Increased vaginal discharge is among the common discomforts women experience during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Increased vaginal discharge is among the common discomforts women experience during the first trimester of pregnancy. In these early months, vaginal discharge is typically thin and milky white. It may also become more abundant and more liquid during the final month of pregnancy as the baby descends lower into the pelvis. Vaginal discharge is normally odourless.
What causes vaginal discharge?
The cells of the vaginal walls are continually renewed. Once old cells have been replaced by new ones, they’re eliminated as white discharge. This is what is observed in early pregnancy. Hormones are the main cause of increased vaginal discharge, as well as increased blood flow to the pelvic region.
The mucus plug, a thick mass that closes the cervix throughout pregnancy, is formed by vaginal discharge with a more solid consistency. Due to the dilation of the cervix, the mucus plug can become dislodged toward the end of the third trimester, resulting in thick vaginal discharge that may be tinged with blood. This is completely normal and is not a sign that the baby is coming. However, it’s important not to confuse this discharge with bleeding.
Another form of discharge experienced during pregnancy is simply urine leaking from the bladder. This is especially common after physical exertion, including coughing or sneezing. However, if you notice a continuous flow of clear, odourless liquid, consult your doctor. It could be amniotic fluid, a sign that the amniotic sac has ruptured. If this occurs before 37 weeks, your baby could be at risk.
Tips to reduce discomfort
Wear a thin sanitary pad or a pantiliner.
- Avoid vaginal douching, which can irritate the mucous membranes of the vagina.
Always wipe from front to back.
Speak to your doctor if you notice that your vaginal discharge has changed colour, has a foamy texture, has an unpleasant (or fishy) odour, is accompanied by bleeding, or causes itching. All of these symptoms could indicate the presence of a vaginal or sexually transmitted infection.
Do you think you have a vaginal infection?
During pregnancy, women are at greater risk of developing a vaginal yeast infection, a condition that affects about 10 percent of pregnant women .
However, during your pregnancy, you should never purchase an over-the-counter antifungal medication without first discussing it with a doctor. Only they will be able to assess whether you have a bacterial infection (which requires specific treatment) or a yeast infection.
In addition, according to a Quebec study, the oral drug fluconazole, often recommended to treat yeast infections, may increase the risk of miscarriage, although the risk remains low. The study also suggests that taking more than 150 mg of fluconazole in early pregnancy may increase the risk of the baby being born with a heart defect. This is why it’s important to consult a doctor before pursuing any treatment.
Things to keep in mind
Increased vaginal discharge is normal during pregnancy.
If it bothers you, try wearing a pantiliner.
Speak to your doctor if the discharge has an abnormal appearance or if it’s accompanied by other symptoms.
Scientific review: Roxanne Piché, nursing adviser, Maternal Fetal Medicine Clinic, CHU Sainte-Justine
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: September 2019
Bérard, Anick, et al. “Associations between low- and high-dose oral fluconazole and pregnancy outcomes: 3 nested case-control studies.” Canadian Medical Association Journal, vol. 191, no. 7, 2019, pp. E179–E187.
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