What Kind of Discharge Is Normal During the Third Trimester?

Reviewed on 6/3/2021

During pregnancy, women can expect to experience vaginal discharge throughout the pregnancy. The types of discharge in pregnancy include increased and thickened mucosal discharge, the mucus plug that seals the cervix until labor begins, amniotic fluid leakage, spotting, and yeast infection.
During pregnancy, women can expect to experience vaginal discharge throughout the pregnancy. The types of discharge in pregnancy include increased and thickened mucosal discharge, the mucus plug that seals the cervix until labor begins, amniotic fluid leakage, spotting, and yeast infection.

Vaginal discharge can occur throughout pregnancy, including the third trimester (the last three months of pregnancy).

Most of the time it is normal and nothing to worry about. In some cases, a woman should see her doctor. 

There are several types of vaginal discharge women may experience during pregnancy, which are listed in the table below.

  • Mucosal discharge
    • Blood flow to the cervical area increases during pregnancy which causes increased secretion of cervical fluid and thus increased discharge
    • This discharge helps keep the vagina clean and prevents infections
    • It is common and harmless
    • Discharge may appear clear or milky white, thin or mucusy, and has a mild odor
  • Show (mucus plug)
    • The mucus plug seals the cervix during pregnancy and helps keep infections out of the uterus
    • It is released as a woman is approaching labor, toward the end of the third trimester
    • When it loosens and starts coming out, it is a sign labor may start soon, though not necessarily right away (it may be shed a couple of weeks before labor but it’s still a sign the body is getting ready for delivery)
    • A mucus plug is usually off-white with some streaks of pink blood but it can be clear, white, yellow, green, brown, slightly pink, or blood-tinged in color
    • It is jelly-like but becomes more liquid as it is expelled and can be sticky or stringy
  • Amniotic fluid leakage
    • Amniotic fluid is the liquid that surround the fetus in the uterus
    • Leakage may range from a trickle of warm fluid to gushing 
    • Fluid is usually clear and odorless but may have traces of mucus or blood
    • Losing small amounts of amniotic fluid may not be a problem, but loss of too much fluid can be dangerous
  • Spotting 
    • Spotting is red, dark brown, or pink blood 
    • In the first trimester, spotting may occur due to implantation bleeding, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy
    • In the second trimester, spotting may occur due to cervical irritation after a cervical exam, sexual intercourse, or cervical polyps
    • In the third trimester, spotting may occur due to cervical irritation after a cervical exam, sexual intercourse, or passage of the cervical mucus plug or show
  • Yeast infection
    • The pH of the vagina is affected by hormonal changes during pregnancy, which can increase the risk of vaginal yeast infections
    • Discharge is thick, white, and curd-like (looks like cottage cheese)
    • Other symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection include itching, redness, and soreness in and around the vagina, painful urination and pain during intercourse  

See your doctor if you have vaginal discharge during pregnancy and:

  • It is accompanied by an unpleasant and strong smell or it is an unusual color
  • The discharge of cervical fluid is brownish yellow or green-tinged 
    • This may be a sign the baby has passed stool in the uterus, which may cause breathing complications in the baby at birth
  • You lose a large amount of amniotic fluid
  • You release the cervical mucus plug
    • This is a sign your body is preparing for labor
  • You notice vaginal spotting bleeding
    • See your doctor right away for heavy vaginal bleeding during the third trimester, which can be caused by placenta previa, vasa previa, and placental abruption — these are medical emergencies
  • You have symptoms of a yeast infection
    • You may need prescription antifungal creams and suppositories 

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Reviewed on 6/3/2021
References
https://flo.health/menstrual-cycle/health/vaginal-discharge/discharge-during-pregnancy