Experiencing vaginal discharge every now and then is normal, but if you happen to be pregnant, you will notice a lot more discharge than usually. As a matter of fact, milky white discharge is one of the most common signs of pregnancy, and one of the first you should expect to see. There are certain circumstances in which creamy white vaginal discharge may be abnormal, indicating the presence of an infection that needs to be addressed immediately to prevent complications.
Is white discharge normal during early pregnancy? In this article, we are talking about normal versus abnormal vaginal mucus, and how to say whether you are healthy or not.
What Is Normal Vaginal Discharge?
Vaginal discharge is the term used for the fluids secreted by the glands inside the vagina and cervix, which flush out dead cells and bacteria, thus keeping the vagina clean and maintaining a low pH of 4.0-4.5. The amount of discharge varies from woman to woman – while some women report a consistent feeling of wetness of the vulva, others experience discharge more infrequently. The hue and consistency usually depend on the time in your menstrual cycle – white and dry before and after period, white and creamy before ovulation, clear and stretchy at ovulation, clear and watery the day before the egg is released or the day it’s released. Normal vaginal discharge bears no odor, although it may sometimes smell quite musky.
White Discharge Early Pregnancy: Is It Normal?
Thick white discharge is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy that you can expect to experience in addition to tender breasts and increased urination. During pregnancy, your body goes through hormonal changes that can impact your normal vaginal discharge, causing the vagina to produce a lot more than usually. This is due specifically to an increase in estrogen, a hormone that’s produced mostly by your ovaries. Thick creamy white discharge occurs as early as the second week of pregnancy, but you may experience it even sooner.
Pregnancy discharge is usually similar to the discharge that you experience before period. It is white thick and pasty and does not bear a specific odor. In very rare cases, the discharge may smell slightly musky, but the odor is barely noticeable. Some women may report discharge that is clear white, but color and consistency vary from woman to woman.
Remember that you will likely experience a sudden increase in the amount of white sticky discharge, so don’t panic if your underpants are consistently soaked. Make sure to change your lingerie as frequently as needed to keep yourself clean and fresh, and wash your genital area with water only. You may occasionally use mild, unscented soap, but avoid getting any inside of your vagina. Rub very gently and rinse very well, then use a soft towel to dry off.
Vaginal Discharge During Late Pregnancy: Still Normal?
White vaginal discharge does not occur only during the early stage of pregnancy, but also during late pregnancy. You will experience a lot of creamy white vaginal mucus in third trimester, and as birth approaches, the discharge will become stretchy and watery, making your vulva feel very wet and sticky. This type of discharge is oftentimes confused for urine due to being very runny and white, specifically because it feels as if you have passed urine. As long as there is no unpleasant odor or other symptoms such as itching, swelling of the labia or bleeding, the discharge is absolutely normal and should not cause any concerns.
Keep in mind that during the last week or so of pregnancy, your discharge will likely have streaks of thick mucus and even blood. This is due to the so-called mucus plug, a “ball” of mucus that has been present in your cervix during pregnancy, which now comes away, thus causing large amounts of discharge. This is called a “show,” and it’s a sign that your body is preparing for birth. You will probably have a few “shows” before you go into labor. If you experience a popping sensation followed by a massive amount of water gushing from your genitals, it means that your water broke and you should go to the hospital immediately.
White Discharge with Blood: A Pregnancy Symptom?
Many pregnant women experience some sort of bleeding during the first trimester of pregnancy. It is called “spotting” and looks very much like your period, but is not as heavy. The hue of the blood ranges from red to brown, but may be much lighter if accompanied by clear white discharge. Spotting and light bleeding during pregnancy are usually harmless, and occur about the same time that your period would have been due. It lasts for a day of two, and may be noticeable after you have been to the toilet and wiped.
The most probable cause of spotting during pregnancy are the hormones that control your menstrual cycle triggering bleeding. As such, pregnant women may experience light bleeding more than once until birth. Another possible cause is the fertilized egg embedding to the lining of your uterus, thus causing light bleeding.
Even if harmless, you should call your doctor and have the cause of the bleeding investigated. There is a good chance that the spotting is due to miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, which should be addressed immediately. If it happens one week or so before delivery date, seek medical attention as this may be a sign of preterm birth.
Other Causes of White Thick Discharge During Pregnancy
If you experience abnormal discharge early pregnancy, you may have an infection. This can be very threatening for your baby and should be treated as soon as possible to prevent complications such as ectopic pregnancy. There are a few types of infection that may be causing your vaginal mucus to be abnormal.
1. Yeast Infection
Due to the myriad of hormonal changes that your body goes through during pregnancy, good bacteria living in your vaginal flora may be unable to regulate the growth of Candida bodies, thus resulting in yeast infections. Common symptoms include white thick discharge with foul, unpleasant odor, as well as itching, swelling and redness of the labia and burning during urination. Except for hormonal changes, there are some other potential causes of yeast infections, such as poor eating and hygiene habits, scented soaps and deodorants, tampons (to soak excessive discharge), and even stress.
Have a few vaginal swabs taken for analysis, and make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions as to how to take your treatment and prevent yeast infections throughout pregnancy.
2. Bacterial Vaginosis
Milder than yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis (or BV) is a type of infection that occurs when the balance of good and bad bacteria in your vaginal flora is upset. This usually happens when the vagina’s pH is altered – by douching or incorrect wiping in most cases. Bacterial vaginosis can cause abnormal discharge that is either white or clear and has a relatively thick and creamy consistency. The discharge does not bear any smell, and unlike yeast infection, it is not accompanied by itching, swelling or redness. You may experience discomfort to some degree since the discharge will be a lot more than usual, as well as mild pain during urination.
Although bacterial vaginosis goes away on its own, you should consult your doctor and see whether there is any reason of concern. If left untreated, BV can cause serious complications that may concern both your baby’s and your own health.
3. Sexually Transmitted Diseases
In addition to yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis, there are some sexually transmitted diseases that may also cause your discharge to be abnormal. These include Chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis, but they usually cause yellow or green discharge instead of white, and they bear a much stronger smell. Consistency is typically creamy, pasty or chunky, although it may sometimes be egg white-like. Itching, swelling, redness, burning at urination and pelvic pain are also frequently associated with these STDs. It’s important to address these infections as soon as you identify them to ensure that neither you nor your baby is at risk.
Is White Milky Discharge a Sign of Pregnancy? Answering Common Questions
1. Is White Creamy Discharge a Sign of Pregnancy?
Nearly all pregnant women experience vaginal discharge (usually referred to as “white flow” or leucorrhea) as a result of the hormonal changes that occur in their body. An increase in estrogen equals more discharge, which can make your vulva feel wet, tacky and sticky, and soak through your underpants.
2. What Does Normal Pregnancy Discharge Look Like?
The hue and consistency of vaginal discharge varies from woman to woman. Normal discharge is clear or white, but may as well be pale or neon yellow. Consistency ranges from watery to stretchy to creamy. As long as there is no foul, unpleasant odor, itching, swelling, redness or burning, the discharge is normal.
3. How Much Discharge Is Too Much?
As with color and consistency, the amount of vaginal discharge that your vagina produces varies from woman to woman. While some experience feelings of wetness just once or twice a day, others need to consistently change their underpants to prevent wetting their clothes. Even if the increase in discharge is sudden, you should not panic. However, it’s always best to see your doctor about the discharge and have a few vaginal swabs taken to completely rule out the possibility of an infection.
4. Is Spotting or Light Bleeding Normal During Pregnancy?
Many women deal with spotting during pregnancy, which is typically harmless to both you and your baby. The bleeding is usually due to hormones that control your menstrual cycle triggering the bleeding, an occurrence that is usually referred to as “breakthrough bleeding.” Another cause is the fertilized egg embedding to the lining of your uterus, which may trigger light bleeding, although this happens more infrequently. You will notice the spotting after using the toilet and wiping.
However, bleeding during the first trimester of pregnancy may be due to more serious causes such as miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, so you should call your doctor and get the issue checked to ensure that your baby is healthy.
5. When Should I See a Doctor?
If your discharge is abnormal, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Abnormal discharge is usually white, yellow, gray or greenish, has a thick to pasty consistency, and bears a strong, sour smell. It is oftentimes accompanied by itching, swelling and redness of the labia, pelvic pain, burning during urination, and even small amounts of blood. If you experience any of these symptoms, you may have an infection such as yeast infection, BV, Chlamydia, trichomoniasis or gonorrhea. You need to address them immediately, or your pregnancy may be at risk.
6. Late Period But Negative Pregnancy Test – Can I Still Be Pregnant?
The result of a pregnancy test is largely influenced by the time when the test is taken. You should wait at least 10 days before taking a pregnancy test, otherwise the result may be irrelevant. If your test turned out negative, you should wait a few days before repeating it. To be absolutely sure that you are not pregnant, you should consider going to your GP or sexual health clinic, as they can perform more accurate tests.
7. How Can I Address This Heavy Discharge?
If the discharge is caused by hormonal changes (essentially, by pregnancy), there is nothing you can do about it. You should do your best to keep your intimate area as clean and fresh as possible to make sure that you are not at risk of developing an infection. Use only lukewarm water to clean your genitals, and stay away from soap of any type at all costs.
During pregnancy, even mild, unscented soap can alter your vagina’s pH and cause a yeast infection, so using it can do more harm than good. Also, make sure not to use any feminine hygiene products, perfumes or deodorants, as they will be even more harmful.
Change your underwear as frequently as needed to prevent wet spots on your clothing and bad odors. Use specifically cotton underwear, as it circulates air and allows your skin to breathe. Use only sanitary pads to absorb excess discharge, and avoid tampons at all costs, because they change your vagina’s environment and upset the balance of good and bad bacteria. Always wipe from front to back using unscented toilet paper/tissues.