When you’ve been pregnant for a million years, you’re looking for anything that could be a sign you’re going into labor. Losing your mucus plug, feeling nauseous — the possibilities are endless (especially since there are so many fun pregnancy symptoms anyway). Is smelly discharge a sign of labor? I mean, you’ve probably been pretty in-tune with the goings on of your vagina during your pregnancy, and it’s understandable to notice if there’s anything different.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately, smelly discharge is not a sign of labor, according to Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman, OB-GYN, author of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Pregnancy (But Were Too Afraid or Embarrassed To Ask) and one half of the Twin Doctors for TwinDoctorsTV. However, the closer you are to your due date, you’ll probably notice an increase in the amount of discharge, since discharge throughout your pregnancy is very normal, he tells Romper. Abdur-Rahman adds, however, “An extremely odorous vaginal discharge can actually be a sign that the bag of water has broken and there is actually an infection in the uterus, a condition known as chorioamnionitis.
“Normal pregnancy discharge is either white or pale yellow — it is sometimes mixed with mucus, and it either has no odor or it has a very mild, non-offensive odor,” Abdur-Rahman explains. “Discharge that is accompanied by a strong or smelly odor is not normal at any point and it is usually a sign of infection. These infections can either be vaginal or cervical in location, and they may or may not be sexually transmitted. Odor is most commonly associated with chlamydia (an STI) or bacterial vaginosis (a bacterial imbalance)."
Throughout your pregnancy, as your cervix thins, your vaginal discharge could have some spotting or bleeding “that starts off with a darker, brown color, becoming lighter (more red) as labor progresses,” Abdur-Rahman says. “Many women will actually notice passage of the mucus plug during early labor, characterized by a thick, green mucus tinged with pink blood. As labor progresses, vaginal discharge will become more bloody until the bag of water breaks, at which point it usually becomes copious and clear.”
So when should you be worried about your discharge while pregnant? Abdur-Rahman says if there is heavy vaginal bleeding or if there’s an extremely strong and unpleasant smell.
Some actual signs of going into labor, according to Abdur-Rahman, include increased pelvic pressure, pelvic cramping followed by contractions of increasing strength, frequency, and intensity, increased vaginal discharge, and a decrease in fetal movement. But it's important to note that “while a decrease in fetal movement can be a sign of impending labor, we always recommend that any decrease in fetal movement be reported to your doctor or midwife,” he says.
So while smelly discharge isn’t necessarily a sign of labor, really strong-smelling discharge with a very unpleasant smell could be a sign of infection. When in doubt, get it checked out. And this is true for your entire pregnancy. As long as your discharge is white, pale yellow, or you’re having some spotting near the end of your pregnancy, you should be OK.