Your Guide to What Different Discharge Colors Mean During Pregnancy
Your vaginal discharge will change while you are pregnant, and you may wonder if what you see is normal.
Most likely, the differences you see are part of the natural process of pregnancy. However, there are some types of discharge that warrant a call to your provider if you see them during pregnancy.
In this article, learn what changes in vaginal discharge to expect when you have a baby on the way, what is normal, and when you should be concerned.
Normal Pregnancy Discharge
Some changes in the color or texture of vaginal discharge is to be expected throughout pregnancy as you experience hormonal changes.
White or Clear Discharge
During early pregnancy, you may notice a thin clear discharge or white discharge. This is leukorrhea. The presence of leukorrhea indicates a spike in estrogen, and it’s completely normal and expected.
Your body produces leukorrhea while you are pregnant to help keep infections out of your cervix and away from your baby during this vulnerable time.
Leukorrhea is common but not everyone will see it during pregnancy. Every pregnancy is different, and the amount and consistency of pregnancy discharge can vary from person to person. You may see a very noticeable amount of it or little to none. If it’s bothersome, wearing a panty liner may help you feel more comfortable. However, avoid tampons during pregnancy.
Pink Discharge or Bloody Discharge
During your third trimester, you may notice your discharge that is pink in color or appears bloody. This is caused by your mucus plug which blocks the cervical opening to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus.
In the last few weeks of pregnancy, your mucus plug begins to push into your vagina as it attempts to leave your body before you go into labor. This can result in pink discharge.
Your mucus plug can be expelled all at one time, but in other cases, bits of the mucus plug will discharge more slowly. Although a little blood in your discharge is normal during this, more frequent vaginal bleeding or bleeding that is heavier and resembles a regular period can be a serious concern.
Pregnant women should always reach out to their healthcare provider with any concerns about discharge. If you aren’t full-term (38 weeks or more) you should contact your doctor about the possibility of preterm labor.
When the membranes of the protective amniotic sac around your baby rupture (when your “water breaks”), you will see some amniotic fluid, which may appear clear or tinged by red or pink. Always call your doctor when your water breaks, if you have not already.
Abnormal Discharge Colors During Pregnancy
Some types of discharge may be a cause for concern if you see them while you are pregnant. Though it’s possible that everything is fine, always contact your doctor if you see the following.
- Brown discharge
- Green or yellow discharge
- Discharge that has a foul odor
- Sudden major changes in the type or amount of discharge
Brown discharge during pregnancy is usually old blood that didn’t exit your body during your last period. You might see this during your first trimester. It could be fine but it may also be a sign that there could be something wrong with your pregnancy.
Any time you see blood, which may appear red, pink, or brown, always reach out to your healthcare provider. Vaginal bleeding does not always indicate that there is a problem, but it can be a sign of pregnancy loss, miscarriage, or another serious issue.
Your provider will ask you some questions and tell you what other symptoms to look out for, such as abdominal cramping.
Green or Yellow Discharge
If your pregnancy discharge is yellow or green this may be a sign of a vaginal infection. When you have a bacterial infection like a UTI, your body produces an abundance of white blood cells to fight off the infection. The yellow or green color in your discharge is a sign of these dead cells exiting the body.
Yeast Infections During Pregnancy
White discharge that is thicker or more frequent than usual can be totally normal, but it’s important to monitor any significant changes in the amount or texture of your vaginal discharge during pregnancy.
If you have white discharge the consistency of cottage cheese accompanied by a foul odor or itching and burning in your crotch, it could be a yeast infection (vaginal candidiasis).
Yeast infections are caused by changes to the natural balance of your vaginal flora. During pregnancy, hormonal shifts throw off vaginal flora levels, so yeast infections during pregnancy are common.
If you think you may have a yeast infection, a women’s healthcare provider can advise you on how best to relieve your symptoms and get treatment.
Discharge that appears orange, rust-colored, or slightly gray could be a sign of bacterial vaginosis. This infection happens when there is an overabundance of a certain bacteria — this bacteria exists normally in your body but it is counterbalanced by other types of bacteria.
Other symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include abnormal vaginal odor — such as fishy-smelling discharge — or a burning sensation after you pee or have sex.
We don’t know the exact cause of bacterial vaginosis but douching (attempting to clean out the vagina by spraying liquids into it) can cause it. Douching is not necessary, whether or not you are pregnant, and it can cause problems.
Signs of STI Discharges
If your discharge changes it could also be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection, such as chlamydia. Chlamydia discharge often appears gray or yellow in color and is accompanied by a strong odor.
If you’re concerned about your discharge color or texture, get screened early on in the pregnancy to rule these infections out. It’s still possible to contract an STI after you are pregnant if you remain sexually active. Talk to your doctor about whether an STI screening is necessary.
Discharge While Trying to Conceive
Your body naturally produces different types of cervical mucus throughout the four stages of your menstrual cycle: the follicular phase, ovulation, the luteal phase, and menstruation. Vaginal discharge often changes in appearance during these different phases
In the follicular phase, you have just finished up your last period and your body is beginning to develop a follicle or two that will later become a mature egg ready for fertilization. During this phase, you may see little to no discharge.
During ovulation, when the follicle holding your mature egg has ripened, your body will begin to produce a clear or whitish, smooth discharge. As you get even closer to ovulation, you will see a thicker clear discharge the consistency of egg white.
This mucus is designed to help sperm stay alive and make their way to the egg where they can attempt to fertilize it (semen has the same purpose, and looks similar). Estrogen is dominant during this phase.
After ovulation, one of two things will happen. Either your egg will fertilize and implant, or it won’t.
If it doesn’t make it to implantation, it will begin to break down and later it will exit the body when your period comes. If fertilization occurs and an egg does implant, your body will begin to produce the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG).
In both cases, progesterone is dominant and you will see the egg-white cervical mucus dry up. It may be replaced by a smooth white discharge the consistency of lotion as your period or supposed period approaches.
Some women report a small amount of blood about six to ten days after conception. This is known as implantation bleeding, and it supposedly indicates that an embryo has burrowed into the uterine lining, though there is no definite proof of this.
You can start testing for pregnancy 10 to 14 days after ovulation. If you get a negative result, it may just be too soon to tell. Keep testing until you see a full blood flow, about 14 days after ovulation.
Changes in your discharge can be disconcerting during pregnancy, but rest assured they are most likely normal and what your body is supposed to be doing. If you’re even unsure, or if your discharge is accompanied by pain, itching, or a foul smell, reach out to your doctor.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (n.d.). Vulvovaginal health. Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/vulvovaginal-health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, September 12). Genital / vulvovaginal candidiasis. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/genital/index.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, February 22). Bacterial vaginosis. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/bv/stdfact-bacterial-vaginosis.htm
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Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families.