For many women, pregnancy is a time of excitement, anticipation—and fear of the unknown, especially when it comes to changes down there. While the experience is wildly different from one woman to the next—and even from one pregnancy to the next—there are some common changes.
Here's what you can expect if you're expecting.
Vaginal and labia changes
Because the vagina is so elastic, it naturally stretches during pregnancy and typically shrinks back to its normal size after delivery. There are, however, some unexpected changes that can happen.
Credit hormones for this. Both estrogen and progesterone are produced at higher levels during pregnancy, boosting blood flow to the vagina and labia. Because of this, you can potentially experience:
- Swelling of the labia majora and minora
- A bluish-purple vagina
- Discoloration on the inner and outer labia
- A change in labia shape
- Varicose veins in the labia area
- Light vaginal bleedin
Labia changes should return to normal a few days or weeks after giving birth, while vaginal changes may take a bit longer depending on genetics and type of delivery.
Cervical and uterine changes
During pregnancy, the cervix undergoes some pretty significant changes to prepare for labor and delivery. Early on, it produces a thick mucus plug to block the uterus and keep the baby safe. Throughout pregnancy, the tissue thickens. In the weeks before labor, it softens and dilates from increased pressure from your growing baby.
Cervical discharge is common toward the end of pregnancy. It may have some blood in it from the mucus plug, which is perfectly normal.
The uterus also changes during this time, expanding in size and weight. It shrinks back to its normal size a few weeks after birth, but it can grow to the size of a watermelon to accommodate the baby.
Changes in pH levels
Because your pH levels change during pregnancy, you can expect to smell differently and experience some form of vaginal discharge—but that's a good thing! This is your body working to help maintain a healthy bacterial balance in the vagina, protect your cervix, and prevent infection. The discharge should be thin and smell mild, but talk to your doctor if it's thicker and has a strong odor or if the area itches or burns.
Higher risk for infections
If you do experience that itching, burning feeling, it could be a yeast infection or urinary tract infection. They're both common during pregnancy, largely because of increased estrogen and changes in your vagina's pH levels.
The American Pregnancy Association found that 10 to 30 percent of pregnant women get bacterial vaginosis, or BV. This is also caused by changing pH levels and an imbalance of good versus bad bacteria.
If you think you might have any of these infections, talk to your OB-GYN as soon as possible. If left untreated, they can lead to kidney infections, preeclampsia, early labor, low birth weight, and even miscarriage.
Sex and pregnancy
Some good news: Sex during pregnancy is perfectly normal, and it can even be beneficial for you and your baby.
Benefits include more restful sleep, lower blood pressure, and—depending on your hormones—increased arousal and pleasure during sex due to higher levels of estrogen, progesterone, and oxytocin. Orgasms also naturally help your uterus contract, so they can be helpful in preparing for labor toward the end of your pregnancy.
Orgasms for the win!