Can Smelly Discharge Be a Sign of Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is an amazing time, but it also comes with many changes in a woman’s body. One of the earliest signs can be unusual vaginal discharge smells. But what causes smelly discharge during pregnancy? And when should you see a doctor? This guide will cover everything you need to know.


It’s normal for discharge to change during pregnancy due to shifting hormones. But some new moms notice unpleasant or fishy odors they didn’t have before. Should this send up a red flag?

The short answer is discharge smells aren’t automatically a problem. But they can signal an infection like bacterial vaginosis (BV) that requires treatment. Catching issues early leads to a healthier mom and baby.

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect discharge-wise each trimester, when to see your doctor about odors, and natural remedies you can try at home. Get ready to become a discharge odor expert!

Discharge in Early Pregnancy

Let’s start from the beginning. What happens to discharge in the first weeks after conception?

Once an egg is fertilized, your body ramps up estrogen and progesterone. This causes extra vaginal fluid and thinner discharge. The change acts as protection for the newly implanted embryo.

During the first trimester you may notice:

  • Increased amount of discharge
  • Thinner, more watery consistency
  • Milky white or pale yellow color
  • Mild or slight odor

This discharge is normal and helps prevent infection in the reproductive tract. But some pregnant women also develop yeast or bacterial infections leading to abnormal smelling discharge.

Vaginal Infections That Cause Odor

Two common types of infections cause smelly discharge during pregnancy:

1. Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. Up to 30% of pregnant women get it. Signs include:

  • Fishy odor, especially after sex
  • Gray, yellow or green discharge
  • Burning sensation when peeing

BV is linked to preterm birth and low birth weight babies. See your OB-GYN right away if you notice fishy smells. Antibiotics can clear up the infection.

2. Yeast Infections

Candida yeast naturally lives in the vagina. Pregnancy hormones can trigger overgrowth causing a yeast infection. Symptoms are:

  • Thick, white, clumpy discharge
  • Cottage cheese-like appearance
  • Yeasty or bread-like smell
  • Vaginal itching and burning

Yeast infections are common in pregnancy. Over-the-counter creams or prescription pills can provide relief. Try to avoid douching or using scented soaps which alter vaginal pH.

Second Trimester Discharge Changes

In the second trimester, estrogen levels remain high. You’ll likely have more discharge than usual.

Normal discharge characteristics in months 4-6 include:

  • Increase in thin, white discharge
  • Mild odor
  • Minimal itching or irritation

As long as there’s no strange color or yeasty/fishy smell, discharge is probably healthy pregnancy fluid. But call your doctor aboutbad odors, burning, or other discomfort. Vaginal infections still occur in the second trimester.

Third Trimester Discharge

The last 3 months of pregnancy bring the most discharge. As the due date approaches, you may pass mucus plug.

Third trimester signs are:

  • Greatest increase in discharge amount
  • Sticky, thick or gel-like consistency
  • White, yellow, or pale green color
  • Mild or sweet odor

Losing the mucus plug looks like a gush of stringy, bloody fluid. This is normal and means the cervix is dilating in preparation for labor.

Always mention any strange discharge smells to your provider. Yellow or green hues may signal infection.

When to See Your Doctor About Odors

Contact your OB-GYN or midwife if discharge has:

  • Fishy or foul odor
  • Bad smell, especially after sex
  • Gray, green, or yellow color
  • Cheese-like consistency
  • Foamy texture
  • Itching or burning

Foul smells signal possible vaginal infection requiring treatment. Bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections left untreated can lead to pregnancy complications.

It’s also key to get help for any symptoms of vaginal irritation like swelling, redness, or pain.

5 Home Remedies for Healthy Discharge

While you’re waiting for an appointment, try these natural ways to promote vaginal health:

  • Probiotics: Eat plain yogurt with live cultures.
  • Garlic: Antifungal and antibacterial properties.
  • Tea tree oil: Add a few drops to bath water.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Mix with water for a cleansing rinse.
  • Cranberries: Fresh or as juice helps fight UTIs.

Avoid douching, fragrant soaps, strong detergents, and scented pads/tampons which can alter vaginal pH. Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight clothes to letthings breathe.

Discharge After Childbirth

Vaginal discharge remains heavy after delivery as the body heals. Expect bright red bleeding and clots for a few days. Then lighter bleeding can last up to 6 weeks.

Lochia is the medical term for postpartum vaginal discharge containing blood, mucus, and tissue from the womb. It has a stale odor like menstrual blood. Contact your provider if lochia smells faintly rotten or fishy as this may indicate leftover material in the uterus.

Other things to watch for post-delivery:

  • Passing large clots
  • Soaking more than 1 pad per hour
  • Severe cramping
  • Foul odor
  • Fever over 100°F

Conclusion: When to Seek Help for Smelly Discharge

To wrap up, vaginal discharge increases during pregnancy and can occasionally have new odors you didn’t experience before. Try not to freak out if discharge smells a little different.

But do make an appointment right away if it becomes foul, fishy, or distinctly unpleasant. Bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections can harm mom and baby if left untreated. You may feel embarrassed to bring up discharge issues, but it’s so important for your health.

With an OB-GYN or midwife overseeing things, any vaginal infection is easy to clear up. The rest of pregnancy can continue smoothly and comfortably. Pay attention to your symptoms, practice healthy hygiene habits, and speak up about concerns. This keeps both you and baby in tip-top shape.