Vaginal discharge in pregnancy can be quite scary specially for first time pregnant women. The good news is that vaginal discharge is common in pregnancy. It is partly due to the large increase in hormones that are circulating. Normal white discharge in pregnancy is called leukorrhea. Leukorrhea is a thin, white vaginal discharge that becomes more prominent during pregnancy and subsides with delivery and lactation. It is not irritating and odorless but it causes many pregnant women to seek medical attention. Leukorrhea requires no medical treatment. However, keep in mind the content of this article is just meant for informational purpose only and it is not meant to diagnose or treat any disease. I always recommend to consult with your doctor at all times.
Another common type of discharge in pregnancy is that of a vulvovaginal candidal infection commonly known as a yeast infection. A small amount of yeast in the vagina is normal. It is only when the yeast multiply that it becomes an issue. Yeast infection is common in pregnancy. Increased amounts of circulating hormones put pregnant women at higher risk. The discharge is usually white, thick and usually referred to as cottage cheese-like or curd-like because of its similarity to curled milk. The symptoms can range from a mild discomfort to severe itching, irritation, swelling of the labia and pain on urination. Antifungal creams (inserted into the vagina at bedtime from 3-7 days) are usually very effective. Probiotics such as yogurt are helpful at keeping yeast levels down.
A common infection in pregnancy that causes a watery, thin, white to yellowish discharge with a foul fishy odor is bacterial vaginosis. Bacterial vaginosis is the most common type of infection in women. It is caused by an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in the vagina. Usually there is a balance between the good (lactobacilli) and the bad (gardnerella and mycoplasma). The balance can be disrupted by douching, having a new sex partner, taking antibiotics, using a harsh soap, using damp or polyester underwear and even by the foods we eat.
Bacterial vaginosis in pregnancy has been associated with preterm rupture of membranes (water breaking). For this reason when it is diagnosed, it should be treated promptly. Most women with untreated bacterial vaginosis deliver normally and up to half of all cases of bacterial vaginosis resolve spontaneously.
Other causes of discharge in pregnancy are a result of STDs. Trichomonas vaginalis, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause noticeable discharge. Trichomonas is known for producing a greenish watery discharge with a foul odor. The vaginal discharge of chlamydia and gonorrhea can vary and, at times, may even go unnoticed. Treatment should be prompt so that repeat cultures can be done near term to prevent transmission to the baby.
If you have a vaginal discharge that is uncomfortable or even just different than what you are used to, see your health care provider.