December 18, 2018
Pregnant women
Ask the Experts

Discharge During Pregnancy

by Leslie Goldman  

Q: I’ve noticed an increase in vaginal discharge since becoming pregnant. Should I be concerned?

A: Probably not. An increase in discharge quantity is relatively common during early pregnancy and is likely the result of hormonal changes, according to Jennifer Kerns, MD, MPH, an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, and member of our editorial board. As long as the discharge is clear, yellowish, or milky whitish and doesn’t have an off-smell, it’s perfectly normal—and in fact it can be beneficial, since discharge typically contains several types of “good” bacteria that help protect the vagina from infection.

Call your obstetrician, however, if discharge is malodorous or has a greenish tinge, which could indicate an infection, or if you have watery discharge during the second or third trimester, which could indicate that your water has broken. Bloody discharge also warrants an immediate phone call to your physician, though it’s not necessarily dangerous. “A significant number of women bleed in their first trimester,” Kerns says. “They are at an increased risk for miscarriage, but many go on to have a healthy pregnancy.”

Finally, don’t be surprised if discharge spikes during the last few weeks of pregnancy, as your cervix softens, shortens, and dilates in preparation for labor. Some women suddenly find a large amount of slightly pink or red stringy or sticky mucus in their underwear just days or weeks before labor. This is called the mucus plug, or bloody show. It is essentially a plug of mucus that forms in the cervix early in pregnancy to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus. Once that happens, get ready: Baby may be arriving sooner rather than later.

See also: Weight Gain in Pregnancy and Caffeine in Pregnancy.