Pregnancy Information Complications Vaginal Discharge Yeast Infection

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy is not uncommon. In fact, while pregnant, many women experience an increase in vaginal discharge. Being able to distinguish between “normal” discharge and discharge that indicates possible problems such as vaginitis or yeast infections is important.

Vaginal Discharge While Pregnant

Vaginal discharge often increases during pregnancy, often as a result of changes to the cervix. Women who experience discharge prior to menstruation are likely to experience an increase in discharge while pregnant. “Normal” vaginal discharge is thin, milk-colored and has a mild smell.

Mucus may appear in the discharge. A large “glob” of mucus passed through the vagina in late pregnancy may be the “mucus plug,” and is a sign that labor is about to begin.

Vaginal Bleeding

Many pregnancy complications begin with vaginal bleeding or spotting, especially miscarriages. Any vaginal bleeding during pregnancy should be viewed as abnormal and reported to your doctor. Vaginal bleeding can be a sign of miscarriage, placental bleeding or premature labor, among other pregnancy complications.

Vaginitis and Candida in Pregnancy

Changes to vaginal discharge may indicate vaginitis, or a vaginal infection. Vaginitis is most commonly caused by Candida yeast (a common cause of vaginal yeast infections) or trichomonas protozoa. Vaginitis during pregnancy must be treated, as vaginitis has been known to trigger premature labor.

Candida yeast infection is the most common type of vaginitis. Candida vaginitis is more common when a woman is pregnant than at other times of her life. Pregnancy disrupts the balance between levels of Candida yeast in the vagina and vaginal acid levels. This increases the risk of vaginitis, especially in the second trimester.

Symptoms of Yeast Infection and Vaginitis During Pregnancy

Symptoms of vaginitis, Candida and other yeast infections during pregnancy are similar to vaginitis symptoms when not pregnant. Vaginal discharge changes from milky and mild smelling to thick, yellow or green colored discharge. A foul smell from vaginal discharge also indicates possible vaginitis.

Vaginitis may give discharge a “frothy” appearance, and traces of blood may be visible. Pregnant women with vaginitis may also experience redness, itching and a burning sensation.

Treating Vaginitis and Yeast Infections While Pregnant

While pregnant, oral antibiotics for vaginitis are not recommended, as available oral treatments for vaginitis can cause fetal defects. Instead, Candida yeast infections and other forms of vaginitis that occur during pregnancy are treated with vaginal creams and suppositories.

Never attempt to medicate vaginitis yourself during pregnancy. Some sexually transmitted diseases have symptoms very similar to yeast infection symptoms. These STDs do not respond to vaginitis treatment and can cause pregnancy complications.

Vaginal discharge may also be caused if the amniotic membrane surrounding the fetus ruptures prematurely. Examining vaginal discharge for evidence of amniotic fluid will determine whether this has occurred.

Preventing Yeast Infections and Vaginitis While Pregnant

Prevention is the best strategy for avoiding Candida and other yeast infections during pregnancy. Take the following steps to minimize your risk of vaginitis:

  • Avoid bubble baths, perfumed soaps and perfumed toilet paper.
  • Avoid tight, constrictive clothing.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to flush out Candida and other bacteria.
  • Drinking cranberry juice may lower the risk of yeast infection.
  • Eat yogurt containing active lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria.
  • Rinse well after soaping.
  • Wear loose cotton underwear.
  • Wipe front to back after urinating.

During pregnancy, women should avoid both douches and tampons, as both increase the chances of vaginitis and yeast infections. Women experiencing heavy vaginal discharge during pregnancy should use panty protectors instead of tampons.

Resources

American Pregnancy Association. (updated 2003). Yeast infections during pregnancy.

BabyCenter. (nd). Vaginal discharge during pregnancy.

Beers, M. H.,