated with the discharge are a cottage-cheese like appearance, itching, burning, and redness. Yeast infections are no contagious and there are many over-the-counter and natural antifungal remedies that can be effective for most women. If symptoms are not improving or you have any other concerns, check with your provider.
Brownish discharge is most commonly caused by old blood. Some women may see this if they have irregular periods, but if you are consistently experiencing brownish discharge, it could also be a sign of uterine or cervical cancer and should be discussed with your provider. Additionally, if you are postmenopausal, any vaginal bleeding can be concerning and an appointment with your provider is needed.
Discharge that is yellow is concerning and can be a sign of a bacterial or sexually transmitted infection. If it is associated with an odor or any irritation, seek evaluation by your provider.
Green discharge is never normal and is most commonly associated with a sexually transmitted disease called trichomoniasis. This can be easily treated with antibiotics, but it is recommended to abstain from intercourse and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Written by Briana Bloembergen, CNM – Content Manager