What Is Leukorrhea in Pregnancy?

When to see your doctor for pregnancy discharge

Verywell / Melissa Ling 

What Is Leukorrhea in Pregnancy?

Leukorrhea is a mild, odorless discharge from the vagina that is clear or milky in color. In pregnancy, many women notice that leukorrhea increases, either at the start of pregnancy or as the pregnancy progresses. In most cases, this is normal and healthy. Some women worry that having it means that they have a vaginal infection, but most of the time, this discharge is completely harmless. 

Characteristics of Leukorrhea

Usually, this 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 the 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 are prone to having minimal amounts of leukorrhea, while others produce more.

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

The amount of leukorrhea a woman has will often change with her menstrual cycle as well as over time. Women can experience this discharge at any time but it is particularly common near ovulation. Just like the typical quantity of menstrual bleeding differs significantly across women, the amount and frequency of leukorrhea that's normal for each woman can vary dramatically as well.

Causes in Pregnancy

During pregnancy, leukorrhea may become more noticeable. This vaginal discharge often increases due to the added blood flow to the area and the increase in pregnancy hormones, like estrogen. The uptick in blood flow and pregnancy hormones stimulates the mucus membranes in the vagina, which causes increased discharge.

This extra leukorrhea in pregnancy 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 it? You may see it occasionally 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 and/or bathing more frequently can help you feel cleaner.

You should 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. You should also only clean the area with regular bathing.

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 (again, 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. Additionally, douching may actually increase the amount of discharge.

When to Call Your Doctor

Many women experience this pregnancy discharge, and it is nothing to be concerned about as long as it stays odor-free, mild, 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 your doctor or midwife 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)
  • Changed in some way that concerns you
  • Chunky
  • Foul-smelling
  • Heavy or thick
  • Itchy

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

Possible common causes of problematic vaginal discharge include:

  • Acute pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Chemical irritation or allergic response, such as from douching
  • STI, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia
  • Yeast infection

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, light pads or simply changing underwear more often can help ease any discomfort.

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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.