Discharge During Pregnancy - Should I be Concerned?

>> Tuesday, August 21, 2012

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Pregnancy can cause an increase in the normal discharge women experience, and this can cause concern.  This discharge, called leucorrhea, is a mild, odorless discharge from the vagina that is clear or milky in color.  It does not indicate a vaginal infection and should not smell or itch.  It is the same discharge experienced during our normal cycles around ovulation and just prior to your menses, but during pregnancy - due to the increased blood flow to the vaginal area and the increase in pregnancy hormones, like estrogen - you may notice more of this discharge.                                                     
Also during pregnancy, your body's blood volume rises by about 50 percent, with much of that increase routed to your uterus to nurture your growing fetus. As a result, vaginal tissue becomes engorged with blood, leaving some women feeling a bit swollen and tender. This increase in blood flow, along with the increase in moisture and hormones, can cause a breakout of vaginal and vulvar acne that can extend down onto your inner thighs.  You can treat this breakout the way you would treat pimples anywhere else - by washing with plain soap and water and using witch hazel or a salicylic acid-based topical acne cream to clear things up.
Pregnancy also affects your hormone balance.  Your body will pump out extra estrogen and progesterone, which trigger a heavier flow of vaginal secretions that can be so abundant that women actually have to change their panties a couple of times on some days. If you don't want to tote around extra undies, then you can wear a mini-pad to catch the flow and change those instead.  If it seems like these hormonal changes give your discharge a less-than-great odor, clean yourself a few times a day with soap and water or use baby wipes to wipe each time you use the bathroom.  This will help you feel much fresher. 

But don't douche, as doing so can wash away healthy bacteria, which is the protective lubricating layer on the surface of the vaginal wall that can keep infection away.  Once you douche, you can throw your vagina into an imbalance, and this can bring on the yeast and bacterial infections we dread getting.  In pregnancy, there is another bacteria that we worry about over growing in the vaginal called group B strep.  This bacteria lives in our intestines and colon and can be present in the vagina in about 30-40 percent of pregnant women. 
Now how does it get in the vagina from the colon and intestines?  Well we all know that our anus and vagina are very close to one another, so even the most fussy person who takes care to be very clean can become infected.  During intercourse, we know how men can slip and slide around down there with their penis as they search for the right opening to enter.  When they slide across the anal area they can drag the “Strep” bacteria with their penis into the vagina.  Usually this is of no concern, as "Strep" infections are common and cause no symptoms except, rarely, a slight increase in vaginal discharge.  
Since Group B Strep is not an STD, and does not cause symptoms in most women, the concern is to the baby during birth, as they come through the vagina to be born.  Babies can swallow and breath in vaginal secretions during birth and this can result in the infant becoming infected with this bacteria.  We have all heard of 'strep throat' which comes from the same bacteria, but because babies do not have a strong immune system, if they become infected with it, the bacteria can cause serious infections like strep pneumonia in the lungs or meningitis in the brain and spinal column.  Unfortunately, many babies die from this if it is not properly treated or if it goes undetected in the mother prior to birth.
For this reason, all pregnant mothers are screened for infections in the first trimester of pregnancy and again a month prior to delivery.  If it is positive, antibiotics are given during labor and the baby is checked immediately after birth. Because of this careful screening, very few babies become infected with the group B strep bacteria. 
Remember, WaterWorks is a totally safe way to manage odor that can sometimes occur with increased vaginal discharge.  It uses no chemicals which can damage the vagina and it can be used as often as you like.

Hang in there.   Remember, call your doctor if are concerned that you have an STD, okay?  

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