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Pregnancy comes with some not-so-glamorous side effects, such as an increase in vaginal discharge. However, if your discharge is an off color or has an offensive smell, you should check in with your doctor. Watch this video to learn more about pregnancy-related secretions, from discharge to amniotic fluid to the mucus plug.
Amanda Williams Calhoun, M.D., MPH, is the physician medical director of maternity services for Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California. In addition to being the voice of Kaiser Permanente Northern California OB/GYN on Twitter and coauthor of My Pregnancy Pocket Guide, she mentors underrepresented minority women in medicine and is active in Physicians Medical Forum and Sinkler Miller Medical Association.
Nearly all pregnant women have more vaginal discharge during pregnancy than when they're not pregnant. That's because the increased levels of estrogen during pregnancy cause more mucus secretion from vaginal tissues.
Normal secretions during a healthy pregnancy are typically thin and white and do not smell foul or fishy. Sometimes however, the discharge is the result of an infection or other problem.
So, for example, if you see thick white chunky discharge, that could be a yeast infection. Fishy-smelling, gray, and thin discharge can be bacterial vaginosis. Green, thin discharge, often itchy, can be Trichomonas, which is a sexually transmitted infection. Yellow, mucousy discharge, which is actually coming from the cervix instead of the vagina, can be a sign of cervicitis. If you think you have any of these, or if the discharge is associated with fever or pelvic pain or abnormal bleeding, see your doctor.
As you get closer to delivery, there are other types of discharge you may experience. The mucus plug that has been protecting your cervix from outside infection will be expelled. When it comes out, it looks like mucus from blowing your nose that may simply seem like increased discharge.
Of course, the discharge you may be the most concerned about is amniotic fluid or your water breaking. This tends to be more voluminous than any other kind of discharge. If you think your water has broken, contact your provider immediately. You may really be going into labor.
An increase in vaginal discharge, though, is completely normal. Almost every prenatal patient I see wonders about it. If you're curious to know more, don't hesitate to ask your doctor or midwife.
Video production by Paige Bierma.