What is Early Pregnancy Discharge?

early pregnancy discharge woman on toilet

Many women experience unexpected early pregnancy vaginal discharge, called leukorrhea.

Leukorrhea is a thin white discharge coming from your vagina, and can happen at any time during your menstrual cycle and during pregnancy.

Leukorrhea Discharge

Leukorrhea is the result of increased blood flow to the pelvis caused by rising levels of estrogen.

The rising estrogen levels happen as you get closer to ovulation, peak at ovulation, and then drop off.

Because vaginal discharge tends to increase as you approach ovulation, some women use it as a cue that they're entering their fertile window.

Early Pregnancy Discharge

Some women experience vaginal discharge occurring after conception and right around the time of their first missed period, and this can be an early sign of pregnancy.

The reason is because estrogen levels quickly rise after the fertilized egg implants itself into the wall of your uterus, and your body begins producing human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).

hCG is the first pregnancy hormone that an early pregnancy test can detect, and part of what triggers the estrogen response.

first response pregnancy test

These rising estrogen levels can cause an increase in cervical mucus, which usually looks like a thin and milky white substance.

This usually happens about 3-4 weeks after implantation, so it's definitely one of the earliest signs of pregnancy.

What Early Pregnancy Discharge Looks and Smells Like

You might notice a thin, milky white discharge on your underwear or when you wipe.

Sometimes it will have a tiny bit of a pink hue to it, but it's usually white or slightly off-white. It shouldn't really smell like much at all.

✔️  Thin, white milky discharge.
✔️  Possible faint pink color discharge.
✔️  Very mild or undetectable odor. 

early pregnancy discharge leukorrhea

If you're about a week after you think you ovulated and you notice some red spotting, that might be a sign of implantation bleeding rather than leukorrhea.

Many women mistake implantation bleeding for their period, but it shouldn't be as consistent or heavy of a flow as your usual period. Leukorrhea is completely different, and should not look anything like your period.

What Early Pregnancy Discharge Should NOT Look or Smell Like

Here is what early pregnancy discharge should not involve:

❌  Thick or chunky discharge.
❌  Yellow or green colored discharge.
❌  Strong fishy or foul odor.
❌  Itchiness or redness around vagina.
❌  Discomfort or pain during urination. 

Any of these may indicate something more serious, such as an STD or vaginal infection, so definitely contact your doctor.

When Does Leukorrhea Occur?

Once a fertilized egg implants itself into the wall of your uterus (about 7-9 days after the egg is fertilized), your body will start signaling pregnancy with a rise in the hCG hormone.

That spike of hCG hormone is usually detectable in a urine pregnancy test after another 5 days or so, with the minimum detectable hCG concentration in urine being around 25 mIU/mL. This will usually be about 5 days or so before your expected period, if you're using an early pregnancy test like First Response.

Once hCG begins to rise, it produces a cascade of other hormonal responses in your body, with one of the most robust and important ones being the estrogen increase.

That estrogen increase is what can cause an early pregnancy discharge (leukorrhea), but it will likely occur about a week or so after your pregnancy is already detectable on an early pregnancy test. 

Over time, that mucus discharge will help form the mucus plug and protect your uterus from harmful bacteria.

What To Do About Early Pregnancy Discharge

If your vaginal discharge meets the criteria we laid out above, and it is indeed leukorrhea, then this type of early pregnancy discharge is completely normal and harmless.

In fact, it can be a good sign that your body is progressing into producing the estrogen needed to successfully prepare your body to develop and carry a fetus!

It might feel like your body is responding a bit too strongly to the estrogen, and the early pregnancy discharge is more than you'd like to have. It might even make you feel a little uncomfortable or embarrassed about the vaginal discharge.

At this point, you might want to get used to having a bit more vaginal discharge than usual, because it will continue to occur during pregnancy as your body experiences all the hormonal changes.

To help control early or later pregnancy discharge, you can definitely use pads or panty liners, and change them as frequently as necessary.

Never try to block or absorb vaginal discharge when your pregnant, such as with a tampon. Also, never try to clean your vagina with a douche, and avoid using other wipes or washes. Any of these can result in dangerous infections during pregnancy.

Instead, to help with early pregnancy discharge, clean your outer vagina with a mild soap and water. We strongly recommend something like the Basis Sensitive Skin soaps.

Conclusions

Leukorrhea is a completely normal symptom of pregnancy, and typically occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy, but can also occur as late as the second trimester and third trimester.

It is a sign that your body has begun producing estrogen, one of the earliest and most important pregnancy hormones that will help your body develop and sustain the fetus.

Leukorrhea will come and go during pregnancy, so don't be surprised to experience a bit of thin, white vaginal discharge during the later months of pregnancy. Bring along some panty liners or pads in your pocketbook, just in case things get a little too uncomfortable! 

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