Yellow Discharge During Pregnancy: What to Know

Yellow cervical/vaginal discharge in pregnant women can signal infection, which can affect pregnancy. If you discover discharge, your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and also take a sample of the discharge and urine to be tested.

This article will sort out what type of discharge is normal during pregnancy and when you should see a healthcare provider.

Pregnant young woman holding belly while working from home

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What Does Yellow Discharge Mean?

Cervical discharge isn't always a cause for concern. Learning about the different types of discharge can help you determine whether to call a healthcare provider.

Normal Pregnancy Discharge

Discharge can be a sign of a vaginal infection, but most of the time, this discharge is completely harmless. 

What's Normal Discharge?

Healthy vaginal discharge, called leukorrhea, is typically a thin, clear, or milky white fluid that has a mild odor. Leukorrhea is an early sign of pregnancy. For some people, it increases throughout their pregnancy.

Thin, Watery Yellow Discharge

Thin, watery yellow discharge could be mistaken for leaking urine. It could also be a sign of an infection, including a sexually transmitted infection (STI). More concerning is a leak of amniotic fluid, which is the clear liquid that surrounds the baby in the amniotic sac during pregnancy.

Thick, Yellow Discharge

If the discharge is yellow and thick and you have vaginal itching or burning, you likely have a vaginal yeast infection.

Foul-Smelling Yellow Discharge

Yellow discharge accompanied by an unpleasant odor could be a sign of an STI, or a yeast infection.

Yeast Infection

Vaginal yeast infections, which are also called vulvovaginal candidiasis or vaginal candidiasis, are pretty common during a woman's life cycle. They are more common during pregnancy from the effects related to changing levels of hormones.

The body naturally has some levels of fungus growing since it's part of your gynecological ecosystem. However, a yeast infection occurs when there's an overgrowth.

If you're taking broad-spectrum antibiotics for another ailment, you're at higher risk of yeast infections since antibiotics can kill beneficial bacteria as well. Having previous yeast infections puts you at risk for future yeast infections.

What Are the Symptoms of a Yeast Infection?

Symptoms include:

  • Itching, redness, and swelling in the vagina and vulva
  • Discharge that looks like cottage cheese
  • A burning feeling when you urinate

How Can a Yeast Infection Affect My Pregnancy?

Although a yeast infection can cause discomfort, it doesn't pose a risk to your pregnancy. You can safely use an over-the-counter (OTC) vaginal cream or suppository in the short term.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that the use of long-term, high-dose Diflucan (fluconazole) during pregnancy can put the baby at risk of birth defects during the first trimester. This is very rare. A single, low dose of fluconazole of 150 milligrams is safe.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal infection caused by the overgrowth of bacteria.

What Are the Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis?

BV may be asymptomatic for some, but for others, it can cause some of the following symptoms:

How Can BV Affect My Pregnancy?

BV can increase the risk of:

  • Membranes to rupture prematurely (commonly called water breaking)
  • Preterm labor and delivery
  • Low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds)
  • Postpartum endometritis, an irritation of the lining of the uterus.

Is Discharge During Pregnancy Common?

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy is very common and can increase as the pregnancy progresses.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is an STI that can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat. It's a common infection, especially among young people ages 15–24. It's typically treated with an injection of antibiotics. Yet, it's becoming harder to treat the infection because drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea are on the rise. It's important to follow up with your healthcare provider if your symptoms are still present a few days after treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Gonorrhea?

Symptoms can include some of the following:

How Can Gonorrhea Affect My Pregnancy?

A pregnant woman can pass the infection to her baby during childbirth. The infection also increases the risk of:

  • Miscarriage (spontaneous loss of pregnancy)
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Chorioamnionitis, which occurs when bacteria infects the membranes that surround the fetus and the amniotic fluid, leading to infections in both the mother and unborn baby

Gonorrhea can also infect an infant during delivery. If untreated, infants are at risk of eye infections.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a common STI that primarily affects people ages 15–24. It can cause reproductive challenges, ectopic pregnancy (fertilized egg implanting and growing outside the womb) and infertility (failure to become pregnant for 12 or more months) if left untreated.

What Are the Symptoms of Chlamydia?

Symptoms of chlamydia include:

How Can Chlamydia Affect My Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, women with chlamydia are at risk of preterm labor, premature rupture of membranes, and low birth weight in infants.

Babies may become infected during delivery. Newborns who are exposed during delivery can develop eye and lung infections.

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is a vaginal infection caused by the sexually transmitted parasite Trichomonas vaginalis.

What Are the Symptoms of Trichomoniasis?

Although most people report no symptoms from trichnomoniasis, others complain of some of the following:

  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Unusual odor
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Pain during urination or sex

How Can Trichomoniasis Affect My Pregnancy?

Trichomoniasis infection in pregnancy can increase the risk of premature rupture of the membranes, preterm birth, and low birth weight infants.

On rare occasions, a newborn girl can acquire the infection during delivery and may have vaginal discharge after she is born.

Summary


Vaginal discharge during pregnancy is very common and can increase as the pregnancy progresses.

Some discharge is normal and healthy, but some types of discharge, including yellow discharge or discharge that gives off an unpleasant odor, can be a sign of infection.

Many infections are treatable during pregnancy, but untreated infections can cause health concerns to the pregnant woman and possibly endanger the fetus.

A Word From Verywell

Although discharge during the life cycle and pregnancy is often normal, abnormal discharge should be treated by a healthcare provider when symptoms first appear.

Many times, the infection clears on its own, but it can be worrisome. If you have any concerns about your health or the health of your fetus, call your healthcare provider. In some practices, a nurse on call may be able to answer your questions before you decide if you need to be examined in person.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it normal to have yellow discharge during early pregnancy?

    Yellow discharge isn't always a cause for concern, but it can be a sign of an infection. If discharge is coupled with an unpleasant odor or other symptoms like pain or itching, make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

  • What color is discharge when pregnant?

    Harmless, healthy discharge is usually white and has a mild odor. It can increase in volume during your pregnancy. Using a panty liner can protect your clothes.

  • Can yellow discharge mean miscarriage?

    Yellow discharge can be a sign of infection. Infections, when left untreated, can put a pregnancy at risk of miscarriage.

  • When should I be worried about yellow discharge during pregnancy?

    If the yellow discharge is thick and has an unpleasant odor, it can be a sign of an STI or other type of infection. You should be examined by your healthcare provider to rule out any infection and to treat the infection that might exist.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Drug Safety Communication: Use of long-term, high-dose Diflucan (fluconazole) during pregnancy may be associated with birth defects in infants.

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  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chlamydia – CDC Fact Sheet.