There's nothing quite like pregnancy for getting acquainted with the intricacies of the human body. You'll discover muscle groups you didn't know you had and aches in places you didn't know existed. You may also find that some gross things start happening to your vagina during pregnancy.
The bad news is, a lot of these things come with the territory, and there's not a lot you can do to alleviate them. But the good news is, once you learn a little about why they're happening, they might seem a bit less gross and a bit more amazing. As in: sure, it can be pretty disgusting the first time you pee a little while sneezing. But once you understand that it's happening because all your muscles and ligaments are loosening and relaxing in preparation for labor, it becomes one more signal that your body is doing exactly what it's supposed to do. After all, your vagina and the rest of your reproductive organs are readying themselves to push out a human being, so it's not unreasonable that they're doing some prep work ahead of time.
So, as they say, expect the unexpected... at least to an extent. As with everything else during pregnancy, make sure to contact your medical provider if you're at all concerned, or if your instincts are telling you that something is off.
1. A Change In Color
You may be aware of the various ways your skin can change color during pregnancy, like the linea nigra (the dark line that extends vertically over your belly), chloasma (patches of brown pigmentation on your face and neck), stretch marks, or acne.
But that's not all: Lots of women find that their vaginas turn a shade of blue or purple. Known as Chadwick’s sign or Jacquemier's sign, this is a common symptom, and it's due to increased blood flow to the area. And it can happen as early as six weeks into pregnancy, according to Parents.
Your body's blood volume is about 50 percent more than it was pre-pregnancy, and all those extra cells are going to your vagina, too. So be prepared for some completely natural size enhancement. It may not actually be noticeable to anyone else looking at it, but some women experience a definite sense of swelling, as Texas Children's Blog explains. It can start as early as one month into pregnancy, and may continue to feel more uncomfortable as time goes on. But there is a big silver lining to this cloud, according to Parents: More blood means more sensation, which means more orgasms.
You might start feeling more pressure in your vagina as your pregnancy progresses. The obvious reason is that your uterus — and the baby — are getting bigger, so they're putting more weight on your nether regions. But there are other causes as well, like the baby positioning itself head-down, which it often does at the beginning of the third trimester, according to Texas Children's Blog. And the heavy feeling might increase even more if the baby "drops" lower into your pelvis as your due date approaches. On the plus side, the baby being lower down means it's not constricting your lung capacity quite so much anymore, so you might find it suddenly easier to breathe!
4. Way More Discharge
Increased vaginal discharge, called leukorrhea, is a completely normal part of pregnancy. It's thin, white, milky, and mild-smelling, according to the American Pregnancy Association, and is nothing to be worried about. In fact, there is a very good reason why it happens: As the U.K.'s National Health Service explained, leukorrhea helps to prevent infections from traveling up the vagina and into the uterus.
The only reason to contact your care provider is if your discharge starts to change in color or smell, or if it's itchy — those could be signs of a vaginal infection. And it's important to get that diagnosed rather than try to treat it yourself, says the American Pregnancy Association.
Just when you thought you were done with periods for nine months, it turns out that about 20 percent of pregnant women experience some form of bleeding in the first trimester, explained the American Pregnancy Association. One cause is implantation bleeding, which is when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. But this usually happens before you even know you're pregnant, and you're more likely to assume that it's just your period starting. Sometimes pregnant women experience spotting after intercourse, or as a result of an infection or tear in the vaginal wall, according to Parents.
But even though the vast majority of spotting is harmless, you never know when it could be a symptom of something serious like miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or placenta previa, explained Parents. So if you experience any spotting during pregnancy, you should always contact your medical provider.
6. Varicose Veins
You knew they might crop up on your legs, but it turns out you might also experience varicose veins in your vagina or on your vulva. This is because the uterine artery is pumping about a pint of blood a minute, according to Glamour. As your arteries stretch to accommodate all this new blood flow, so do your veins.
The good news, notes Texas Children's Blog, is that this isn't super common: Vulvar varicose veins affect only about four percent of women. And the other good news is that, if you are among the afflicted, they will probably go away within six weeks of delivery.
Thanks to your pregnancy-enhanced olfactory glands, you're probably noticing all sorts of new and exciting scents. And now you get to train your super-powered nasal passages on your vagina, which may now smell sweet, doughy, or gluey. This is a normal side effect of changes in your vagina's pH balance, as Miriam Greene, M.D., clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University Langone Medical Center, explained to Fit Pregnancy. The only causes for concern are if you're seeing any signs of a yeast infection (redness, itching, burning, or unusual discharge) or bacterial vaginosis (a fishy, ammonia-type smell). If so, you'll want to get in touch with your care provider.
Vaginal itching is an uncomfortable but common effect of pregnancy, as explained on The Bump. Your pregnancy-related vaginal discharge might be causing your skin to become irritated, or you might be having a reaction to a soap, lotion, or detergent. Of course, if the itching persists, or if you see any abnormalities on the skin of your vulva, you'll want to get yourself to your doctor.
Thanks to your growing belly, pregnancy workouts, different positions for sex, and stretching pelvic floor muscles, you may find that your vagina expels a bit of air in the same way as another part of your undercarriage. Embarrassing? Yes. Concerning? No, according to Parents. It's just an air bubble that's made its way into your vagina and then back out. It will not affect your baby in any way. (Except if it makes you laugh, in which case your baby might notice your belly shaking.)
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