Embarrassing, Maybe. Normal? Totally.
Probably the most common question we get on the labor and delivery ward is, "I think my water just broke, but I'm not sure...?"
In general, women who are questioning if their water has broken aren't dealing with a sneaky uterus intent on tricking them with fake amniotic fluid.
Instead, it's usually a form of misleading pregnancy discharge.
Increased vaginal discharge during pregnancy is a completely normal symptom — and the type and amount will vary throughout the pregnancy as well.
Why does discharge increase during pregnancy?
There is an increase in discharge during pregnancy because the cervix produces more mucus for two reasons.
- To help soften the cervix to help it dilate when the body is ready for labor, which happens later in the pregnancy.
- To help protect the developing baby in the uterus. The increase in discharge helps to form the infamous mucus plug as well as helps "fight off" incoming bacteria or potentially harmful invaders before they make their way into the uterus.
What is "normal" pregnancy discharge?
Normal pregnancy discharge can range from thin, clear, small amounts of discharge — similar to what you may notice around ovulation — to larger amounts of discharge that can require the use of a light panty liner. The color usually ranges from clear to "egg white" in appearance. Near the end of the pregnancy, you may start to lose your mucus plug, so the discharge can actually be slightly green or brownish in color or tinged with blood. This may be a little TMI, but even though I am a labor and delivery nurse, even I had concerns about my discharge during pregnancy — I was shocked by how much a woman could truly have, especially during the end. I was also one of those women who lost my mucus plug slowly, so in the last few weeks, the discharge increased and was very "greenish" in color.
What is abnormal pregnancy discharge?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, abnormal vaginal discharge is anything that looks very green or yellowish, is very strong-smelling or is accompanied by redness and itching. Very thick, white discharge may also be a sign of a yeast infection, which are extremely common in pregnant women, due to the changing levels of hormones in the vagina during pregnancy.
If you are unsure if your discharge is normal, do speak up to your healthcare provider. A significant change in your discharge may indicate a cervical change, or it could be a sign of an infection, which could lead to complications such as preterm labor.
Side note: I would just like to warn you that for the purpose of writing this article, I found out the rather disgusting way — please, for your sake, do not Google the term, "pregnancy discharge." Even this labor and delivery nurse was grossed out.