If you’re pregnant, you’ve more than likely experienced some heavy vaginal discharge. Leukorrhea is the scary-sounding term for excessive vaginal discharge that occurs frequently during pregnancy. But don’t be put off by the term – leukorrhea is generally more inconvenient than threatening.
Leukorrhea is caused by an increase in hormone levels, particularly estrogen, that cause excessive secretions from the cervical glands. These secretions help to clean your vaginal area, so even if they are uncomfortable, they are a sign that your body is doing what it needs to stay healthy. Some women have enough discharge that they need to wear panty liners all day long. This can be alarming if you are late in your pregnancy because you may fear that it is actually amniotic fluid leaking out. However, in many cases, it is simply normal discharge. So how do you tell what is “normal?” Here are a few guidelines to help sort it out:
Normal discharge: Normal discharge should be white, milky, and odorless. At times you may even notice some small sticky or mucus-like clumps either in your underwear or when you wipe after urination, but this is also within the normal range. During your pregnancy, you may notice an increase in discharge over the months, but nothing dramatic from day to day. A panty liner should be enough to keep the discharge contained and to keep you comfortable for several hours.
Abnormal discharge: Abnormal discharge will be thick or even cottage-cheese textured, yellow or green, or tinged with blood. It may have an unpleasant odor. You may feel itching or burning in your vaginal area. These are more likely signs of an infection or a sexually transmitted disease. Also, if you feel a “gush” coming out all at one time, it is probably not discharge; it is a sign that your water is breaking.
If you have a sense that your discharge is not normal, it is a good idea to check in with your doctor. Generally, your doctor can assess the problem with a simple swab test. If you suspect that your water is breaking or that you are leaking amniotic fluid, check in with your doctor, and/or head to the hospital. Your health care providers will be able to identify if your membranes have broken.
Another possibility may be that you are leaking urine, which is common toward the end of your pregnancy while there is more pressure on your bladder. Some women have a problem with urine leaking when they sneeze, cough, or laugh hard. With your doctor’s approval you can help condition those muscles with Kegel exercises.
If you are in your final weeks of your pregnancy and you suddenly see a thick glob of stringy mucus, you may be losing your mucous plug. This is not necessarily a cause for alarm; it is simply a normal part of the process as your body prepares for labor. The only time you need to be concerned is if you see blood-tinged mucus before your 36th week of pregnancy.
You can avoid the discomfort of excessive discharge – and the possibility of infections – by keeping yourself dry “down there.” That means changing your panty liner frequently, and/or changing your underwear if necessary. Also you should wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting, comfortable clothing; and you should avoid douching, scented feminine products, and perfumed bubble baths, all of which could cause irritation or infection. Pregnancy does all sorts of crazy things to your body, including but not limited to excessive discharge. It’s going to be nine months, so you might as well make yourself as comfortable as possible.