When is pregnancy discharge normal? And when should you be concerned?
Most people experience clear or white discharge that changes throughout their menstrual cycle. During pregnancy though, you can expect even more changes. When pregnancy discharge starts, monitoring it is a good idea. It can help you understand what’s normal, when something may be off, and when labor is approaching.
In this guide, you’ll learn when pregnancy discharge is normal and when it’s not.
First Trimester Discharge: How Early Does Pregnancy Discharge Start?
Early pregnancy discharge happens thanks to elevated estrogen levels and increased blood flow. This causes your mucous membranes to increase production, causing more discharge, also called leukorrhea. This extra mucus has several purposes. It helps maintain normal bacteria, rid the vagina of dead cells, and prevent infection.
Many notice discharge changes not long after they receive a positive pregnancy test. This often prompts questions to doctors and midwives. Since you may not be used to this amount of discharge, you might be wondering if anything is wrong.
You may not notice when it first happens, but increased discharge is one of the first signs of pregnancy. How early does pregnancy discharge start? It can happen as soon as 1 to 2 weeks after conception.
Normal early pregnancy discharge is thick and clear or white. It should have little or no odor. If you notice an odor, it may be different from that of your normal, non-pregnant discharge and that’s usually okay. However, if the discharge has a foul odor, talk to your doctor.
Early Pregnancy Discharge is NOT normal if it:
- Has a strong odor
- Is yellow or green
- Is accompanied by itching or burning
- Is accompanied by miscarriage signs, like cramping, discharge of tissue, or blood
Pregnancy Brown Discharge at 6 Weeks
During pregnancy, some notice brown discharge at 6 weeks. The brown color is blood that’s taken time to discharge. Brown discharge at 6 weeks is usually normal, but it may not be.
Research shows that bleeding during the first trimester is probably more common than you think. A little spotting may be normal early on. It may also be caused by friction during sex. If a little bleeding happens after sex, reduce trauma to the vagina by using more lubrication.
Brown discharge at 6 weeks can also be a sign that something is wrong. Early miscarriage can cause light brown spotting or brown blood mixed with discharge. Monitor for other miscarriage signs.
Brown discharge can also be a sign of ectopic pregnancy; when the egg attaches outside of the uterus. It’s also a sign of molar pregnancy; when the egg develops as a growth instead of a healthy embryo.
Since it can be hard to tell between normal and abnormal brown discharge, you should talk to your doctor.
Is Pregnancy Discharge Normal in Second & Third Trimesters?
You know that pregnant discharge is normal in the first trimester after conception. But what about the second and third trimesters?
Although the consistency of your discharge may change in the second trimester, you’ll likely experience it throughout your pregnancy.
Pregnancy discharge increases as you get closer to labor. Along with regular discharge, nearing the end, you may notice two other types of discharge (below).
Bloody Show Pregnant Discharge
In the third trimester, your discharge may become thicker with streaks of blood—either bright red, pink, or dark brown. This is called “bloody show” and is a sign that your body is preparing for labor. Although it can be alarming to see blood, it’s also normal and expected in late pregnancy. To get ready for the big day, your uterus softens, thins, and dilates. This can cause the blood vessels in the cervix to bleed. The blood mixes with regular mucus, forming a streaky discharge.
If you’re experiencing bloody show pregnant discharge, you may be wondering how long you have until labor. However, since every pregnancy is unique, it’s impossible to tell. Some women go into labor a few hours after they discharge bloody show, while others wait days. When you notice bloody show, you should start monitoring yourself for signs of labor, like lower back pain, cramping, and contractions.
Mucus Plug Pregnant Discharge
Clear pregnancy discharge is also normal nearing the end of the third trimester. Around this time, you might discharge your “mucus plug.” Mucus plugs form in early pregnancy thanks to elevated progesterone levels. The purpose of this plug is to prevent bacteria from entering your uterus, protecting your growing baby. When the cervix dilates, the plug can be discharged, which you’ll notice as thick, glue-like mucus. It may also come out as a blob of mucus. It typically has a clear or pink tinge appearance.
5 Pregnancy Discharge Colors
Here are the most common pregnancy discharge colors and what they mean.
Pregnancy Discharge Clear
Most commonly, pregnancy discharge is clear. Although it may be thicker than your usual, non-pregnant discharge, it will have a similar appearance. You may notice extra discharge soon after conception, lasting your entire pregnancy.
Pregnancy Discharge White, Creamy
Pregnancy discharge can be white and creamy with a milky appearance. This is usually normal. If your white discharge is clumpy, has a bad odor or is accompanied by itching, it may be caused by a yeast infection. If your pregnancy discharge is more of a grey color with a fishy odor, it could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis (BV). If you suspect an infection, get a diagnosis from your doctor.
Yellow discharge during pregnancy isn’t normal and could be a sign of infection. If that’s the case, you should contact your doctor to find the cause. Keep in mind that yellow on a pantyliner isn’t always discharge and may be leaked urine—which is common during pregnancy.
Green discharge during pregnancy is another sign of infection, especially when accompanied by a foul odor. Causes could include infections like chlamydia or trichomoniasis, which require treatment from a doctor ASAP.
Red, Bloody Discharge
Some bloody discharge is normal during late pregnancy when your uterus prepares for labor. Your discharge may also be light pink.
However, if you’re not nearing labor, bloody discharge is a cause for concern. It’s important to seek medical care to learn the cause and get possible treatment. Bloody pregnancy discharge that’s not normal can be caused by:
- Cervix inflammation (light bleeding)
- Cervical polyps (light bleeding)
- Placenta previa (heavy bleeding)
- Placental abruption (heavy bleeding)
Pregnant Discharge Smell
How does normal pregnant discharge smell? Pregnancy discharge should have little to no odor. Although the odor may smell different than normal, it shouldn’t smell unpleasant.
Pregnancy discharge that has a strong or foul-smelling odor can be a sign of an infection that needs medical attention and treatment. Causes of pregnant discharge that smell include:
- Yeast infection
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Any discharge with an unusual smell should be reported to your doctor. Even if you think it’s just a yeast infection, you should have your doctor confirm it to be sure.
Hygiene Tips for Those Pregnant With Discharge
When some people notice more discharge during pregnancy, they attempt to minimize it by vigorously washing the area, using wipes, different soaps, etc. However, this is likely to affect your vagina’s pH levels, which may cause an infection, like a yeast infection.
Instead of attempting to rid yourself of the extra discharge, try to accept that it’s a normal part of pregnancy. Although discharge can be annoying, fragranced soaps and douches won’t help and should be avoided. Wipes can also affect your pH level and should be avoided or minimized.
Keep in mind that many feminine hygiene products are marketed to make you believe something is wrong with your vagina. Having a lot of discharge is usually normal, especially during pregnancy.
If you’d like, you can use panty liners to catch the discharge and change them as needed. Don’t use tampons. Stick to regular vaginal hygiene, which is simple: Wash the outside area with warm water and a washcloth.
Summary: Pregnant with Discharge
If you’re pregnant with discharge, welcome to the club that includes everyone expecting! Pregnancy discharge that’s white, creamy or clear is expected. In the later stages of pregnancy, mucus might be combined with blood as your uterus thins and prepares for labor. Although it can be bothersome, extra discharge during pregnancy is normal and serves the purpose of protecting your pregnancy.
With that being said, not all excretions are normal. If you’re pregnant with discharge that’s yellow, green, grey, or smells unusual, talk to your doctor. Bloody discharge, while sometimes normal, should also be reported to your doctor in case.
P.S. Do You Have a Fetal Doppler?
Did you know you can listen to your baby’s heartbeat while she’s still inside the womb? Fetal dopplers are handheld devices that pick up the sound of your baby’s heartbeat and amplify it through speakers. Many parents say it provides bonding and an extra level of reassurance.