An increase in vaginal discharge can be a sign of pregnancy. It is typically a thin clear, or milky white liquid. Changes to discharge appearance can indicate several health conditions.

Anyone with a vagina can experience discharge from this part of the body.

Vaginal discharge is normal, and it can tell a person a lot about their body, including whether they have an infection, where they are in their menstrual cycle, and even their level of hydration.

A change in the amount of vaginal discharge can also sometimes indicate pregnancy.

In this article, we look at how to identify the vaginal discharge typical in early pregnancy. We also discuss other symptoms of early pregnancy, other factors that can affect discharge, and when to see a doctor.

Vaginal discharge is the normal substance that comes out of a person’s vagina. It is an umbrella term that encompasses any fluid — other than menstrual blood or urine — that the vagina secretes, both healthy and unhealthy.

Cervical mucus refers specifically to the substance that the cervix releases.

Hormones make a person’s cervix produce mucus. Shifts in a person’s hormone levels can occur during certain phases of the menstrual cycle or pregnancy. These can change the color, texture, and amount of discharge.

Healthy vaginal discharge is usually thin and clear or milky white with only a mild, inoffensive odor.

Unhealthy discharge can:

  • be foul smelling
  • be green or yellow
  • be lumpy
  • accompany itchiness around the vagina
  • accompany pain during urination

A person should see a doctor if they experience unhealthy discharge because it can signal an infection.

Early in a pregnancy, a person might experience a slight increase in vaginal discharge. Pregnancy causes higher levels of estrogen, leading the body to produce more discharge and increase the blood flow to the uterus and vagina.

Increased discharge also helps protect the fetus by preventing external infections from traveling up from the vagina to the uterus.

As pregnancy continues, a person will continue to experience more discharge up until delivery.

What does it look like?

Healthy vaginal discharge during pregnancy is called leukorrhea. It is similar to everyday discharge, meaning that it is thin, clear or milky white, and smells only mildly or not at all.

However, pregnancy can cause the amount of discharge to increase.

Infections, including yeast infections or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), can affect vaginal discharge, so it is important to monitor discharge as a health indicator.

Below are a few examples of unhealthy discharge and the diseases or infections that they may indicate.

Discharge Cause
Thick and chunky, similar to cottage cheeseCandidiasis, or thrush, which is a yeast infection common during pregnancy
Fishy smellingBacterial vaginosis
Green or yellow and possibly frothyTrichomoniasis
Increased discharge with pelvic pain or bleedingChlamydia or gonorrhea
Increased discharge from blisters or soresGenital herpes

Many signs — some subtle and some less so — can indicate pregnancy in the early stages.

A person’s period halting is the clearest indicator that they may be pregnant. However, menstruation can vary due to many other factors, including stress, birth control, and weight loss.

Learn about other possible causes of missing a period.

These other signs and symptoms can help identify pregnancy:

  • tender and swollen breasts
  • morning sickness
  • cravings or distaste for certain foods
  • increase in fatigue
  • increased urination
  • headaches
  • constipation
  • heartburn
  • mood swings
  • unexplained weight gain or loss

If a person had sex without effective birth control or barrier methods and is experiencing these symptoms or thinks that they might be pregnant, they should consider getting a pregnancy test.

There are two ways to test for pregnancy: urine testing and blood testing.

A person can test their urine at home or seek a doctor’s help. They should be able to buy a home pregnancy test relatively cheaply from a local pharmacy.

To do the urine test, a person catches their urine midstream on the test stick, which will check for the presence of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in the urine. This hormone is elevated during pregnancy.

A home pregnancy test will give a “yes” or “no” result, depending on the presence of hCG.

A urine test at a doctor’s office uses the same process, but instead of catching the pee on a testing stick midstream, a person will pee in a cup for a lab to analyze.

Home pregnancy tests are 97% accurate if a person uses them correctly.

Blood pregnancy tests are much more accurate and can tell a person more about their hCG level. This test will reveal to a person the exact amount of hCG in their blood. A blood test can also detect pregnancy earlier than a urine test.

However, a doctor must perform a blood pregnancy test.

A person should see a doctor if they are experiencing signs and symptoms of pregnancy. A person can take their own home pregnancy test, but it is still wise to follow up with a doctor, no matter the result.

Regardless of pregnancy concerns, if a person notices a change in their vaginal discharge, they should speak with a doctor, who can help diagnose the issue and prescribe any necessary treatment. Seeking advice is particularly important if changes in vaginal discharge accompany pain or itchiness.

A change in the amount of vaginal discharge can be a sign of early pregnancy.

However, other changes in the color or texture of vaginal discharge are more likely due to an infection, and a person should seek help from a healthcare provider to treat them.