Pregnancy Discharge: What’s Normal and What’s Not

Vaginal discharge make you uncomfortable? Learn to recognize when pregnancy discharge is normal and when you should contact your doctor.

A pregnant woman sitting on a sofa looking at her laptop

If you’re newly pregnant and reading this article, you’ve probably noticed your body has started producing more vaginal discharge. Or if you are getting close to your due date, you may notice that the pregnancy discharge looks different than it did before, with streaks of sticky, jelly-like pink mucus.

In most cases, vaginal discharge during pregnancy is totally normal. Hormonal changes and an increase in blood flow cause the discharge. In fact, the discharge helps protect the uterus from infection.

But how can you tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy pregnancy discharge? This article will help you learn to recognize when vaginal discharge during pregnancy is normal and when you should contact your doctor. You will also find tips to ease vaginal discharge, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) remedies to help relieve discomfort or infection, and foods to eat for a healthy pregnancy.

Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

Pregnant woman in pain sitting on a couch with one hand on her belly and one on her back
If you have lower back pain or abdominal pain in addition to abnormal discharge, see your doctor right away.

Most of the time vaginal discharge during pregnancy is normal. In fact, one of the early signs of pregnancy can be a thin, white discharge. That said, there are also types of discharge that are not normal. Sometimes the vaginal discharge color can be an important clue.

Normal pregnancy-related vaginal discharge

Normal vaginal discharge during pregnancy should be clear, white, or a pale-yellow color. It should not have an unpleasant smell.

To manage normal discharge, you can put on a panty liner to ensure proper hygiene in the vaginal area. Do not excessively wash the vaginal area as it may destroy the pH level needed for bacterial defense.

However, do not use tampons during pregnancy. Avoid douching because it can cause an imbalance of the natural organisms in the body. This can also lead to infection.

Abnormal vaginal discharge

A vaginal discharge that is a strong yellow, green or gray color, or white and “curdy” color is considered abnormal. TCM physician Ng Qing Xiang from Eu Yan Sang clinic adds that if the discharge has a strong, foul smell and is accompanied by pain during urination or intercourse, itching, redness, a burning sensation, or swelling of the vulva, you should contact your doctor immediately. These symptoms may indicate a yeast infection (vaginal candidiasis), bacterial vaginosis, or trichomoniasis vaginosis. Sometimes abnormal vaginal discharge may indicate a sexually transmitted disease. 

Abnormal discharge from a TCM perspective

From a TCM perspective, excessive discharge may be the result of internal or external factors. Physician Ng explains, “Internal factors usually include spleen yang deficiency or kidney yang deficiency. External factors include the invasion of external pathogens like heat-dampness, cold-dampness, or dampness toxin.”

In TCM philosophy, the kidney system regulates water in the body and governs the reproductive and nervous systems. The spleen governs digestion, blood flow, and fluid metabolism. “Dampness” means the body feels heavy, slow, and sluggish. It’s associated with “stickiness.” This causes illnesses and pathogens to linger in the body.

Physician Ng says discharge that is yellow, thick, or sticky with a strong foul odor and/or redness and itching in the vulva area, along with extreme thirst and scanty urine indicates the abnormal discharge may be caused by heat-dampness. A yellow or green, thick, discharge that has an extremely foul smell, and/or is accompanied by lower abdominal pain, lower backache, extreme thirst, a bitter taste, and scanty urine, the condition may be caused by a dampness-toxin. If it is a white and curdy discharge, and/or includes lower abdominal coldness, watery stools, and cold limbs, the condition may be caused by cold dampness.

Remedies for pregnancy-related vaginal discharge

There are several TCM herbal remedies and treatments to help relieve excessive or abnormal discharge. Physician Ng explains, “Herbs like Gordon Euryale seed (qian shi), ginkgo nut (bai guo), China root (tu fu ling) and known as Smilax or Glabrous Greenbrier Rhizome, are commonly used to remove dampness in the body and reduce the production of the discharge.”

However, physician Ng advises pregnant women not to self-medicate using these herbs. “It is still recommended that she consult a licensed TCM physician to diagnose her condition.” With an accurate diagnosis, the TCM physician would recommend the most suitable herbs in accordance with the patient’s condition.

If your doctor diagnoses your abnormal vaginal discharge as an infection, follow the recommended or prescribed treatment and try these easy things you can do to feel better. Physician Ng recommends avoiding spicy, oily, and fried foods. Also, drink plenty of water. Plus, it’s important to get plenty of rest and avoid staying up late. Be sure to use proper hygiene in the vaginal area.

What should you do if you are bleeding

Physician Ng cautions, “If it is a bright red discharge that is heavy and accompanied by abdominal pain, it may indicate a risk of miscarriage.” See your doctor or an emergency healthcare provider immediately. Conventional care may include rest, blood tests, medication, or surgery, depending on the cause of the bleeding.

Foods to Eat for a Healthy Pregnancy

Pregnant woman preparing a meal with lots of vegetables
Eating a nutritious diet is crucial for a healthy pregnancy.

To help support a healthy pregnancy, it’s important that you eat a nutrient-rich diet. Make sure you are eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with plenty of healthy sources of protein.

Foods rich in healthy protein include rice, beans, fish (especially salmon), chicken essence, eggs, and bird’s nest. Green vegetables, egg yolk, and milk are good sources of calcium. Other key foods to eat during pregnancy include foods high in folate, such as spinach. Walnuts and goji berries also are especially beneficial during pregnancy.

Be sure to avoid salty foods and spicy, oily, or fried foods. Go easy on foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. Also, avoid eating chilled and raw food and beverages. Abstain from alcohol and limit your caffeine intake to about 2 cups per day.

While you’re pregnant, it’s vital to:

  • Get plenty of rest, and pay attention to any unusual signs and symptoms.
  • Eat a nutritious diet.
  • Follow proper hygiene.
  • Pay attention to vaginal discharge color and symptoms.

Nine months will go by fast and soon you will be a new mother. Once your baby arrives, resting and recuperating is crucial for restoring your body and well-being. Certain herbs and TCM remedies can help support you during your postnatal recovery as well. But, in the meantime, enjoy your pregnancy.

References

  1. MedlinePlus. N.d. Vaginal Bleeding in Early Pregnancy. [Accessed 6 December 2021]
  2. Cleveland Clinic. N.d. Vaginal Discharge. [Accessed 6 December 2021]
  3. Mayo Clinic. N.d. Pregnancy Diet: Focus on These Essential Nutrients. [Accessed 6 December 2021]
  4. Pak J Med Sci. 2021. Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy and Associated Adverse Maternal and Perinatal Outcomes. [Accessed 6 December 2021]

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