It is very common to experience an increased vaginal discharge during early pregnancy. This discharge should be white in color, slightly thick, and have no odor. It can be quite milky in appearance and should not produce any itchy or burning sensations. However, some women may experience vaginal discharge accompanied by other symptoms. Is it normal? Should you see a doctor? In this article we will explore the causes of increased vaginal discharge and some signs of abnormal discharge.
Causes of Increased Discharge in Early Pregnancy
During the early stages of pregnancy, your body produces more estrogen and increases blood flow to your vagina upon implantation. A pregnant woman will incredibly produce more estrogen in a single day than a non-pregnant woman will in 3 years. As a result of this hormonal change, the woman's body will produce an increased amount of cervical fluid. This fluid will form a structure known as a mucus plug, which protects the uterus of a pregnant woman. During the pregnancy, some of this mucus may be ejected out of the cervix, which is considered discharge. Most pregnant women experience two types of discharge: leukorrhea and implantation bleeding.
What is Leukorrhea?
The medical term for vaginal discharge during early pregnancy is leukorrhea. This can also be experienced while breast-feeding and during menopause. The discharge may be sticky, thick, and is normally white. It originates from the vaginal walls and is made up of normal vaginal bacteria. You will most likely detect this discharge in your underwear. In the very early months of pregnancy, this discharge is formed to create a mucus plug - a protective barrier. This plug will be ejected later in the pregnancy in a single motion, which is a blob that can be tinged with blood. If this discharge is accompanied by other symptoms, such as itchy sensation, fever, or redness than it is most likely a sign of infection.
What is Implantation Bleeding?
This is a typical indicator of early pregnancy that occurs when the fertilized egg becomes implanted in the uterine wall. Implantation bleeding usually occurs 7-12 days after fertilization. This results in brown or light pink discharge.
Though increased discharge during early pregnancy is common, you should watch your discharge carefully since it is a key indicator of healthy pregnancy.
Is the discharge green or yellowish? Do you have a burning or itchy sensation in your vagina? Is your vagina red and irritated? Does the discharge have an offensive odor? Does it smell fishy? Is the discharge frothy in composition? Are you experiencing pain or burning while peeing?
If you have answered 'yes' to any of these questions, then you should immediately consult your doctor. These symptoms can be a sign of serious infection. Below we have listed the common causes for abnormal discharge.
Bacterial Vaginosis: This condition results from an overgrowth of normal bacteria in the vagina. This condition is quite difficult to diagnose, as the majority of women who are affected do not experience symptoms. Women who develop symptoms will experience an unpleasant fishy vaginal odor and discharge that is white or gray in color. Treatment for this condition is a course of antibiotics. This can either be an oral medication or a gel that is applied to the vagina.
Cervical Cancer: Symptoms include abnormal vaginal discharge and irregular periods. This vaginal discharge can either be brown, pink, or red in color, have an offensive odor, and a thin watery composition. The treatment for this condition will vary in accordance to its severity, the woman's age and health, and whether or not they wish to have children in the future. Extracting the cancerous cells may treat early stage cervical cancer. If the cancer has developed further, a hysterectomy may be required, which will completely remove the uterus. This procedure is only recommended for individuals who do not intend to have children naturally in the future.
Chlamydia: This condition is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. It is most commonly spread through sexual activity. Women who contract this medical condition will experience burning when peeing, painful sexual intercourse, and vaginal discharge. Once a diagnosis has been reached, treatment can commence. This involves the administration of antibiotics such as tetracyclines, azithromycin, or erythromycin.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: This is an infection that can occur in the uterus and fallopian tubes. Each year, over 750,000 women are diagnosed with this. The symptoms of this condition include lower abdominal pain, vaginal discharge that has an offensive odor, painful intercourse, a fever, and irregular periods. It can result in infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and abscesses. Antibiotics will be prescribed for treatment.
Trichomoniasis: This is caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis and is spread through sexual intercourse. This condition is most common in women ages 16 to 35. The symptoms include painful intercourse, itchy inner thighs, vaginal itching, frothy vaginal discharge that is either green or yellow, and an offensive odor. The antibiotic metronidazole or tinidazole will be used for treatment.
Other causes of abnormal discharge are vulvovaginitis, diabetes, yeast infections, birth control pills, and steroid use.
Discharge during early pregnancy is generally normal. However, when it is unusual in color, has an offensive odor, or is accompanied by other symptoms, it can be a sign of infection. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any unusual symptoms.