What Is Leukorrhea in Pregnancy?

Clear or milky white, mild, odorless vaginal discharge is normal in pregnancy

When to see your doctor for pregnancy discharge

Verywell / Melissa Ling 

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Leukorrhea is a mild, odorless discharge from the vagina that is clear or milky in color. Many people notice that leukorrhea increases during pregnancy, either at the start of pregnancy or as the pregnancy progresses.

In most cases, this discharge is normal and healthy. Some people worry that having it means that they have a vaginal infection, but most of the time, leukorrhea is completely harmless (and is even a sign that the vagina is healthy).

Characteristics of Leukorrhea

Usually, this kind of vaginal discharge is simply a normal byproduct of a healthy vagina. It is primarily composed of a mucus-like substance containing cells from your body.

This liquid keeps vaginal tissues moist and clears away impurities. It can vary in thickness from watery to more viscous, but tends to be somewhat thin, slippery, and/or sticky. Some people have minimal amounts of leukorrhea, while others produce more.

Leukorrhea should not smell. It also should not vary in color aside from clear, whitish, or pale yellow. A bad smell, itchiness, burning sensation, or change in color are all indications of infection.

The amount of leukorrhea often changes with the menstrual cycle as well as over time. You can experience this discharge at any time but it is particularly common near ovulation and during pregnancy. Just like the typical quantity of menstrual bleeding differs significantly, the amount and frequency of leukorrhea that's normal for each person can vary dramatically as well.

Causes of Leukorrhea in Pregnancy

During pregnancy, leukorrhea may become more noticeable. This type of vaginal discharge often increases due to the added blood flow to the area and the increase in pregnancy hormones, like estrogen. The additional blood flow and pregnancy hormones stimulate the mucus membranes in the vagina to produce more discharge.

This extra leukorrhea helps to remove dead cells from the vaginal walls, protect against infection, and maintain a healthy balance of "good" bacteria in the vagina. Basically, leukorrhea works to keep the vagina clean and infection-free, which is particularly important during pregnancy.

It is not harmful, nor is it usually a sign of any problem with your pregnancy. You may notice it throughout pregnancy and/or it may increase slightly as you near your due date. Usually, after the postpartum period, leukorrhea will return to its pre-pregnancy levels.

Coping With Leukorrhea

How do you know if you have leukorrhea? You may see it as wetness or chalky staining in your underwear or notice it on bathroom tissue when you wipe after urination. Again, this is not a sign of a problem, although it might be annoying. Changing underwear, using a panty liner, and/or bathing more frequently can help you feel cleaner.

Do not use tampons to absorb this discharge (or for any other reason during pregnancy). You can wear panty liners or pads in your underwear to keep you comfortable. Wearing breathable cotton underwear can help, too. Only clean the area with regular bathing or showering.

Remember, the vagina is self-cleaning, so no internal cleaning is necessary. In fact, the flow of leukorrhea is doing any cleaning that is needed.

Do not douche in order to get rid of the discharge (as with tampons, do not douche during pregnancy for any reason). There is nothing to remove, and trying to do so can disrupt the normal pH and bacterial balance of the vagina, potentially causing an infection or other types of irritation. Douching may actually increase the amount of discharge.

When to Call a Doctor

Leukorrhea is common and nothing to be concerned about as long as it stays odor-free, mild, and non-irritating, and doesn't change in any other way. That doesn't mean it isn't bothersome or sometimes worrisome. Be sure to report any vaginal discharge to a healthcare provider if it is:

  • Accompanied by a burning sensation
  • Accompanied by pain during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia)
  • Accompanied by painful urination (dysuria)
  • Accompanied by pelvic or lower abdominal pain
  • Copious (suddenly increases in quantity)
  • Chunky
  • Different in any way that concerns you
  • Foul-smelling
  • Heavy or thick
  • Itchy

These changes may indicate an infection or another problem that warrants further evaluation. In some cases, increased leukorrhea can mean that you should be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STI).

Possible causes of problematic vaginal discharge include:

You will normally have a routine screening in early pregnancy, but if you ever experience new symptoms, be sure to ask for additional screening, no matter what point you are at in your pregnancy.

A Word From Verywell

An uptick in vaginal discharge during pregnancy can be a bit alarming. However, usually, leukorrhea is perfectly normal and not a cause for concern. Still, the added wetness can be uncomfortable. While tampons are not safe, pads or simply changing underwear more often can help ease any discomfort.

3 Sources
Verywell Family 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.
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Vaginal discharge.

  2. Da Fonseca TM, Cesar JA, Mendoza-Sassi RA, Schmidt EB. Pathological vaginal discharge among pregnant women: Pattern of occurrence and association in a population-based surveyObstet Gynecol Int. 2013;2013:590416. doi:10.1155/2013/590416

  3. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office on Women's Health. Douching.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.