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Yellow Discharge During Pregnancy: What's Normal And When To Seek Help?

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Vaginal discharge is common during pregnancy. But, any change in the color of this discharge could indicate an infection. So, it is important to know the exact reasons behind the change. In this MomJunction post, we tell you why you may have yellow discharge during pregnancy, its treatment, and prevention, if possible. In the end, we also answer some frequently asked questions.

Is Yellow Discharge In Pregnancy Normal?

During pregnancy, it is normal to have thin, milky white, slightly yellow, and mildly odorous discharge, which is also known as leucorrhea. This might increase as the pregnancy progresses, and is usually due to the fluctuating hormones(1).  Also, sometimes, pregnant women might notice clear, pale yellow watery like discharge with a mild or a sweet smell, which could be leakage of amniotic fluid (2), a possible indication of labor.

But, if you have yellow vaginal discharge accompanied by itchiness, foul odor, soreness, and pain when urinating, then it might indicate infection. While such symptoms do not necessarily mean a health problem or an infection, it is good to know the reason behind such discharge and address it if necessary.

What Causes Yellow Discharge During Pregnancy?

Normally, vaginal discharge during pregnancy occurs due to increased estrogen levels. The other possible causes of discharge, especially yellow discharge, are as follows:

  1. Yeast infections: The vagina requires optimal conditions of pH, moisture levels, and bacterial balance to remain healthy. If one of these conditions is disturbed, it could raise the risk of infection. Factors such as increased sexual activity, antibiotics, hormonal imbalances, and douching could cause an overgrowth of bad bacteria.

Candidiasis is a common yeast infection that causes yellow-white discharge along with itchiness, swelling, soreness, redness, and burning sensation during urination (3).

  1. Bacterial vaginosis (BV): It is caused due to a bacterial imbalance. Usually, good bacteria control bad bacteria in the vagina, but when it gets reversed, it might cause BV. It, therefore, results in a yellow or green discharge that is thick and foul-smelling and is associated with vaginal pain and burning sensation (4).
  1. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): They are the common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge and pose a risk of other STIs if not treated on time. The major types of STIs include trichomoniasis (5), Chlamydia, and gonorrhea (6).
  1. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): When STIs or bacterial infections are left untreated, the infections spread to the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. As a result, they lead to symptoms such as yellow discharge, pain during pelvic exams, nausea, fatigue, and painful urination (7).

These are the likely reasons for yellow discharge during pregnancy. Sometimes, you might have the discharge not because of any infection, but because of wearing uncomfortable panties or using unhygienic products too.

But if the discharge is abnormal and you have symptoms such as itchiness, foul odor, and vaginal pain, you should see a doctor. Medical tests help diagnose the condition, and the doctor would suggest the necessary treatment.

How Is Yellow Discharge Treated?

Yeast infections are treated with antifungal tablets, creams, ointments, or suppositories. Bacterial and sexually transmitted infections are treated with antibiotics that are considered safe during pregnancy (8).

The duration of the treatment depends on the severity of symptoms. The sooner you receive the treatment, the lesser is the possibility of infections that cause complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Even as you follow the course of treatment, it is good to take proper care at home to deal with the infection as well as prevent it in the future.

How To Prevent Yellow Vaginal Discharge?

The following measures help in reducing the discomfort associated with abnormal discharge and also prevent it (9).

  • Wear panty liners to absorb the discharge and remain dry.
  • Keep the vaginal area healthy by wiping it from front to back after urination and bowel movements.
  • Wash your genitals with mild soap and dry them.
  • Avoid hot bathtubs and douching as it can change the normal bacterial levels and aggravate yeast infections.
  • Avoid scented soaps and toilet paper, hygiene sprays, and tight-fitting panties.
  • Wear cotton and clean panties for extra comfort.
  • Do not use chemicals for washing the area.
  • If the vagina is itchy, control the urge to scratch as it could make the condition worse.
  • Stay away from stress by practicing yoga and meditation.

Basic hygiene, plenty of sleep, a healthy diet, and drinking water frequently are good not just for vaginal health but also for your overall health.

Most women have vaginal discharge during pregnancy. Therefore, it is important to know when it is normal and when it is not. Do not wait to see a doctor if you suspect vaginal infection. Watch out for symptoms of abnormal discharge and get the treatment started soon to avoid complications.

If you any experiences to share, let us know about them in the comments section below.

References:

1. Somia Gul, et al.; Women facing heavy vaginal discharge (leucorrhea) by virtue of unhealthy lifestyle; International Research Journal of Pharmacy
2. Signs of labor; American Pregnancy Association
3. L Renee Watson et al.; Yeast infection; University of Rochester Medical Center
4. Bacterial vaginosis (Gardnerella Vaginitis); Harvard Health Publishing (2016)
5. Trichomoniasis – CDC fact sheet; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017)6. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis; The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2016)
7. Vaginal infections & PID; Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation
8. Treatments for specific types of sexually transmitted diseases and sexually transmitted infections (STDs/ STIs); NIH
9. Genital and reproductive health; Princeton University