Once you become pregnant, you will soon realize that the notion of “too much information” goes right out of your vocabulary. Whether it is with your doctor, your mom, or your girlfriends, you end up talking about the dirty little details of every aspect of your body, including bowel movements and bodily fluids. You're used to seeing discharge, because it's a normal part of being a woman, but it may begin looking a little different. Your body is changing in so many ways, but is your discharge different when you’re pregnant? Because when it comes to the stuff you find in your underwear on a regular basis, you may have concerns. If you're trying to conceive, you may be wondering if this is a sign that you're actually pregnant.
Romper reached out to Dr. Mary O’Toole, OB-GYN at Memorial Care Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California for answers. She explains that during pregnancy, many women may notice an increase in their discharge, and it can vary from woman to woman. "Not only will you see an increase," says O’Toole, "it will also change in consistency, and may be more white, non-odorous, and more fluid like." Your discharge may seem more liquid-y, she adds, and it will probably look and feel smoother than before.
The reason your discharge changes during pregnancy has everything to do with your hormones. Dr. G. Thomas Ruiz, OB-GYN with Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells Romper that the vaginal discharge of pregnancy reflects a woman’s hormonal status, and the high progesterone levels throughout pregnancy can typically make secretions whiter and heavier. The American Pregnancy Association explained that this discharge is called leukorrhea, and when it’s milky, white, and mild smelling, it is a completely natural part of pregnancy.
However, there are some types of discharge that aren’t normal, especially when you are pregnant. Dr. Ruiz says that the typical discharge of pregnancy may be heavy, but it shouldn’t have an odor or be itchy. He says that if you do develop a smelly discharge or experience vaginal itching, you should let your doctor know. “A malodorous discharge can be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, which has been associated with preterm labor," explains Ruiz. But if this happens, don’t freak out. He notes that your doctor should be able to treat any abnormal discharge during pregnancy.
If your discharge is odorous, it could be related to something you ate, too, says O’Toole, but if the smell is strong, it could indicate some type of infection. “Pregnant women may get bacterial infections,” she says, “so anything that may have a strong or fishy odor, or a green or yellow color should be evaluated.” If you see any blood in your discharge, O’Toole suggests that it could signal an infection or change in your cervix, too, so you should definitely let your doctor know.
Even though spotting and infections like candidiasis (yeast infection) can be common in pregnancy, the APA warned that it is never a good idea to treat it yourself. The organization recommended keeping your doctor informed about any and all changes in your discharge, just to be on the safe side. And if you spot or bleed enough to fill a pad, or if the bleeding lasts longer than one day and is accompanied by pain or cramps, the APA suggested you contact your doctor immediately.
With all the weird stuff that happens to your body during pregnancy, you’ll realize that a little extra discharge isn’t too much of a nuisance. The APA suggested that using a pantyliner should be just fine, but don’t use a tampon or douche. Luckily, your pregnancy will only last nine months, and before you know it, your body and your hormones will go back to normal. (And hopefully you can go back to an existence where TMI is actually a thing.)
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