Vaginal Discharge: Early Pregnancy Symptoms & Signs

Can white vaginal discharge be an early pregnancy symptom?

Having thick or milky white vaginal discharge usually around the time of a missed menstrual period is often among the first typical early pregnancy symptoms. The other typical early pregnancy signs and symptoms are nausea, tiredness, and missing a menstrual period. 

Known as leukorrhea, this thick, milky white discharge during early pregnancy exists due to increasing and varying estrogen levels. This occurs because an increase in estrogen increases blood flow to the pelvic area of the body, which subsequently leads to an increase in mucus discharge.

This vaginal discharge is similar to what you may notice when you ovulate, and the look of the discharge may be the same, but the volume is much larger. Throughout pregnancy, it's actually quite common and may even increase as the pregnancy progresses.

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Toward the end of the pregnancy, a large amount of white discharge may be passed with a bloody tinge. This is usually the mucus plug releasing from the cervix.

What vaginal secretions signal ovulation?

If you're not pregnant, white vaginal discharge can also indicate ovulation. Leading up to ovulation, cervical mucus becomes rubbery in texture and will stretch between two fingers. This is known as egg-white cervical mucus or EWCM. The thick, sticky nature of this fertile cervical mucus holds onto semen and helps sperm travel safely through the vagina to the egg.

When is vaginal discharge abnormal?

Unfortunately, there are times when infections do become a part of pregnancy, including vaginal yeast infections. The symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include green or yellow vaginal discharge during pregnancy, itching and foul smell. If you notice any of these changes in vaginal discharge during pregnancy, notify your doctor or midwife. Don't take matters into your own hands and try to treat the infection with over the counter products unless specifically directed to do so by your Ob-Gyn.

Does vaginal discharge need to be treated?

First, you need to make sure the discharge you observe is normal and your doctor is your best source to help you with this. Some discharge may have a slightly fishy odor which is concerning for women. If the discharge is fishy or foul-smelling, it's best to get an examination.

Keeping the labia clean can help curb the scent associated with vaginal discharge, and at no point should a pregnant woman use a douche to cleanse the vagina. In addition, wipes and vaginal washes often contain perfumes, which can irritate sensitive pregnancy skin. These treatments can also change the pH of the vagina and vaginal area, which can lead to irritation and breakouts. No tampons should be used to catch vaginal discharge during pregnancy or after birth for at least the first menstrual cycle. However, pads and panty liners are safe for use during pregnancy. 

How does vaginal discharge change in the third trimester?

During the third trimester, women often notice their vaginal discharge a bit more. This is not necessarily because of a change, but due to the impending shedding of the mucus plug. This plug is a stopper of sorts for the cervix and when it is released, that may signal the last phase of pregnancy before birth.

Many women never notice the shedding of the mucus plug, but may see spotting or a blood-tinted vaginal discharge during pregnancy after the plug has shed. These are all important changes to report to your doctor.

Can I use tampons during pregnancy?

If you’re spotting a lot during your pregnancy or your vaginal discharge seems especially abundant, you might be tempted to reach for the box of tampons. When you want to go out with friends or even just sit at home worry-free, tampons do seem like a perfect solution for stopping any secretions before they reach your underwear or worse yet, soak through your pants. However, studies show that tampons are not safe during your pregnancy and you should avoid using them.

Doctors recommend using a sanitary pad instead if your secretions are abundant. Tampons, while they seem clean in their sterile packaging, can pick up a surprising amount of germs on the way from the applicator to their final destination. In any other situation, our bodies can successfully protect us from any problems associated with these bacteria. However, during pregnancy, the bacteria can creep into your baby’s system too easily and it could cause serious complications for you and your growing bundle of joy. Toxic shock syndrome is a complication from these bacteria.

Additionally, a tampon might disrupt the bacterial balance in your vagina and cause irritation. While that irritation is not too bothersome right now, you won’t want to be dealing with it while you’re pushing out your seemingly enormous newborn.

Why is safe sex important during pregnancy?

It is exceptionally important to practice safe sex during pregnancy. Vaginal discharge during pregnancy can be a symptom of an STD. While not all STDs are passed on to a baby, some quite severe diseases can be passed on to the baby, including HIV.

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy is common and all women will have to deal with the effects of it at some point during the pregnancy. After birth, the 4 to 6 weeks of menstruation will clean out the uterus and all vaginal discharge should return to normal.

Read More:
Why Am I Not Ovulating?
When Am I Most Fertile?
Pregnancy Symptoms: Early Signs You May Be Pregnant