Vaginal discharge is a normal occurrence in pregnant women. During the third trimester, a pregnant woman’s vaginal discharge is much more noticeable. Thus, being aware of the types of discharge before labor will help determine if there is a need to call a doctor.
What is vaginal discharge?
Vaginal discharge is the fluid that the cervix gland makes to keep the vagina clean, moist, and safe from infection. Normal vaginal discharge contains water, bacteria, mucus, and vaginal skin cells. It is usually clear or milky in color, with or without a subtle (but not unpleasant) smell.
Most women have vaginal discharge, but it is more apparent during pregnancy, after sexual intercourse, when taking birth control pills, and before one’s period. Take note that a sudden change in smell and appearance could be a cause for concern.
Vaginal discharge during pregnancy
When a woman is pregnant, her hormones will adapt to the changes in her body so that she can have a safe and healthy pregnancy. The increase in certain hormones like estrogen triggers the body to stimulate the production of vaginal discharge.
Vaginal discharge during pregnancy ensures that the vagina remains clean and moist and that the womb is safe from intrauterine infection.
Is vaginal discharge during the third trimester normal?
Yes, vaginal discharge is completely normal during the third trimester. The body makes more vaginal fluid as the pregnancy approaches labor and delivery. Towards the last few weeks of the pregnancy, the discharge also changes in consistency as the mucus plug moves down the vagina.
What are the types of discharge before labor?
Here are some types of vaginal discharge women might notice during the third trimester or before delivery:
Clear or milky white discharge
A clear or milky discharge with a subtle smell indicates leukorrhea, which is considered healthy vaginal discharge during the third trimester. An increase in leukorrhea is normal, especially as the pregnancy progresses. However, a sudden change in quantity, appearance, or consistency of vaginal discharge might be an sign of an infection.
White, lumpy (like cottage cheese), and odorless discharge
This type of discharge suggests a yeast infection. Pregnant women are more susceptible to yeast infections as hormonal changes can alter the pH balance of their vagina.
Yellow or green discharge
Yellow or green discharge is often a sign of sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and gonorrhea. STD during pregnancy and before labor must be addressed immediately as the infection poses a risk to both the mother and the baby. If the condition is not treated right away, it can lead to complications during and after birth.
Gray, watery discharge that comes with a foul, fishy smelly is typically a symptom of bacterial vaginosis. If a pregnant woman acquires bacterial vaginosis a few months or weeks before labor, her risk of preterm labor and low birth weight increases.
Pregnant women have more sensitive reproductive organs. That is why sexual intercourse or a pelvic exam while pregnant may cause irritation, resulting in brown discharge or light spotting.
Light spotting is usually not alarming, but it might also be a sign of labor if the mucus plug releases itself from the cervix. Thus, it is best to consult the doctor right away to prevent any surprises.
Whitish-pink or pink discharge
A whitish-pink or pink discharge (bloody show) in the later weeks of the third trimester is a common sign that a pregnant woman is about to go into labor. However, a pink discharge in the early stages of pregnancy can be worrying, as it it can be a sign of an upcoming miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
Red or bloody vaginal discharge during the third trimester that is heavy and comes with clots, abdominal pain, or cramping suggests a serious pregnancy problem, such as preterm birth.
According to a 2018 study by the World Health Organization, the Philippines was one of the ten countries with the highest number of preterm births (348,900 in one year). Preterm labor requires immediate medical attention to prevent complications.
How can I manage vaginal discharge during the third trimester?
If you’re finding it difficult to deal with vaginal discharge during the later stages of your pregnancy, here’s what you can do:
- Use panty liners instead of tampons to absorb excess vaginal secretion
- Avoid douching
- Use gentle and unscented feminine products
- Dry the vagina thoroughly after bathing and going to the toilet
- Wear breathable underwear
- Avoid wearing tight pants and underwear
- Consume food rich in probiotics to avoid yeast infection
- Seek out immediate medical attention when your condition becomes unbearable
When to see your doctor?
Consult your doctor if you’re experiencing the following:
- Heavy bleeding with or without abdominal pain or cramping
- Vaginal discharge with a foul or unpleasant odor
- Sudden changes in quantity, consistency, and color of vaginal discharge
- The vaginal discharge comes with itching and burning pain in the vulva
Vaginal discharge during the third trimester plays an important role in protecting the mother from vaginal or intrauterine infections. However, there are certain types of vaginal discharge before labor that indicate possible pregnancy complications.
Therefore, pregnant women must let their attending physicians know if there are sudden changes in their discharge and if it comes with severe abdominal pain and/or cramping.
Learn more about Third Trimester, here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.