All sorts of weird, wonderful, and sometimes surprising changes take place in your body during pregnancy. Your breasts swell, your veins enlarge, your feet lengthen, and your skin takes on that “pregnancy glow.” You might come across another unexpected pregnancy change if you happen to peer into your underwear.
Every woman has discharge, whether she’s pregnant or not. Discharge is made up of fluid and dead cells. It’s a natural way for the cells of your vagina and cervix to renew themselves. During the early months of your pregnancy, you might see much more than usual.
“A lot of women really notice it in the beginning part of their pregnancy,” says Susan Hernandez, CNM, MSN, chief nurse-midwife at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It’s what we always get asked about.”
The extra discharge is due to a boost in estrogen production and increased blood flow early in pregnancy, she says. When normal, it should be somewhat thick, clear to white in color, and odorless.
A very strong odor, itching, or burning could be signs of a bacterial or yeast infection, which are more common during pregnancy because of hormonal changes, Hernandez adds. A green or yellow color to the discharge is another sign of infection.
Some women go overboard on the hygiene in an attempt to rid themselves of the extra discharge, with the opposite result of what they had intended. “They wash profusely or use stronger soaps. Those things can cause an imbalance in the pH of the vagina and cause infections,” Hernandez says. She advises washing with a warm, wet washcloth only. Avoid douching or using any strong cleaning products that contain perfumes, dyes, or harsh chemicals.
Have your doctor evaluate any discharge symptoms -- especially a bad smell and color changes. In some women, a bacterial infection may increase the risk for premature rupture of the membranes and early delivery. Depending on your risk, your doctor may want to treat an infection with antibiotics.
Near the end of your pregnancy, you might start to see a steadier stream of mucus from your vagina. It can be clear to cloudy or whitish in color or have a slight pink color. Or, one large glob of mucus might pop out. This is your mucus plug, which blocked the opening to your cervix to prevent bacteria from entering during your pregnancy. “As the cervix gets ready [for labor], it loses the mucus plug that’s been protective up to this point,” Hernandez says.
At any point in pregnancy, if you’re concerned or just unsure about the state of your discharge, call your doctor’s office. “It’s one of those things women don’t talk about, but we encourage women to talk to their provider or midwife,” Hernandez adds.
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