11 Vaginal Changes During Pregnancy to Expect, According to the Experts

Robin Hilmantel, Michella Oré
·5 mins read

When you get pregnant, your vagina has nine short months to prepare for your little bundle of joy to arrive. So you can expect a few vaginal changes during pregnancy. 

From changing color to literally getting longer, we spoke to the experts on the changes to your vagina (the inner canal) and vulva (the outer part you can see) that can take place when you're pregnant. Here's what to expect, down there, when you're expecting. 

Your vulva may turn blue-ish 

While your nether-regions will likely seem pretty normal during the first trimester, you may notice the skin on your vulva start to change color in the second trimester. “Estrogen levels go up significantly during pregnancy, and it has an effect of darkening skin,” says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics gynecology and reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine. Your vulva isn’t the only place you might notice this change—Dr. Minkin says many women notice their areolae change color too.

You'll experience swelling

In your third trimester, you can expect even more changes, says Dr. Minkin, who notes that swelling and pressure are two of the most common symptoms. These are due to a couple of factors. “The uterus, which starts out the size of a fist, grows to become the size of a watermelon,” she says. “So you’re going to feel something substantially different.”

On top of that, your pelvic blood flow increases by a ton—the uterine artery ends up pumping about a pint a minute, says Dr. Minkin. “This makes sense since you want to feed the uterus, which feeds the fetus”...but it also means that your vaginal area ends up feeling engorged.

Your vagina will get longer  

While swelling and soreness may not come as too big a surprise, the added length might. How does this happen exactly? “The tissue surrounding the vagina gets looser and softer, resulting in the vagina getting a little longer," says Priya Rajan, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. "The walls get more relaxed and the opening to the vagina gets a little larger to prepare for delivery."

Your vagina may feel more itchy

Another change you'll encounter is a shift in your vaginal pH levels. A “normal" vaginal pH is between 3.8 and 4.5,  and if your level goes over 7 you may start to experience itchiness. “Due to the change in pH, bacteria and fungus can grow more in these environments," says Jessica Shepherd, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn and spokesperson for Paragard. 

You'll notice a new odor 

Another result of that pH change? Some new smells. You may notice that your discharge has a stronger, unpleasant scent unlike normal discharge, which usually has a faint smell or none at all. These pH changes are hormonal, says Dr. Shepherd, and some women experience an odor as a result.

You may develop some popping veins

There’s another not-so-glamourous way that this increased blood flow affects your vagina. “Not only do your arteries stretch, but your veins stretch too,” says Dr. Minkin. You may start to see some varicose veins appear on the vulva.

Lying on your back when you’re expecting can promote varicose veins even more, which is one reason doctors recommend pregnant women sleep on their sides. Otherwise, “you’ve got this brick sitting on your veins, which hinders blood flow,” says Dr. Minkin.

You'll have more discharge

Having some extra protection down there to keep you comfortable and dry is worth preparing for. “Vaginal discharge starts increasing about mid-way through pregnancy and by full term there's a lot of it," says Dr. Rajan. It'll be hard to mistake it.  “Normal pregnancy discharge is thick and white.” 

Keeping an eye on the consistency can also signal whether you'll be going into labor soon. "The mucus plug is cervical mucus; it tends to be a little thicker than typical pregnancy discharge, " says Dr. Rajan. Showing up as clear, brown, or a little bloody, the mucus plug which serves as another protective barrier for your baby may be discharged as your cervix widens to prepare for delivery. 

You may experience spotting during sex

If you notice some bleeding during penetration, that's normal too. “Sometimes the internal portion of your cervical canal turns outward a little bit—this is called ectropion,” says Dr. Rajan. "This tissue can be a little more delicate and thus you can see spotting when you have sex or a vaginal exam by your doctor." Of course, if you notice significant bleeding or are unsure whether you're experiencing normal spotting, it's always best to double-check with your doctor. 

And an even bigger “O” 

If you're feeling extra sensitive done there during sex, you can thank the increased blood flow and veins for that.  “Orgasms can be enhanced due to the increase in vascularity and nerve supply," says Dr. Shepherd. “However, everyone doesn't respond this way and a woman isn't abnormal if she does or doesn't.”

Your bladder might weaken

Incontinence (i.e. accidentally peeing yourself) can also be an issue—it just depends on the woman and on the pregnancy. “I was fine my first pregnancy,” says Dr. Minkin. “My second—I was about four or five months pregnant—and I learned what incontinence was about.”

You're more likely to get a yeast infection

"You can still get STDs and yeast infections during pregnancy," says Dr. Rajan. This is due to those changes in PH levels and the increased estrogen. If you think you might have a yeast infection or UTI, speak with your doctor about the best topical antifungal for you. 

The good news? Your vagina should go back to normal after you deliver—although it will take several weeks.

Originally Appeared on Glamour