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What is vaginal discharge during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, white or milky, thin, mild-smelling vaginal discharge called leucorrhoea is seen. It is considered to be normal, although its amount, frequency and consistency can vary. Increased vaginal discharge is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy and continues throughout pregnancy. Streaks of thick mucus are seen in the discharge in the last weeks of pregnancy, indicating labour.

Sometimes, there might be abnormal discharge from the vagina, which could be different in colour and have a bad odour, along with other symptoms. This needs to be treated by a physician.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

Symptoms of normal discharge include:

  • Thin or thick mucus
  • White or milky colour
  • Mild smelling
  • Streaks of blood towards the end of pregnancy

Symptoms of infected or abnormal discharge include:

  • Discolouration which could be yellow, green or grey in colour
  • Odour which could be foul and strong
  • Redness or itching
  • Swelling of the vulva

What are the main causes?

The main causes of normal vaginal discharge include:

  • Changes in the hormonal levels and the cervix (to allow baby to pass through)
  • Bodily changes to help prevent infections
  • Baby’s head pressing against the cervix (end of pregnancy)

Abnormal discharge can be caused by:

  • Infections, commonly yeast infections
  • Sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • Pregnancy-related complications, such as placenta praevia or placental abruption
  • A retained foreign material (tampon, condom) or inflammation (due to disinfectants, deodorants or lubricants)
  • Cervical ectopy or polyps
  • Tumours

How is it diagnosed and treated?

The physician will take a complete history, including sexual and medication history, and also conduct a thorough examination of the vagina and the cervix using speculum, abdominal palpation and bimanual examination. Further tests which could be advised include:

  • Testing the pH of vaginal secretions
  • High vaginal swab (HVS)
  • A triple NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test) for chlamydia, gonorrhoea and trichomoniasis
  • Chlamydia screening
  • Screening for STDs

Management of vaginal discharge includes preventive as well as treatment measures such as:

  • Trying to avoid infection by using comfortable, loose cotton underwear and keeping the genital area dry.
  • Adding yoghurt and other fermented foods to your diet to promote vaginal health.
  • To treat infections, vaginal creams or suppositories are advised, which could include:
  • Fluconazole
  • Clotrimazole
  • Metronidazole
  • Clindamycin 2% cream
  • Itraconazole.
  1. Medicines for Vaginal discharge during pregnancy

Do you or anyone in your family have this disease? Please do a survey and help others

References

  1. Office of Population Affairs. Vaginal Discharge. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services [Internet]
  2. Tânia Maria M. V. da Fonseca et al. Pathological Vaginal Discharge among Pregnant Women: Pattern of Occurrence and Association in a Population-Based Survey . Obstet Gynecol Int. 2013; 2013: 590416. PMID: 23843798
  3. Ross SM, Hoosen AA, Sheik AI. Diagnosis and treatment of vaginal discharge in pregnancy.. S Afr Med J. 1980 Nov 8;58(19):757-9. PMID: 7423322
  4. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Vaginal discharge in pregnancy.
  5. Bishop GB. Vaginal Discharge. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 172.

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