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Is Yellow Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy Normal?

Written by Elizabeth Buescher, Gynecologist

Many women report an increasing amount of yellow discharge during pregnancy. While this may be a normal occurrence unless accompanied by itching, swelling, or a fishy smell, yellow discharge while pregnant should be brought to the attention of a specialist as soon as possible for further investigations.

In many instances, vaginal discharge that is light yellow to yellow brown and has a sour smell as well as a thick, cheese-like consistency is a common sign of sexually transmitted disease, bacterial vaginosis, or even yeast infections. But despite the underlying cause, addressing the issue immediately is of utmost importance to ensuring that your baby’s health and safety are not at stake.

Can yellow discharge be a sign of pregnancy? What does yellow discharge mean during pregnancy? Read on to find out.

Yellow Discharge During Pregnancy: Normal or Not?

Vaginal discharge is an important part of the vagina’s self-cleansing mechanism, serving as a way to flush out dead cells and bacteria, and ensure that your vagina is perfectly clean and healthy. Increased amounts of vaginal mucus, usually referred to as leucorrhea, is one of the most common pregnancy symptoms, and it is caused specifically by the increased levels of estrogen in the body, as well as the additional blood flow to the vaginal area.

If you have started noticing larger amounts of normal discharge (which is whitish or clear, thin and watery) coming out, you shouldn’t be alarmed. However, if the discharge is also accompanied by a color ranging from white yellow to dark yellow or even yellow brown, a strong, fishy odor, and a thicker consistency, then you may want to call your doctor immediately and identify the cause behind the abnormal discharge.

As pregnancy progresses, so does the amount of discharge, which will eventually hit its peak toward the third trimester. However, if this is the first time that you are dealing with yellow odorless discharge, and you’re in the first trimester of pregnancy only, seek medical assistance as soon as possible, as immediate intervention might be needed.

But except for the increase in estrogen levels, there are some other causes of bright yellow vaginal discharge that pregnant women may be dealing with. Due to their seriousness, we recommend that you visit a doctor immediately to successfully attend the cause and ensure that both you and your baby are safe and healthy.

1. Estrogen Dominance, a Common Cause of Yellow Discharge While Pregnant

Estrogen is a hormone that’s naturally produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and fat cells. Estrogen promotes the development and maintenance of female characteristics of the body, but it can also be a frequent cause of distress for pregnant women. High levels of estrogen equal larger amounts of vaginal discharge – and since pregnancy provokes great hormone imbalances, estrogen levels can dramatically increase.

On top of that, many environmental toxins also mimic estrogen, which means that the amount of discharge will substantially increase. There are some other factors that might cause estrogen levels to increase, ranging from excess body fat to stress, a low-fiber diet, and even compromised immune system. If any of these factors are also part of your life, then it’s no doubt that your body will produce more estrogen, resulting in pale yellow vaginal discharge in uncontrollable amounts.

If estrogen dominance is the cause of abnormal discharge, then your doctor will not prescribe any medication.

2. Yeast Infections

Yeast infections are common specifically during the second trimester, and they are considered a frequent sign of pregnancy. Yeast infections are caused by a type of yeast called Candica albicans, and they manifest through whitish, thick discharge, foul smell, vaginal itching, redness, and swelling of the vulva. However, the color of the mucus varies from woman to woman, and can go from light yellow to very dark yellow. Although it is not currently clear why pregnant women suffer from yeast infections so frequently, some experts blame pregnancy hormones for altering the vagina’s pH level and allowing yeast to grow. Yeast infections are not threatening to your baby if addressed on time. Your doctor will likely prescribe you a topical medication like Monistat, which should help alleviate yeast infection symptoms relatively fast.

3. Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis results when the balance of good and bad bacteria of the vaginal flora is upset. Good bacteria needs to control the number of bad bacteria, but when there are too many bad bacteria, this unavoidably results in bacterial vaginosis. Although it is currently unknown what causes the bacteria to get out of balance, BV is usually caused by either having too many sexual partners or douching. A common symptom of BV is yellow green discharge with a foul odor and thick consistency, which is produced in larger amounts than usually. The discharge may be accompanied by itching and swelling of the vulva, as well as occasional spotting during the menstrual cycle. Several studies have shown that having BV while you are pregnant is oftentimes associated with a higher risk of preterm birth, preterm premature rupture of the membranes, low-birth-weight baby, and uterine infection after pregnancy. Bacterial vaginosis is not as common during pregnancy, but can occur in women who douche. In most cases, BV is treated using antibiotics and topical creams that help reduce the amount of discharge and also soothe itching and swelling.

4. Sexually Transmitted Diseases

A common cause of abnormal discharge, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) pose a high risk to both the mom-to-be and baby. There are four main STDs that may lead to changes in the color, smell, consistency and amount of vaginal discharge.

  • Trichomoniasis: Frothy, Greenish Discharge
    Trichomoniasis is the infection with a small organism called Trichomonas vaginalis, which is usually transmitted during unprotected sex. Women with trichomoniasis experience a frothy, greenish vaginal discharge that is very smelly, as well as itching, pain at urination, swelling of the vulva, and discomfort in the lower abdomen.
    If you have contracted the infection while pregnant, you must seek immediate medical assistance to prevent the premature rupture of the membranes that protect the baby, resulting to a preterm delivery. After pregnancy, women with trichomoniasis become more susceptible to HIV.
  •  Chlamydia
    Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the US, and it is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia spreads very easily from a person to another during intercourse, but usually causes no visible symptoms in as much as 75% of infected women. Light yellow discharge is a symptom that frequently occurs during early pregnancy, but the hue of the mucus gets darker over time. The discharge is sour smelling, but many women have reported no odor at all. Itching and swelling of the labia may be present.
  • Gonorrhea
    Caused by an infection with the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, gonorrhea is generally contracted by unprotected intercourse, resulting in a large number of symptoms that can cause discomfort and even pain. Yellow brown or yellow orange discharge is the first sign of gonorrhea, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as foul odor, pelvic pain, spotting after sex, burning at urination, swelling of the vulva, and bleeding between periods. If you have contracted gonorrhea, addressing the disease on time is necessary to prevent ectopic pregnancy, a condition that involves the fertilized egg developing outside the uterus. How to Address Yellow Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy? If you are dealing with excessive yellow vaginal discharge during pregnancy, there are a couple of preventive measures that could help you reduce the amount and the discomfort that it creates. There are a few lifestyle factors that can dramatically impact vaginal mucus.

1. Be Mindful About Your Diet

Many foods that you eat might be rich in toxins that cause estrogen dominance. But there are many aliments that may help reduce the amount of discharge that your vagina produces. Eat one banana with a cup of milk and honey in the morning for a nutritious breakfast, or mash two ripe bananas and mix with 3 teaspoons of honey for a tasty snack. Soaking 1 tablespoon of fenugreek seeds in one glass of water and adding 1/2 teaspoon of honey to it will make a nutritious mixture to drink in the morning and evening. The most important aspect to keep in mind is avoiding foods that are very rich in fats or calories, as they can mess with your estrogen levels, resulting in larger amounts of discharge.

2. Avoid Wearing Panty Liners

Due to the amount of discharge increasing as pregnancy progresses, many women find themselves in the position of wearing panty liners to avoid dampness and discomfort. But panty liners can seriously mess with the pH of your vagina, causing, if not a bacterial vaginosis, at least a yeast infection. You should consider changing underpants a few times a day instead, depending on how much discharge comes out. Make sure to wear underpants that are 100% cotton, as they will allow your intimate parts to breathe without affecting your vaginal environment.

3. Avoid the Use of Vaginal Lubricators

Many women choose to use vaginal lubricators to make intercourse less painful and increase pleasure. However, these products can create a breeding ground for bacteria to grow, which can result in bacterial vaginosis, not to mention its associated discharge, unpleasant odor, and white yellow to dark yellow color. You should not use oils for this purpose either, as it may cause itching or swelling of the vulva, creating discomfort.

4. Wipe from Front to Back

It’s easy to spread bacteria to the vagina if you wipe incorrectly. Wiping should be made from front to back to prevent getting your vulva in contact with fecal matter and dirt, which can cause an infection, resulting in abnormal vaginal discharge. Use only unscented toilet paper and baby wet wipes with neutral pH value for wiping to ensure that you will not be spreading bacteria.

5. Take Probiotics When on Antibiotics

Yeast infections are oftentimes caused by antibiotics. To prevent the overgrowth of Candida albicans (a type of yeast that naturally occurs as part of the vaginal flora), you should make sure to supplement your diet with probiotics and prebiotics, living cultures that control the growth of yeast. You can take probiotics from yoghurt, or choose to purchase probiotic supplements, as they usually pack enough living cultures to prevent yeast infection (and its bothersome, itchy vaginal discharge).

6. Stay Away from Perfumed Deodorants

During pregnancy, most women tend to become extra diligent about their personal hygiene. As such, they use a variety of feminine hygiene products, scented soaps and perfumed deodorants to keep their intimate parts clean and healthy. But many times, these products only mess with the pH of the vagina, causing BV and yeast infections that, in turn, result in abnormal discharge. If you are wondering “is yellow discharge normal in pregnancy?” then you should know that, if you’re using scented or perfumed hygiene products, then the presence of abnormal discharge should be a concern.

7. Reduce Stress

Stress has been long believed to impact normal vaginal discharge, leading to changes in color, smell and consistency. If you have been very stressed lately (which is absolutely normal for pregnant women), then the yellow vaginal discharge that comes out from down there is justified. Try to reduce stress by engaging in mild physical activity and laughing to help release endorphins. Consider various aromatherapy practices such as vapor inhalation and body massages, avoiding contact with your genitals at all costs.

Final Word

“Is yellow discharge normal in pregnancy?” This is a question that many moms-to-be ask to determine whether or not they should consult a medical professional and conduct investigations to rule out the possibility of an infection or STD. You should seek medical assistance as soon as you notice the yellow vaginal discharge, especially if it is accompanied by itching, swelling and a fishy odor. Your doctor will take samples of the mucus and lab-test it to discover potential bacteria or yeast that might be causing an infection. In addition to this, he or she will do a Pap test, and will probably take blood samples to determine whether estrogen levels are too high.

Make sure to follow the exact treatment that you were prescribed to completely cure the infection and make sure that your baby will be born healthy. Consider our preventive measures from above to help prevent yellow vaginal discharge in the future.