Why Your Baby Girl Has Vaginal Discharge

baby girl sleeping
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One of the most common questions new parents often ask is in regards to the diapering care of their brand new babies. Some parents have actually never changed a diaper before, it's important to go over all aspects of diapering a baby.

One situation frequently surprises new parents—when they peel back that first diaper on their baby girl and find what looks a lot like bloody discharge coming from their daughter's vagina. It can be shocking to see discharge on a newborn, but fortunately, it's very common and very normal, so it's nothing to be concerned about.

Why Newborns Have Vaginal Discharge

Newborn baby girls have a discharge because of their mother's hormone levels during pregnancy. During pregnancy, there are high levels of hormones circulating in the body that cross the placenta and reach the baby. In newborns girls, these high levels of hormones can cause vaginal discharge, and in both baby girls and baby boys, the hormones can cause the baby to have what look like "breast buds" because of the swollen tissue around the breasts. The labia—or outside lips of the vagina—and the clitoris can also look visibly swollen because of the mother's leftover hormones from pregnancy.

The AAP Textbook of Pediatric Care explains that some of the hormones in the mother are necessary for the baby's vagina to actually develop correctly. When the baby is born, she loses her supply of hormones, which can lead to her body having discharge. The discharge usually looks thick (very thick, which can surprise a lot of parents!), gray-white or even slightly yellow-tinged, and bloody. The discharge can look like it's blood-tinged or actually looks very thick and bloody, almost like a menstrual cycle. The discharge is technically her body having "withdrawals" from the high levels of hormones she was used to during pregnancy.

It can be scary to see bloody discharge coming from a newborn if you're not prepared for it or if you have never heard of it before. Fortunately, however, the discharge is completely normal, it does not hurt your baby, and it usually disappears all on its own by the time your baby is 10 days old.

What You Can Do to Keep Your Baby Clean

Vaginal discharge in a baby doesn't require any special treatment. You can simply clean the area with a wet wipe, being sure to wipe the discharge from front to back. You may need to wipe the area a few times to get it completely clean. You may also have to check inside the labia (the outside folds of the vagina), as the discharge can build up inside the skin folds. Don't be afraid to clean the vaginal opening thoroughly, as sometimes, if you don't wipe the vagina opening thoroughly enough, the skin can actually fuse together. 

You should also use care not to cleanse the vagina with anything but warm water. Soap can actually irritate the diaper area and upset the balance of the vagina, or cash a rash in your baby. Call your pediatrician if the vaginal discharge persists longer than two weeks or becomes yellow or foul-smelling, as those symptoms may be a sign of an infection.

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Article Sources
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  1. Hormonal effects in newborns. Penn State Hershey. Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

  2. Skin care for your baby. Paediatr Child Health. 2007;12(3):245-51.

Additional Reading
  • Dinerman, L.M,Joffee, A. Chapter 27: Vaginal Discharge. Textbook Of Pediatric Care. Pediatric Care Online. http://pediatriccare.solutions.aap.org/chapter.aspx?sectionid=56754755&bookid=1017.