Leukorrhea is the term for vaginal discharge that is generated during pregnancy and which, when normal, has a whitish or slightly yellowish color, is odorless and viscous in texture. Its function is to ensure the cleanliness of the vagina by preventing the passage of bacteria into the uterus, as well as maintaining its degree of acidity. It may also appear after delivery or in the preceding moments with changes in its texture and color characteristics as well as the expulsion of cervical mucus that heralds the imminence of childbirth.
In a way leukorrhea is like a thermometer to measure the health of the vagina, since changes in the amount of flow and the color and smell of it can be indicative of the existence of inflammation or an infection. Thus, an abnormal leukorrhea will have a yellowish color, give off bad odor and may contain traces of blood. In some cases, it can also be more abundant than normal. Hence the necessity for a pregnant woman to regularly monitor her vaginal discharge and go to her doctor when she detects significant changes, especially if she also feels itching or burning in her vagina.
While certain hygienic measures are generally advised to all women, during pregnancy these recommendations are all the more significant. A pregnant woman should wear cotton underwear, keep the area dry and clean, not perform vaginal showers or take bubble baths. She should clean properly after bowel movement (from front to back) and avoid the use of perfumed products in the area. These measures are necessary to prevent a possible infection.
A frequent change of underwear also allows to conveniently control the characteristics of the leukorrhea, so that a possible infection can be detected:
- Abnormal increase in the amount of flow: you should contact your doctor to determine whether the leukorrhea is pathological or not. This is important, as some microorganisms may pose a risk to the course of pregnancy by weakening the walls of the amniotic pouch. Also, a sudden increase in the vicinity of week 37, with a flow of gelatinous consistency and possible traces of blood may be indicative of early delivery.
- Color and smell: if the color is whitish but has a pungent odor, it may be a sign of the existence of candidiasis, a fungal infection that can be contracted through sex or as a result of poor hygiene, since the fungus that causes it is frequently present in feces. If the color is yellow, greenish or gray and the odor is strong, it may indicate the existence of a sexually transmitted disease, some of which if not treated properly can cause fetal death, as well as brain damage, deafness, blindness and low birth weight in the child.
When leukorrhea is abnormal, a laboratory test should be performed to determine the pathogen responsible for the infection and thus define the treatment indicated in each case. It should be noted that thrush can taken care of with proper hygiene of the genital area and the use of topical antifungals, but in the case of certain bacteria, such as strep B, intravenous antibiotic treatment should be performed at the time of delivery to prevent the infection from being transmitted to the child when passing through the birth canal.
Born in London, England and raised in Orlando, FL, Elena graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelors’ degree in Health Sciences. She later received her masters’ in Creative Writing from Drexel University. She writes part-time for the Scientific Origin and focuses mostly on health related issues.