It’s common for women to experience changes in vaginal discharge during pregnancy. As your body goes through hormonal fluctuations and physical changes to accommodate your growing baby, you may notice differences in the amount, color, and consistency of discharge.
In most cases, yellowish discharge during pregnancy is normal and nothing to be concerned about. However, in some instances it could signal an infection that requires medical treatment. Understanding the causes of yellow discharge and when to see your doctor can help ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy.
What causes yellowish discharge during pregnancy?
Here are some of the most common reasons you may have yellowish vaginal discharge while pregnant:
- Increased estrogen levels – Estrogen causes an increase in normal vaginal discharge during pregnancy. The normal milky white discharge may take on a yellowish tint as estrogen levels rise.
- Old blood – Spotting or very light bleeding early in pregnancy as the fetus implants in the uterus can cause yellowish discharge as the old blood mixes with normal discharge and exits the vaginal canal.
- Infection – Yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis can cause yellowish discharge with an unpleasant odor. Trichomoniasis, an STD, also leads to yellow-green discharge and irritation.
- Cervical fluid – As the cervix softens, cervical mucus secretions may increase and appear yellow.
- Hygiene products – Yellow discharge can result from use of certain colored panty liners, vaginal medications, or feminine hygiene products.
When to see a doctor
Yellow discharge without any other symptoms is usually not concerning. But in some cases it could require medical treatment. See your doctor if you notice any of the following:
- Thick, clumpy, or curd-like yellow discharge
- Yellow discharge accompanied by a foul odor
- Yellow discharge along with itching, burning, or redness
- Greenish-yellow discharge
- Gray, white, or green discharge along with a fishy odor
These symptoms may indicate an infection like bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia, gonorrhea or trichomoniasis. Leaving these untreated can lead to complications like premature birth, low birth weight, miscarriage infection.
When yellow discharge is normal
You likely don’t need to worry if the yellow discharge:
- Is thin and watery
- Has no odor
- Is not accompanied by itching, pain, or soreness
As long as you have no other symptoms, yellowish discharge by itself is usually not a cause for concern.
Tips for dealing with discharge
Here are some tips for managing normal increases in discharge during pregnancy:
- Wear panty liners – This can help avoid discomfort and leakage.
- Choose cotton underwear – Cotton is more breathable than synthetic fabrics.
- Avoid douching – This can disrupt the natural bacterial balance.
- Practice good hygiene – Change pads and liners frequently and avoid scented products.
- Wipe front to back – This avoids spreading bacteria from the anus to the vagina.
- Stay hydrated – Drinking plenty of fluids can help thin discharge.
When to call your doctor
Contact your obstetrician or midwife if you notice any of the following:
- Sudden change in the amount, color, or consistency of discharge
- Itching, burning, or abnormal odor
- Discharge accompanied by signs of infection like fever, chills, or abdominal pain
- Bleeding or spotting along with discharge
Your provider can examine you and determine if testing is needed to check for infection. Prompt treatment can prevent complications.
Diagnosing causes of yellow discharge
If you have symptoms of infection, your doctor may recommend:
- Pelvic exam – Allows visual inspection of discharge color, consistency, and vaginal irritation.
- Microscopic exam – Cervical/vaginal fluid is checked for inflammatory cells, yeast, or clue cells signaling BV.
- Whiff test – Adding a drop of potassium hydroxide to a sample creates a fishy odor with BV.
- STD tests – Lab tests check for chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomoniasis infections.
- pH test – Vaginal secretions may be tested for abnormal pH signaling BV.
Once the cause is identified, appropriate treatment can be prescribed.
Common causes of abnormal yellow discharge
Here is an overview of some of the most frequent infections linked to yellow discharge in pregnant women:
|Yeast infection||Thick, cottage cheese-like discharge; itching, redness||Microscopic exam, pH test||Antifungal creams or suppositories|
|Bacterial vaginosis (BV)||Thin gray/white discharge; fishy odor; pH > 4.5||Microscopic exam, whiff test, pH||Antibiotics (oral or vaginal)|
|Trichomoniasis||Frothy green/yellow discharge; itching, odor||Microscope exam, culture, or PCR test||Oral antibiotics|
|Chlamydia/gonorrhea||Yellow or green mucus-like discharge; burning with urination||Urine test or cervical swab||Oral antibiotics|
When yellow discharge resolves on its own
In many cases, a temporary increase in yellowish discharge will resolve on its own without needing treatment. This is often seen:
- After intercourse – Semen can mix with normal discharge and appear yellowish.
- During implantation – Spotting around the time of expected menstruation can cause yellowish discharge.
- In late pregnancy – More discharge is common as the body prepares for labor.
- After a pelvic exam – Temporary irritation can increase mucus production.
As long as you have no other symptoms like itching, pain, or heavy bleeding, it should clear up within a day or two. But alert your doctor promptly about any concerns.
Preventing vaginal infections during pregnancy
You can reduce the risk of developing vaginal infections that cause abnormal discharge by:
- Practicing good hygiene – Wipe front to back, avoid scented products, change pads/tampons frequently.
- Wearing breathable cotton underwear.
- Urinating before and after intercourse.
- Avoiding douching, which can disrupt vaginal pH.
- Not using tampons, which increase infection risk.
- Avoiding sexually transmitted infections by using protection and monogamy.
If you’ve had recurrent yeast or BV infections before pregnancy, talk to your doctor about preventive treatment.
Yellow discharge without any other symptoms is common and normal during pregnancy as hormones fluctuate. However, yellow discharge accompanied by foul odor, itching, pain, or bleeding can signal an infection needing treatment.
It’s important to discuss any changes in vaginal discharge with your healthcare provider so the cause can be properly diagnosed. Bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, STDs, and other issues are treatable with medication when caught early.
With appropriate care and precautions, yellowish discharge during pregnancy can be managed for a healthy pregnancy.