Yellow, green or smells fishy? Your vaginal discharge when you’re expecting may signal a problem…

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When you’re expecting, every little thing can give you cause to worry ― is my baby kicking enough, and is she growing like she’s supposed to, for instance.

Changes in your vaginal discharge is also a major reason for pregnant women to worry. You start to worry if your discharge smells “funky”, if its consistency changes, and especially if it’s bright red in colour.

Gleneagles obstetrician-gynecologist Dr Christopher Chong explains that in non-pregnant women, normal discharge is usually clear, or white, without any smell or curd-like materials.

“Women get a white discharge called leucorrhoea ― this discharge can increase in pregnancy. If it is yellow, green, brown, or bloody, there’s likely to be an infection,” Dr Chong says.

If you notice any abnormal changes in your vaginal discharge, a trip to the doctor may be in order. Here are “common leaks” and the problems they may signal.

1. Cheese, or curd-like discharge
A yeast infection could give rise to a cheese-like discharge. During pregnancy, hormonal changes will cause more sugar to be produced in vaginal secretions ― yeast grows well under these conditions. In addition to changes in your discharge, your vaginal area may also itch, be red and sore, and you might even feel pain when you urinate.

The problem with yeast infections is that they can cause your immunity to drop (it’s already low when you’re pregnant), and more serious infections to set in. It can even trigger premature labour.

See your gynae as you’ll need prescription medication to treat the yeast infection. Also, keep good hygiene and take some yoghurt ― the probiotics can help keep yeast infections at bay.

During pregnancy, hormonal changes will cause more sugar to be produced in the vaginal secretions, and yeast grows well under these conditions.

2. A bad or “fishy” smell
Bad odours can be caused by vaginal infections, as well as bleeding in pregnancy that’s mixed with discharge, notes Dr Chong. “If your discharge smells fishy, if could be caused by a bacteria called Gardnerella,” he adds. The smell may be more obvious after sex.

Gardnerella, also known as bacterial vaginosis, is an infection caused by an imbalance in the bacteria found in the vagina. An itch or a burning sensation may accompany it.

It can cause premature labour if the infection ascends into the uterus, causing the membranes to rupture prematurely. While this infection can sometimes clear up on its own, you’re advised to see your gynae for prescription medicine, so that you don’t endanger your baby.


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3. Yellow or greenish discharge

It can be quite alarming to see that your discharge is a whole different colour. Yellow or greenish discharge is likely to be caused by an infection ― like a UTI ― or even a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

For example, gonorrhea sufferers have a yellowish discharge, while trichomoniasis can produce a frothy, yellowish green discharge. These infections can be passed to your baby via the amniotic fluid, so visit your gynae right away if you suspect you have picked up an infection. Most can be treated with a course of antibiotics.

Dr Chong notes that when you complain to your gynae that your discharge is not normal, he or she would usually not consider an STD as a cause, unless you have a history, or if you get recurring vaginal infections that are resistant to the usual medication. “Doctors usually look out for other signs of STDs, such as superficial ulcers on the vulva and vaginal areas,” he explains.

“If the foetal heartbeat is obvious, and the bleeding doesn’t persist, most pregnancies will progress normally.”

4. Bloody discharge
Bleeding or spotting is a sign of miscarriage in early pregnancy, or early labour in late pregnancy. “Any blood in the discharge is abnormal till proven otherwise, so you will need to visit the gynaecologist for an assessment,” Dr Chong says.

It’s also not unusual for pregnant women to spot after sex, since the cervix may be raw and, hence, bleed easily, or if the expectant mum has an infection. “If the foetal heartbeat is obvious, and the bleeding doesn’t persist, most pregnancies will progress normally,” he notes.

5. Amniotic fluid
A leak in your amniotic fluid doesn’t have to feel like a huge gush ― it could feel like a mere trickle, or a slow leak. And since your bladder becomes fuller faster during pregnancy, it’s also easy to confuse this with your urine leaking.

What you can do is to empty your bladder, then put on a fresh sanitary pad. Examine the fluid on the napkin after half an hour. If it is amniotic fluid, it would be colourless, or may have a slight pinkish tinge, while urine would be yellowish. Amniotic fluid is also odourless.

To find out if your amniotic fluid levels are adequate, a simple ultrasound will usually suffice. Dr Chong says that an amnicator can also be used to test if your discharge is amniotic fluid. This is a swab stick with a yellow tip that you place on the discharge ― the tip turns black if it is amniotic fluid.

6. Urine
If you feel like you’re leaking fluid every time you laugh, cough or sneeze, you might be leaking urine. Many expectant mums experience urinary incontinence during pregnancy as your growing baby, as well as pregnancy hormones put stress on your bladder.

Urinary incontinence should improve after your baby is born, but you can do Kegel exercises ― also known as pelvic-floor muscle exercises ― to improve your control. Try contracting your pelvic-floor muscles ― what you control to stop the flow of urine ― for 10 seconds, then release. Do this 10 or 20 times in a row, several times a day.

Whatever you do, don’t stop drinking water ― it’s important that expectant mums keep hydrated.

Photos: iStock

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