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Why do I have yellow discharge during pregnancy?

pregnant women having pain
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni

Key Takeaways

  • Yellow discharge during pregnancy, especially with an unpleasant odor, requires timely consultation with a healthcare provider to promptly identify and address potential issues.
  • Understanding the various causes, from infections to hormonal changes, allows for targeted treatments, emphasizing the importance of accurate diagnosis for effective management.
  • Regular check-ups, open communication with healthcare providers, and proactive measures contribute to a healthy pregnancy, minimizing complications associated with yellow discharge.

Yellow discharge during pregnancy is common, and in many cases, it’s not a cause for immediate concern. Out of 89% of pregnant women who experience yellow discharge, 69% had vaginal infections. However, it can signal potential issues such as infection or an amniotic sac leak, which requires immediate attention. This symptom becomes more worrisome if accompanied by an unpleasant odor, pain, or itching. If you notice yellow discharge during pregnancy, it’s crucial to consult your healthcare provider without delay. 

A timely examination, including a physical check-up and testing of the discharge and urine, is necessary. The sooner the cause is identified, the faster you can receive appropriate treatment, minimizing the risk of complications. In this blog, we will explore the potential causes of yellow discharge during pregnancy while shedding light on what constitutes normal discharge during this crucial period. 

What does yellow discharge mean when pregnant?

During pregnancy, an increase in vaginal discharge, known as leukorrhea, is common. Out of 89% of pregnant women who experience yellow discharge, 69% had vaginal infections. It’s a normal part of the body’s adjustments during this crucial time, and using a panty liner can help protect your clothing. However, yellow discharge during pregnancy may signal a potential issue, especially if accompanied by a foul smell or itching. In such cases, it could be indicative of an infection. It’s important to note that untreated infections pose a risk to the pregnancy and may even lead to miscarriage. Some of the main causes of yellow discharge are as follows:

Yeast infection (Candidiasis)

Vaginal yeast infections, also known as vulvovaginal candidiasis or vaginal candidiasis, are relatively common, especially during pregnancy, due to hormonal changes. The body naturally contains some yeast fungus, a vital component of the gynecological ecosystem. However, an overgrowth of this fungus can lead to a yeast infection.

Common symptoms of a yeast infection include

Several factors can contribute to the development of yeast infections. Taking broad-spectrum antibiotics for other health issues increases the risk, as these antibiotics can disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in the vaginal environment. Individuals with a history of yeast infections are also at higher risk.

Treatment and precautions during pregnancy

While a yeast infection can cause discomfort, it generally does not pose a risk to pregnancy. Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments such as vaginal creams or suppositories (e.g., Monistat) are considered safe for occasional yeast infections. In some cases, a low dose of the antifungal pill Diflucan (fluconazole) may also be recommended.

For recurring or treatment-resistant yeast infections during pregnancy, caution is advised. High-dose Diflucan (fluconazole) in the first trimester may pose a rare risk of birth defects, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, a single 150 mg dose of Diflucan is generally considered safe for the child. If you suspect a yeast infection during pregnancy, it is crucial to consult with your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate guidance.

Worried about yellow discharge during pregnancy? Get treatment for infections instantly.

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a prevalent vaginal infection caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, occasionally leading to yellow discharge during pregnancy. BV may be asymptomatic, causing no noticeable symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, they may include

  • Itching
  • Thin white, yellow, or gray discharge
  • A burning sensation during urination
  • An unpleasant odor (especially after sex)

BV during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of complications such as premature rupture of membranes, preterm labor and delivery, low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds), and postpartum endometritis (irritation of the uterine lining after delivery).

Treatment and precautions

BV is typically treated with antibiotics, which can be oral (taken by mouth) or in the form of a cream or gel applied to the vagina. Antibiotic treatment for BV is considered safe for the baby during pregnancy and may also help reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

If diagnosed with BV during pregnancy, it’s essential to follow the prescribed antibiotic regimen precisely, even if symptoms are not present. Additionally:

  • Inform any female sex partners so they can undergo testing and treatment.
  • Abstain from sexual activity until you complete the full treatment.
  • Report any signs or symptoms immediately after completing the treatment to your healthcare provider.
  • If you suspect or are diagnosed with BV during pregnancy, seeking timely medical attention and adhering to prescribed treatments are crucial for a healthy pregnancy.


Trichomoniasis is a vaginal infection caused by the sexually transmitted parasite Trichomonas vaginalis, and it can sometimes manifest as a greenish-yellow discharge during pregnancy. While many individuals with trichomoniasis report no symptoms, some may experience the following symptoms:

  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • An unusual odor
  • Pain during urination or sex
  • A greenish-yellow discharge that can be thick or thin and frothy

Trichomoniasis during pregnancy can elevate the risk of complications such as premature rupture of membranes, preterm birth, and low birth weight infants. In rare cases, a newborn may acquire the infection during delivery, leading to vaginal discharge.

Treatment and precautions

Doctors typically treat trichomoniasis with antibiotics, commonly using metronidazole (Flagyl) or tinidazole (Tindamax). During pregnancy, the most effective and safe medication for the treatment of trichomoniasis is metronidazole. However, it can increase the risk of low birth weight and preterm births. 

Both partners require treatment, and sexual intercourse should be avoided until the infection clears. It’s important to refrain from alcohol consumption for 24 hours after taking metronidazole or 72 hours after taking tinidazole, as it can result in severe nausea and vomiting.

Consideration of STI testing before engaging in sexual activities with a new partner can also contribute to reducing the risk of transmission. Being proactive about safe practices is essential for maintaining sexual health during pregnancy.

Sexually transmitted infections

Gonorrhea during pregnancy

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can affect the genitals, rectum, and throat, potentially leading to yellow discharge during pregnancy. Common among young people aged 15–24, gonorrhea is becoming more challenging to treat due to the rise of drug-resistant strains. Symptoms of gonorrhea may include 

  • Thick, cloudy, green, or yellow discharge from the vagina
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Genital itching
  • Soreness
  • Bleeding

Gonorrhea during pregnancy can be transmitted to the baby during childbirth, increasing the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, premature rupture of membranes, and chorioamnionitis. If untreated, it may cause an eye infection in the newborn.

Treatment and precautions

Antibiotic treatment during pregnancy is safe, with ceftriaxone being a common choice. Regular screenings during pregnancy are essential to detect and treat gonorrhea early, reducing the risk of complications.

Chlamydia during pregnancy

Chlamydia, another common STI affecting individuals aged 15 to 24, can lead to reproductive challenges if left untreated. Symptoms include

  • Burning sensation
  • Bleeding after sex
  • Itching during urination
  • Rectal pain and bleeding
  • An unpleasant vaginal odor
  • White, gray, or yellow discharge

Chlamydia during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm labor, premature rupture of membranes, and low birth weight. Newborns exposed during delivery may develop eye and lung infections.

Treatment and precautions for chlamydia

Erythromycin is the treatment of choice during pregnancy, while amoxicillin is an alternative if erythromycin is not tolerated. Azithromycin is another option, although its effectiveness is slightly lower. 

Prevention involves abstinence from sex, and for sexually active individuals, correct and consistent use of barrier methods, especially condoms, is crucial. Testing for other STIs, such as gonorrhea, hepatitis, HIV, and syphilis, is also recommended to reduce the risk of additional infections.
If diagnosed with gonorrhea or chlamydia during pregnancy, seeking immediate treatment and notifying sexual partners are essential steps toward a healthy pregnancy.

Experiencing symptoms of STIs?
If yes, don’t delay it any further.

Amniotic fluid leak

Amniotic fluid, a clear and slightly yellow liquid, surrounds and cushions the fetus in the amniotic sac. Normally held in place by membranes, the fluid typically doesn’t rupture until labor or within 24 hours of its onset. If you observe a yellowish fluid, whether gushing or continuously trickling, it may signal a membrane rupture. Identifying an amniotic fluid leak can be challenging, especially if it’s a slow release. Symptoms include

  • A continuous trickle of fluid
  • Thin and watery discharge
  • A slight or no odor, with a slightly sweet smell if present. 

Treatment for amniotic fluid leak

Distinguishing amniotic fluid from urine involves observing the smell on a pad over time; urine will have a more pungent scent. Regardless of the pregnancy stage, promptly contact your healthcare provider if you suspect an amniotic fluid leak. This condition increases infection risk and requires immediate care. Treatment varies based on factors like gestational age:

  • 37 Weeks and Beyond: An amniotic fluid leak may indicate impending labor. Monitoring is essential, and induction may be recommended if labor doesn’t start promptly.
  • 34 to 37 Weeks: Induction may be considered due to infection risk. Close monitoring and regular check-ups are crucial.
  • Before 34 Weeks: Bed rest and antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent infection. Steroids may be given to aid fetal lung development. Continuous monitoring and tests may be conducted to assess lung development, and induction might be recommended if deemed necessary.

Understanding the potential risks and seeking immediate medical attention is vital for managing an amniotic fluid leak during pregnancy.

Cervical polyps

Cervical polyps, though benign, can significantly impact the daily lives of women, causing discomfort and pain. During pregnancy, these polyps can affect both the health of the mother and the fetus. Depending on their size, cervical polyps may lead to increased vaginal discharge, raising the risk of gynecological infections in pregnant women along with the following other effects:

  • Increased Vaginal Discharge: Cervical polyps can elevate vaginal discharge, posing a higher risk of gynecological infections during pregnancy.
  • Psychological Impact: The presence of cervical polyps can affect the psychology and health of pregnant women, causing discomfort and anxiety, ultimately influencing both maternal and fetal development.

Treatment and precautions for pregnant women with cervical polyps

Early detection and treatment are crucial for minimizing the impact of cervical polyps on both the mother and the fetus. Medical professionals recommend surgical interventions to remove polyps, with electrocautery employed if a peduncle is present to prevent regrowth.

  • Surgical Removal: For large polyps, the doctor will carefully choose the right time and method to remove the polyp without compromising the fetus’s health. Electrocautery may be utilized to prevent regrowth.
  • Limited Drug Use: Due to potential effects on fetal health, doctors tend to limit the use of drugs for pregnant women during the treatment of cervical polyps.
  • Monitoring During Pregnancy: Cervical polyps can cause prolonged bleeding during pregnancy, making pregnancy monitoring laborious. If necessary, polyps may be removed through the vagina when the fetus is large enough.

Women are advised to visit a gynecologist regularly for early detection and intervention. A comprehensive health check, including gynecological examinations, before becoming pregnant, is crucial. During pregnancy, routine antenatal check-ups are recommended to monitor maternal and fetal health, facilitating the early detection of cervical polyps and timely intervention to safeguard the well-being of both mother and baby.

Sexual activity

Experiencing yellow discharge after sexual intercourse during pregnancy is often considered a normal variation. The hormonal changes and increased blood flow to the pelvic area during pregnancy can contribute to variations in vaginal discharge.

While yellow discharge after sexual activity is often regular during pregnancy, it’s essential to differentiate between normal variations and potential infections. If the discharge is accompanied by a foul odor, itching, or discomfort, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare provider to rule out any infections or complications.

Maintaining Sexual Health During Pregnancy

Maintaining open communication with healthcare providers about changes in vaginal discharge and any associated symptoms is crucial during pregnancy. Regular prenatal check-ups and discussions about sexual health can contribute to a healthy and informed pregnancy experience.

Hormonal changes

During pregnancy, elevated estrogen levels contribute to increased turnover of vaginal cells, resulting in the production of leukorrhea. Leukorrhea is a normal discharge that is clear, milky-white, or sometimes yellowish, and generally has a mild smell. This discharge becomes more pronounced, particularly in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Leukorrhea is a type of vaginal discharge that is expected during pregnancy due to hormonal fluctuations, primarily involving estrogen and progesterone. This discharge is typically clear, whiteish, cream-colored, or pale yellow. Changes in discharge are a common aspect of pregnancy, influenced by hormonal shifts.

While an increase in leukorrhea is normal during pregnancy, any unusual color, including yellow, should be reported to a midwife or healthcare provider. Yellow discharge may indicate an infection and timely intervention is crucial to prevent complications such as early rupture of membranes or premature birth.

Monitoring and Treatment

Pregnant individuals are encouraged to stay vigilant about changes in vaginal discharge and promptly report any concerns to their healthcare providers. 

Timely identification and treatment of infections are essential during pregnancy to mitigate potential complications. Consulting with healthcare providers about any changes in discharge, even if seemingly normal, contributes to a comprehensive and proactive approach to maternal and fetal health.

Unsure about unusual yellow discharge?
Waiting is not good for you and your baby.

Cervical erosion

Cervical ectopy, or cervical erosion, is a prevalent condition during pregnancy. Hormonal changes and elevated estrogen levels increase the likelihood of experiencing symptoms associated with cervical ectopy during this period.

While symptoms related to cervical ectopy are common during pregnancy, any unusual discharge or bleeding should be promptly investigated by a healthcare professional, such as a GP, midwife, or early pregnancy unit. The hormonal changes and high levels of estrogen contribute to the occurrence of cervical ectopy symptoms. 

Treatment and Precautions

In many cases, treatment for cervical ectopy is not necessary, and symptoms tend to resolve on their own. For pregnant individuals, cervical ectopy often disappears within 3-6 months following childbirth.

If these symptoms are bothersome, healthcare providers may recommend treatment to cauterize or freeze the affected cells, alleviating the discomfort.

Regular attendance for routine cervical screening is emphasized, especially during pregnancy. Cervical screening helps assess the cervix regularly and identifies any abnormal cells or changes that may require further attention or treatment.

While cervical ectopy is often a benign condition, it is crucial to contact healthcare providers in specific situations, including continuous bleeding, heavy bleeding, passing clots, experiencing abdominal pain, or noticing a smelly discharge. These symptoms require prompt evaluation to rule out any complications or underlying issues.


The cervix plays a crucial role in reproduction, producing mucus to facilitate intercourse and aiding sperm in reaching the fallopian tubes for fertilization. Cervicitis, an inflammation and infection of the cervix, is not uncommon during pregnancy, with heightened susceptibility in the first and last three months.

Common signs of cervicitis during pregnancy include: 

Continuing sexual activity during this time may exacerbate the condition. Several factors contribute to cervicitis during pregnancy, including hormonal imbalances, improper intimate hygiene practices, changes in the vaginal environment due to detergents or cosmetics, tight underwear, wet conditions, unprotected sex, incomplete treatment of previous infections, and a history of miscarriage, abortion, or premature birth without proper care.

Cervicitis during pregnancy requires attention and intervention due to potential risks to fetal development. Specific dangers include:

  • Candida Infection: This may lead to yeast infections in the baby’s oral mucosa, causing issues like black mouth or fungal dermatitis. Additionally, there’s an increased risk of premature birth, weak resistance, and fungal pneumonia.
  • Gonococcal Cervicitis: Bacteria can enter the newborn’s eyes, causing conjunctivitis and affecting eyesight. There’s also a risk of premature rupture of membranes, infection of amniotic fluid, and fetal infection, leading to a high risk of premature birth.
  • Reduced Uterine Elasticity: Cervicitis can reduce the elasticity of the uterus, increasing the risk of miscarriage.

Treatment and prevention

A combination of oral antibiotics and gynecological suppositories is the primary treatment for acute cervicitis. Chronic cervicitis is treated similarly, with unique solutions for cleaning the private area. Surgical methods are typically avoided during pregnancy.

To prevent cervicitis during pregnancy, women are advised to maintain proper and clean intimate hygiene, choose breathable underwear, avoid strong detergents, limit sugar consumption, eat yogurt for infection prevention, abstain from sexual relations when detecting inflammation, and persist in treatment until the disease is resolved.

Suffering from pain and cervical swelling during pregnancy? Treat cervicitis to prevent miscarriage.

Consult a doctor 

During pregnancy, variations in the volume, texture, and color of vaginal discharge are common. While some changes are normal, others may indicate underlying issues, including infections. If you observe yellow vaginal discharge, especially accompanied by a strong, unpleasant odor, it’s crucial to consult your doctor. Yellow discharge may be indicative of:

  • Bacterial Vaginosis
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Yeast Infection
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea

Seeking medical advice is essential when you notice changes in vaginal discharge, as it can be a crucial indicator of various infections. If an infection is identified timely, your doctor can initiate appropriate treatment.


Yellow vaginal discharge during pregnancy, especially when accompanied by an unpleasant odor, should not be ignored. Consulting a doctor timely allows for proper assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. Early detection and timely treatment of gynecological infections, including cervicitis, are crucial for better and faster results. Pregnant individuals should prioritize regular check-ups, report any concerns to healthcare providers, and follow preventive measures to ensure a healthy pregnancy and minimize the risks associated with cervicitis.

FAQs about yellow discharge during pregnancy

Why is my discharge yellow but no smell?

If your yellow discharge doesn’t accompany any foul smell, the cause may not be infection or anything concerning. Yellow discharge without smell is normal during hormonal changes like pregnancy.

Can you have a yellow discharge and not have an infection?

The yellow discharge can result from mixing menstrual blood with normal discharge. It can occur either before or after your monthly menstrual cycle. Additionally, hormonal changes can also cause yellow discharge.

What can I drink to clean the yellow discharge?

Yellow discharge indicates either infection or disruption of hormonal balance in the body. Either way, improving your immunity via drinks can detoxify your body from harmful toxins like guava or garlic tea. However, you must see a doctor to treat the underlying infections with antibiotics.

Can poor hygiene cause yellow discharge?

Yes, poor hygiene can cause yellow discharge, increasing the chances of bacterial infections like vaginitis. See a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment of vaginitis.

How long does the yellow discharge last?

The duration of the yellow discharge depends upon the underlying cause. If the cause is infection, it can last 2-4 weeks. See a doctor if you notice unusual symptoms or foul-smelling discharge for diagnosis and treatment.

How do we know what causes yellow discharge during pregnancy?

Either infection or hormonal changes can cause yellow discharge during pregnancy. In case of infections, it can increase the chances of miscarriage as well if left untreated. Your provider can help you diagnose the exact cause of your condition, followed by practical and timely treatment.

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