Leukorrhea: What is it and could it be an early sign of pregnancy?
Cervical mucus discharge is something that nearly all women experience, but probably don’t think a lot about. It is a normal part of a woman’s menstrual cycle and an important indicator of health. As your body goes through normal hormonal cycles you will notice changes in vaginal discharge.
Understanding and being aware of changes in vaginal discharge can be helpful in tracking your normal cycle, but also allows you to be a better advocate for your own health.
What is leukorrhea?
Leukorrhea is simply the medical term for the normal vaginal discharge you experience with major hormonal changes. If you are tracking your cycle you might notice that you experience this normal vaginal discharge at the same time in each cycle – typically around the time of ovulation. It is typically thin, milky white, and mild smelling or has no odor at all. It also doesn’t come with typical symptoms of vaginal infection such as itching or strong odor.
This type of discharge is actually very important for your health. It helps maintain acidic pH levels in your vagina to prevent pathogens from growing. It helps maintain healthy vaginal flora which helps prevent yeast infections. Do not use vaginal wipes or douches because you need leukorrhea to do its job.
Can leukorrhea be an early sign of pregnancy?
Leukorrhea itself is not an early sign of pregnancy, but changes in vaginal discharge can be. Knowing what your normal vaginal discharge looks like throughout your cycle can help you spot changes. If you are using a fertility tracker, such as Mira, you can match these changes to the specific normal changes in your hormones.
Within the first two weeks of conception, some women see an increase in mucus production. Vaginal discharge may go from thin and white to thicker, gummier, and become clear in color. This can happen in early pregnancy but isn’t always a sign of pregnancy.
There are many possible causes for changes in leukorrhea so it may not be a sign of pregnancy. If you think you may be pregnant, take an at-home test, or see your physician to verify.
What changes in discharge will you experience in pregnancy?
If you are pregnant you can expect to continue to see vaginal discharge during pregnancy.
Early pregnancy discharge may be thicker than your pre-pregnancy discharge. As your pregnancy progresses you will notice more discharge that will continue to thicken over time. Near the end of your pregnancy, you may even notice streaks of pink in your discharge. This often precedes labor and you may eventually see a large discharge that is known as your mucus plug.
Once you notice this large streaked discharge of cervical mucus you should let your healthcare team know. It might not mean you are actively in labor, but your body is preparing for the delivery of your baby.
If you are not yet at full term and experience a continuous discharge or it changes to a thick jellylike consistency, you should see your doctor right away as this may be a sign of pre-term labor. If you’re pregnant and experience a large discharge of more than an ounce that is bright red in color, contact your doctor right away. This could be a sign of complications such as placenta previa or placental abruption.
When to see a doctor?
If leukorrhea is a normal part of your cycle how do you know when you should see a doctor?
First, knowing what is normal for your body will help you decide if it is time to see your doctor. However, if you see slight changes in your vaginal fluid do not jump to the worst-case scenario right away. There are many reasons (most completely normal) that might result in small changes to consistency or color.
There are, however, a few symptoms to watch for that mean it is time to see your healthcare provider:
- Burning or itching
- Strong odor
- Yellow, green, or gray mucus color
Abnormal discharge could be a sign of a yeast infection, a sexually transmitted disease, or a hormonal imbalance. Catching changes early can help you get a diagnosis and fix the problem before it becomes more serious.
Remember, vaginal discharge is a natural part of your menstrual cycle. Getting to know your body better and what is normal for you will allow you to be more aware of your cycle and spot changes early.
If you ever have questions about changes in your cervical mucus reach out to your healthcare provider to get an expert opinion.
✔️ Medically Reviewed by Dr Roohi Jeelani, MD, FACOG and Lauren Grimm, MA
Dr Roohi Jeelani is Director of Research and Education at Vios Fertility Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Dr Jeelani earned her medical degree from Ross University School of Medicine in Portsmouth, Dominica. She then completed a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Wayne State University, Detroit Medical Center, where she was awarded a Women’s Reproductive Health NIH K12 Research Grant. She is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr Jeelani has authored numerous articles and abstracts in peer-reviewed journals, and presented her research at national and international scientific meetings. A Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr Jeelani is a member of the American Medical Association, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, and the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists.
Lauren Grimm is Research Coordinator at Vios Fertility Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Lauren earned her bachelor’s degree from Loyola University Chicago, where she also completed her masters in Medical Sciences. Lauren has worked alongside Dr. Jeelani for the last 3 years, authoring a number of abstracts and articles in peer-reviewed journals, and presented her research at national and international scientific conferences. Lauren will be continuing her education this fall at Rush University Medical College in Chicago, IL as an MD candidate.
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