Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy: Types & Causes

There are a lot of changes that your body goes through in pregnancy, some pleasant and others not. Getting pregnant is the most beautiful feeling for women. With this journey, comes its own progress & complications. Certain problems that can cause complications in your pregnancy, Leukorrhea being one of them. 

What is Leukorrhea?

A large amount of thick, whitish or yellowish discharge from the vagina that has a foul smell is called leukorrhea. This is a very common problem and may occur due to unhygienic lifestyle, infections or impaired immunity. Moreover, leukorrhea also starts to increase after 1 to 2 weeks of conception. Leukorrhea discharge will become heavier as the pregnancy progress and will be at its highest in the latter third trimester.

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy increases as the pregnancy continues because your body starts producing more pregnancy hormones, especially estrogen. Sometimes cervical changes are also found to alter the leukorrhea discharge during pregnancy. As you move forward with your pregnancy, the cervix dilates and the walls of vagina soften. This causes the body to produce extra discharge to provide protection against infections. Also, as the baby’s head presses against the cervix, there is a further increase in leukorrhea discharge. 

 Now, let’s discuss some of the major causes of leukorrhea:

Types of leukorrhea:

  1. Mucosal discharge-
    While you are pregnant, the body increases the blood flow in the cervical area. This causes an increase in cervical fluid discharge which further contributes to an increased leukorrhea discharge during pregnancy. If you find such changes in your body, do not get too worried about them. It is very common during pregnancy and is completely harmless. 
    The discharge from your vagina will either be clear or it will be thin-white. In some cases, mucus-like discharges have also been noted. The discharge has a mild smell and is very helpful in keeping your vagina clean and free of infections. 
    You should keep a constant check of the mucosal discharge and if it has a strong unpleasant smell or an unusual colour similar to leukorrhea discharge, you should visit your physician. 
  2. Show
    During pregnancy, there is a mucus plug which seals your cervix during pregnancy. This plug comes away just before labour starts or during early labour. The small sticky, jelly-like pink mucus is known as Show. 
    The mucus plug, while it forms, can cause discharge during early pregnancy. That is why it can be an indicator of conception. The Show is very important as it prevents the uterus from any kind of infections. It usually comes out during the latter part of pregnancy when the due date is close. 
    In some cases, the Show has also been seen to come out along with a streak of blood. It can be stringy which can cause irritation on the outer side of your vagina. If you expel the Show plug, you should contact your doctor immediately as it can be a sign of labour. Also, it becomes even more urgent if you notice any vaginal bleeding along with the mucus. 
  3. Amniotic fluid
    Another type of leukorrhea during pregnancy that can occur anytime during the pregnancy, is the leakage of amniotic fluid. Amniotic fluid is a liquid which surrounds the fetus present in your uterus, supporting the baby and helping in proper development. Leakage of amniotic fluid may feel like gushing or slow-tickling of warm fluid from your vagina. It is generally clear and odourless but may contain traces of blood and mucus.
    While you may leak a small amount of fluid, losing too much of amniotic fluid can be very dangerous for you and your child at any point during pregnancy. 
    You need to immediately visit your doctor if the discharge is brownish-yellow. This could mean that your baby has passed stool in the uterus. This is termed as meconium which generally occurs after birth. However, if your child passes meconium in the uterus, it can cause meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS). It can cause breathing problems for the fetus. In most of the cases, it leads to complications in having a normal delivery

Causes of leukorrhea:

Now that we have learnt about the various types of leukorrhea, here are some of the main causes of leukorrhea:

  1. Yeast infection discharge
    When you are pregnant, there are many hormones being released in your body. Some of them are also discharged along with the urine. This leads to a change in the pH of the vagina. It increases the susceptibility to pathogens that can cause infections. Hence, vaginal discharge during pregnancy increases the chances of having infections during the second trimester. 
    Yeast infections are also known as thrush and can cause leukorrhea during pregnancy which is thick and white. Other leukorrhea symptoms include itching, redness and soreness around the vagina along with stinging sensations while urinating.
    Visit your doctor if the leukorrhea symptoms appear to be like a yeast infection. The doctor will prescribe some medication with consideration to the stage of your pregnancy. 
  2. Spotting
    When you see a small amount of red, dark brown or pink blood in your vaginal discharge, it is termed as spotting. It is lighter than your menstruation bleeding and can be caused due to a variety of factors. Around one-fourth of pregnant females observe bleeding and spotting. The major causes of spotting are:
    Spotting can occur due to cervical irritation usually after a cervical exam. Cervical mucus plug or Show can also lead to spotting and blood discharge during early pregnancy. 
    Visit your physician if you experience spotting or bloody discharge during early pregnancy. Also, heavy bleeding during the second trimester can be the indication of some medical emergency such as placenta previa or late miscarriage. It can also indicate preterm labour and therefore require immediate medical attention. Similarly, for the third trimester, most of the times pregnancy go smoothly but some cases of complications can also be seen.
    The reason for heavy bleeding during the third trimester can be placenta previa, vasa previa or placental abruption. These are serious medical problems and can be fatal for both mother and child, needing immediate care.
  3. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
    Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a type of infection which is often spread by sexual contact. It occurs when the bacteria spread into the vagina and other reproductive organs. It can become one of the major causes of leukorrhea and also cause a heavy foul-smelling discharge which leads to swelling and irritation in the vaginal region. 
    Contact your doctor if you feel any kind of irritation. It can be easily treated once diagnosed early.
  4. Human papillomavirus (HPV) or Cervical Cancer
    This is a very severe condition that spreads by sexual contact, often leading to cervical cancer. The most tricky part about this disease is that there are no major symptoms of it. One may notice bloody-brown discharge with an unpleasant odour, but in most of the cases, it is mistaken with Spotting. This situation is seen very rarely during pregnancy. Cervical cancer can be diagnosed with yearly Pap smear and HPV testing.

Vaginal hygiene during pregnancy

Increase in leukorrhea is very common during pregnancy. If it causes trouble and is irritating, you may follow these tips. They would not only maintain vaginal health but also help you to manage increased vaginal fluid while you are pregnant:

  1. Keep your outer genital area clean by using water and mild soap to wash.
  2. Don’t use any kind of vaginal deodorants, perfumed bubble baths or scented wipes during the time of pregnancy. Also, wash your genital area gently as scrubbing can cause excessive vaginal fluid expulsion. 
  3. Avoid douching, the rinsing of the vagina using fluids. Leukorrhea during pregnancy can cause irritation in the vaginal lining and would cause an imbalance of bacteria. Normal vaginal discharge is acidic and thus allows the good bacteria to thrive, keeping the harmful bacteria away. Douching would cause a disturbance in the natural balance can result in inflammation and infection.
  4. Try to wear loose-fitting cotton clothes and undergarments so that it allows air to pass and prevents itching and rashes.
  5. Always keep your genital area dry and try to avoid tampons as they can cause the introduction of germs in your vagina, leading to infections. 

These are some of the points to keep in mind regarding your personal hygiene. Follow these points and you can easily cope up with the excess vaginal discharge. Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle as being healthy during pregnancy can prevent a lot of complications.

There are many cases out there when a mother had some complications in her pregnancy but was still able to deliver a healthy child. So do not stress too much about the problems you might face. Be happy and live in a stress-free environment!

FAQs related leukorrhea:

Que. When should I visit a doctor?

Ans. If you feel that you have unusual discharges, consult with your doctor the possible solution. Here are some of the symptoms you need to watch out. 

  • Recurring fever
  • Excessive pain in the abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urge to urinate

If you see any of these symptoms to recur frequently or have any concerns regarding whether a discharge is normal, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Que. What to expect at a doctor’s appointment?

Ans. When you visit your doctor for problems related to leukorrhea, the doctor will perform a physical exam of the genital and pelvic region. Your doctor will also ask you several questions regarding the symptoms you are facing. They may also inquire about your menstrual cycle and sex life. In most of the cases, an infection is detected in the physical exam. But if your doctor can’t find the cause of leukorrhea, he/she may order some tests. Your doctor might take out a tissue sample from your cervix to check for cervical cancer. Your discharges may also be carefully examined under a microscope so as to figure out the best treatment method for you. Once your doctor is able to detect the cause, he will then proceed with the treatments.

Que. Can leukorrhea symptoms indicate pregnancy?

Ans. Yes, elevated leukorrhea is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. The cervical fluid increases at around 1 to 2 weeks after you conceive and continues to progress during the coming trimesters. The vaginal discharge during pregnancy is made up of cervical secretion, normal bacteria and old vaginal cells. This is the reason why it can become an accurate confirmation test for pregnancy.

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