Discharge During Pregnancy: What’s Typical and What’s Not

By Marisa Iallonardo
Reviewed by Alyssa Quimby, M.D.
July 31, 2023

You’ll almost definitely experience vaginal discharge while pregnant, but it can be hard to tell what’s typical and what’s not—especially if this is your first pregnancy. Here, we explain why it happens and what to watch for.

Typical Vaginal Discharge, Explained

“Vaginal discharge is common for all women of reproductive age,” explains Alissa Conklin, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis. “It changes throughout the menstrual cycle when one is not [pregnant or] taking a hormonal contraceptive.”

Officially known as leukorrhea or “physiological discharge,” vaginal discharge is usually thin, clear, or milky white and will change in color or consistency depending on where you are in your cycle, what hormonal birth control you’re using, and other factors. It tends to increase during pregnancy, explains Suzanne Pugh, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at Axia Women’s Health Main Line OB/GYN in Strafford and Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

“There is so much extra blood supply to the uterus and cervix during pregnancy that sometimes the cervical mucus glands can overproduce discharge,” Pugh says. Pregnancy causes changes to the vagina and cervix, as well as an uptick in pregnancy hormones, including progesterone, all of which may also help explain the increase. Discharge is important because it can help keep infections at bay, Conklin explains.

Other Types of Discharge During Pregnancy and After

You can expect to have typical leukorrhea throughout pregnancy. There are some other types of discharge that you could experience, as well. Here’s what to look out for.

Different Colors, Textures, or Smells

Talk to your provider if, at any point, you notice anything different about your discharge, such as a different color, like green or yellow; a bad odor; or if it’s accompanied by discomfort or irritation or itching, which could be “signs of vulvovaginal candidiasis or bacterial vaginosis, two common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge,” Pugh says.

Excessive watery discharge could be a sign of leaking amniotic fluid, so call your doctor right away. Also, call if you experience vaginal bleeding.

Sign of Labor

In the third trimester, you might notice a larger amount of discharge called the mucus plug, which could signal you are progressing toward labor, Pugh says.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists describes the mucus plug as a “thick clump of mucus.” During pregnancy, it develops at the cervix to help protect the uterus from infection, and then it can come out as the cervix changes to get ready for childbirth.

“If this increase in mucus discharge, which can often be blood-tinged, is accompanied by contractions or cramping, you should let your provider know,” Pugh says.

Postpartum Discharge

Once you deliver your baby, you’ll experience another type of discharge known as lochia. This postpartum discharge looks similar to a very heavy period, and it includes blood, small clots, and tissue that lines the uterus. It’ll start off red, and then over the course of about six weeks, it typically gradually gets lighter in both amount and color. At times, it may look brown or have mucus.

If postpartum discharge becomes greenish or smells very bad, or if you have fever or chills, seek medical care.

What to Do About Discharge During Pregnancy

Remember: Increased vaginal discharge during pregnancy is usually okay—unless you’re noticing any concerning signs, like bleeding, significant odor, or itching, in which case you should call your doctor.

There’s no need to do anything about typical pregnancy discharge, Pugh says. But if the increased moisture makes you feel comfortable, you can wear a panty liner or absorbent underwear.

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