Discharge is a very normal part of vagina ownership. It changes throughout your menstrual cycle and pregnancy, but some changes can be a sign of trouble. Discharge that’s an unusual color or smell might mean you have an infection that could affect your pregnancy.
While there are a bunch of reasons you might have vaginal discharge during pregnancy, many of them are perfectly normal.
However, greenish discharge can be a sign of one of these three common sexually transmitted infections (STIs):
Chlamydia is the most commonly reported sexually transmitted bacterial infection in the United States. And there are even more unreported cases since most people have no symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 5 to 30 percent of women with chlamydia have symptoms.
When women with chlamydia do experience symptoms, this is what they’re like:
- abnormal vaginal discharge that may be greenish
- painful or frequent urination
- pain during sex
- bleeding after sex
- abdominal pain
- rectal pain or bleeding
Chlamydia when there’s a baby on board
A chlamydia infection during pregnancy can cause preterm labor, newborn pneumonia, and conjunctivitis (eye infection).
If you’re pregnant, it’s usually recommended that you get screened for chlamydia at your first prenatal visit to prevent complications.
Doctors test for chlamydia using either a vaginal swab or a urine sample.
If you’re pregnant, your doctor will most likely test you at your first prenatal appointment. If you’re under age 25, you may be more likely to have chlamydia, so you may be tested again during the third trimester.
To decrease the risk of contracting chlamydia, use barrier methods during sexual activity and consider regular STI testing for you and your partners.
A chlamydia infection is easy enough to annihilate with antibiotics. Sexual partners should also be treated to prevent reinfection. Follow-up testing is done 3 weeks and 3 months after treatment.
Newborns with chlamydia-related conjunctivitis or pneumonia can also be treated with antibiotics.
Repeated infections or untreated chlamydia can lead to long term complications like pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy.
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection affecting mucous membranes of the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, urethra, mouth, throat, eyes, or rectum.
The CDC estimates 1.14 million people in the United States contract gonorrhea each year.
Most cases of gonorrhea are asymptomatic. If you do have symptoms, they may include:
- vaginal discharge
- painful urination
- vaginal bleeding between periods
- anal discharge, itching, pain
- sore throat
Gonorrhea is no good for baby
According to the CDC, untreated gonorrhea has been associated with miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, and premature water breaking.
A newborn can contract gonorrhea during birth. Gonorrhea is serious for babies, causing blindness, joint infection, or blood infection. Complications can be prevented if you’re treated during pregnancy.
Diagnosis and treatment are important because gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease or a dangerous blood infection called disseminated gonococcal infection.
Your doctor diagnoses urogenital gonorrhea by testing urine or a swab of the vagina, urethra, or cervix. The CDC recommends screening those who are pregnant under age 25.
If you’re over age 25, you may want to be tested if you have another STI or don’t use barrier methods with new sexual partners.
Treatment of gonorrhea can be tough because the infection has become increasingly resistant to antibiotics.
The doctor will prescribe two drugs as treatment, and symptoms should subside within a few days. If they don’t, see your doctor for further evaluation.
Like gonorrhea and chlamydia, a trichomoniasis infection is often asymptomatic. Of the estimated 3.7 million people who have trichomoniasis in the United States, only about 30 percent have symptoms.
If symptoms develop, they usually occur within 5 to 28 days of contracting an infection. Here’s what to watch for:
- unusual vaginal discharge that may be clear, greenish, yellowish, or white, and have a fishy smell
- itching, burning, and redness of the genitals
- pain when peeing
- discomfort during sex
Trichomoniasis during pregnancy
Trichomoniasis during pregnancy can cause preterm delivery and low birth weight. A newborn can also contract the infection during birth.
While the CDC doesn’t currently recommend routine trichomoniasis screening for those who are pregnant, you can ask your doctor for a test if there’s a chance you may have it. Trichomoniasis is detected by examining a sample of vaginal discharge under a microscope.
Trichomoniasis is treated with one of two oral medications called metronidazole and tinidazole. Sexual partners should also be treated to avoid reinfection.
Get retested 3 months after treatment to be sure the infection is gone. There is evidence that multiple doses of metronidazole are more effective at treating trich.
The amount and appearance of discharge is different for everyone, but it’s usually white or clear. Here’s what the varied colors of vaginal discharge during pregnancy might mean:
- Clear or milky white. This is probably leukorrhea, or normal discharge. If the amount changes to a continuous leak or thick and jelly-like, it could mean preterm labor. Tell your doctor about changes.
- White and lumpy. If it looks like cottage cheese, it could be a yeast infection. You may be more likely to get yeast infections while pregnant so watch out for that tell-tale discharge and itching.
- Red. While bleeding during pregnancy can be harmless, it should always be reported to your doctor. If you experience heavy bleeding and cramping, it could indicate a miscarriage.
- Pink. This may be a sign of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. Light spotting or pink discharge after sex or pelvic exams can also be a normal result of light bleeding from an irritated cervix, but it could also be a sign of infection.
- Green or yellow. This could be a sign of one of the STIs listed above. Small amounts of urine can also be mistaken for yellow discharge.
- Brown. This color is usually due to old blood passing from the vagina and isn’t usually harmful. However, report any unusual discharge during pregnancy to your doctor to be on the safe side.
- Gray. This could be an infection called bacterial vaginosis. You may notice a fishy smell, especially after sex.
A thick lump of blood-tinged discharge could be your mucus plug. It’s usually released from the cervix before labor, and you may not even notice. If you think you’ve lost your mucus plug before 37 weeks, it could signal preterm labor so talk to your doctor ASAP.
Discharge during pregnancy is a normal part of the whole weird process. Mention any changes to your doctor, especially if you have bleeding or discharge that could be a sign of infection.
The infections mentioned above are relatively easy to treat and you will be a lot more comfortable once they’re vanquished. Here are some more tips for maintaining vaginal health during pregnancy:
- use unscented products in the genital area
- wear panty liners
- wipe from front to back after using the bathroom
- dry genitals after bathing or swimming
- wear breathable underwear
- use tampons
- wear tight pants or undergarments
Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis infections can cause greenish vaginal discharge regardless of whether you’re pregnant.
If you’re pregnant and notice symptoms of these STIs, it’s important to get testing and treatment to prevent serious complications for you and your baby.
You may have one of these infections and have no symptoms, so your doctor may test you at your first prenatal appointment. All three infections are treatable and curable during pregnancy.