Everything You Need to Know About Pregnancy Discharge

Medically Reviewed By Stacy A. Henigsman, DO
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Vaginal discharge is a normal part of pregnancy. Pregnancy discharge can range in color and consistency. Pregnancy discharge is normal and healthy and can range in color and consistency. Most pregnant people have a thin discharge that is either clear or milky white. This discharge typically has a mild odor. When the discharge is green or yellow with a foul smell, it can indicate a bacterial infection that may require antibiotic treatment.

This article will go over everything you need to know about pregnancy discharge and will discuss the different colors and consistencies to look out for.

What is pregnancy discharge?

Close up of a pregnant stomach with pink flowers
Treasures & Travels/Stocksy United

Vaginal discharge in pregnancy is common and helps prevent infections from traveling through the vagina to the uterus. Healthy pregnancy discharge is usually thin, clear, or milky white and does not have a foul odor.

Discharge occurs when the cervix and vaginal walls get softer and the hormones — progesterone and estrogen — increase. Vaginal discharge usually increases during pregnancy. The amount and consistency can change throughout your pregnancy. Toward the end of pregnancy, the amount of discharge is sometimes so copious that some people confuse it with urine.

It is important to inform your doctor of any changes in your pregnancy discharge.

What is typical discharge during pregnancy?

Typical discharge during pregnancy is thin, clear, or milky white and has a mild odor. During the last week of pregnancy, your discharge may have streaks of thick mucous and some blood. This is called “show” and happens when the discharge that has been present in your cervix during pregnancy finally comes out.

“Show” is a sign that your body is preparing for labor. You may experience it more than once before you fully go into labor.

Water breaking

Sometimes it is hard to tell what is normal pregnancy discharge and what is the water breaking. When the water breaks, the amniotic sac has ruptured, and the fluid inside leaks out of the vagina. You will typically either feel a gush of fluid come out or just a light continuous trickle.

When your water breaks, the fluid generally will be thin and clear like water and should have a mild odor. If you see streaks of green or brown in the fluid, you should call your doctor immediately. This could mean that the fetus has passed meconium, or the first stool, while still inside the uterus. Passing meconium in the uterus is usually a sign that the fetus is in distress.

Another reason to call the doctor is if you see blood in the water or feel the fetus moving less than usual. If your water breaks before 37 weeks, you most likely have gone into preterm labor and should seek immediate medical attention.

Read about 9 symptoms never to ignore if you are pregnant.

What do the colors of discharge during pregnancy mean?

Discharge during pregnancy can vary in color, and each color can mean something different. Here is an overview of the different colors of pregnancy discharge and what they mean.

Clear

This is normal, healthy pregnancy discharge and is typically nothing to be concerned about. Another name for this type of discharge is leukorrhea because of the presence of white blood cells in the discharge. You will see increasing amounts of clear discharge as you advance in your pregnancy.

White

Milky white discharge is normal and generally nothing to be concerned about. However, a white pregnancy discharge with a cottage cheese-like consistency can indicate thrush, also known as a yeast infection.  The discharge does not usually smell, but you may experience itching or irritation around your vagina.

To help prevent a yeast infection, wear loose cotton underwear and avoid douching or using scented bath products.

Yellow or gray

Yellow or gray pregnancy discharge can indicate you have an infection, such as bacterial vaginosis. This type of discharge will usually have a foul smell. You may experience pain around your vagina or pain with urination.

If you have yellow or gray pregnancy discharge, contact your doctor so they can prescribe an antibiotic to help clear up the infection.

Brown

Brown pregnancy discharge typically signifies old blood. This means there was a previous bleed, and the old blood is shedding from the uterus. It is common in early and late pregnancy to see some tinges of blood in the discharge. However, if you have brown discharge with abdominal pain, contact your doctor right away.

Red

Red pregnancy discharge typically signifies active bleeding. This can occur in conditions such as placenta previa or placental abruption. You should notify your doctor if you have red discharge, either with or without abdominal pain. Red discharge that occurs with clear, watery discharge can indicate that your water has broken.

Read more about placenta previa.

Green

If you see green discharge when your water breaks, it can indicate that the fetus has passed meconium, or the first stool. Passing stool in the womb is typically a sign that the fetus is in distress. If you see green discharge when your water breaks, call your doctor and seek medical attention right away.

Green pregnancy discharge can also sometimes signify a bacterial infection.

When should you see a doctor for pregnancy discharge?

You should notify your doctor if your pregnancy discharge changes or if you see vaginal bleeding.

Some signs that you may want to call about include:

  • foul-smelling odor
  • green, brown, or yellow discharge
  • blood-tinged discharge
  • pain with urination
  • itching or soreness around your vagina

You should also notify your doctor if there are signs that your water is breaking, such as a gush or trickling of watery, clear fluid. They will typically want you to come to the hospital right away so they can monitor the progress of your labor.

Summary

Discharge is a healthy part of every pregnancy and ranges in color and consistency. Clear, milky white, thin discharge is usually a sign of normal, healthy pregnancy discharge.

Yellow, brown, green, or blood-tinged discharge can indicate an infection or other irregularity you should discuss with your doctor. Healthy discharge usually has a mild odor and does not smell bad.

Sometimes discharge can mean that your water is breaking. Signs include a gush or trickling of watery, clear fluid from the vagina.

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Medical Reviewer: Stacy A. Henigsman, DO
Last Review Date: 2022 Jun 24
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.