Vaginal discharge in the third trimester

Discharge. Not exactly the most pleasant word or idea to ever cross your mind, but it’s actually a useful way for your body to communicate with you as you approach your delivery date. It’s very important that you use panty liners rather than tampons to absorb the fluid, since tampons could cause Toxic Shock Syndrome or tears that lead to infection. The flow shouldn’t be very heavy until you go into labor, but here are some interpretations if your discharge is:

Whitish and mild-smelling

Standard leukorrhea, which is a fancy word for vaginal discharge. This is just a collection of normal secretions from the cervix and vagina, which you experience year-round. It is heavier during pregnancy due to an increase in estrogen and blood flow to the vagina.

Clear and odorless

This could be a sign that your amniotic fluid is leaking, which is a very serious concern since it is the supportive environment for your baby’s development. It's important that you get into contact with your healthcare provider immediately if you think your amniotic sac has ruptured. The odorless nature of this discharge differentiates it from urine, with which it is commonly confused.

Heavy before week 37

This may be a sign of premature labor, so you should look out for other signs and symptoms, and consult your provider if concerned, or if the discharged is accompanied by other signs of premature labor, including cramps, back ache, or contractions, or if the discharge is blood-tinged.

Thick, clear, and bloody

This is probably part of your mucus plug, which is essentially a stopper for the opening of your cervix, and is one of the first indicators that you are going into labor.

A sudden rush of colorless, odorless fluid

Your water broke! You’ll probably be ready for this after frequent contractions, but only about 8% of women actually experience this before contractions start. If this happens, call your healthcare provider to check in and figure out your next step, which your healthcare provider will determine based on how far along you are.

Itching or burning

You should call your healthcare provider right away, as this could be a sign of infection.

So, yes, vaginal discharge is not the most pleasant thing in the world, but it is perfectly natural and you can keep it under control by making sure you’re clean and dry down there. Wear cotton underwear and comfortable pants. As tempting as it may be to make it smell better, it's a good idea to stay away from sprays, scented panty liners, or other feminine hygiene products when pregnant.

Read more
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. "Fetal development: The third trimester." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 7/11/2014. Web.
  • Susan Scott Ricci, Terri Kyle. Maternity and Pediatric Nursing. pp 337-339. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009. Web. 
Get the Ovia Pregnancy app
Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Apple App Store Get our app at the Google Play Store Get our app at the Google Play Store