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Incontinence Undies, Maxi-Pads, and Pantiliners During Pregnancy: Vaginal Discharge, Leaking Urine, Amniotic Fluid, and Yeast Infections

Damp Panties

Pregnancy is a wonderful time. But what really makes it great for a new Mom is when she knows exactly what to expect. When it comes to vaginal discharge and urine, all new Moms should know that these are some of the less spoken about aspects of the pregnancy experience.

Damp panties during pregnancy are a real thing, and while it may seem like a minor detail, it's actually something that must be attended to. Promptly. For comfort. And, more significantly, for health.

For some Moms-To-Be, this is the worst weird experience they will have to deal with during pregnancy. It can be very uncomfortable, and some people just don't like the sensation and feel grossed out by the feeling. Of course, there are answers.

A Squished Bladder Leads to Leaking Urine

Especially in the third trimester, the bladder is really squished by the growing baby. That means that you will have to go to the bathroom a lot more frequently. It also means that you may leak a bit of urine when you sneeze or cough. Or when you get up after using the toilet, thinking you were done. Guess again. Or, you may leak just because. It may be a little or it may be a lot, but it's there. Make no mistake.

This may seem strange to hear, but this is perfectly normal. The best approach to dealing with minor urinary incontinence is wearing a pantyliner. If you seem to be leaking more than a pantyliner can catch, try a full size feminine protection pad. If that's not enough, there are undergarments made specifically for incontinence, as well as adult diapers.

Don't start with the strongest protection. It's usually overkill. Start light, and work your way up if it's not working for you. Leaking through your underwear and outer garments is a nightmare, but it doesn't have to ever happen. Stains and spots can be avoided with care; just make sure you keep a liner in your panties.

There are also cloth (cotton) pantiliners that are reusable after a cycle in the washer. This may be a good choice for you if conserving natural resources is an issue close to your heart.

Pre-Pregnancy Discharge: Vaginal Fluid And Arousal

Believe it or not, vaginal discharge can have multiple sources. If you're feeling aroused, this fluid is produced in your vagina. Increased blood flow, part of the sexual response cycle, leads to vascular engorgement, which can be observed as swelling of the vagina and vulva. Fluids transducate from blood vessels out onto the vaginal walls, where the liquid then flows down and out through the vaginal entrance.

The Monthly Ebb And Flow Of Cervical Mucus

And, every month before you got pregnant, you undoubtedly experienced the ebb and flow of cervical secretions as well. At the time of ovulation, you probably have experienced increased discharge. That is also normal. During the course of the month, due to changing hormonal profiles, the cervix makes more, or less, fluid. The cervical fluid also changes in texture and color throughout the month.

In fact, you can predict when (or when not) to have unprotected sex, to either get pregnant, or avoid pregnancy. After your period, you have a few relatively dryer days. As your egg begins ripening, the mucus turns white, yellow, or cloudy, and feels sticky.

Right before ovulation, the mucus is clear and slippery, and stretches between your fingers like a raw egg. These are your most fertile days. After that, mucus production decreases and gets cloudy and sticky again. Next, you will feel more dry again for a few days, then your period starts again. That's the cycle.

Increased Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

From the beginning of pregnancy, increased vaginal discharge is usually the norm, and continues throughout the prenatal phase. By the end of your pregnancy, vaginal discharge will be at its heaviest. Streaks of thick mucus with blood, referred to as "show," are an early sign of labor, and let you know that the baby is coming immanently.

This is not arousal discharge, but rather cervical. Of course, you may also feel more aroused during pregnancy, and that could contribute to increased moisture as well.

First Trimester Vaginal Bleeding: Normal, Nothing To Be Concerned About

Bleeding from the vagina is actually also fairly common in the first trimester. This happens when the fetus implants in the vaginal wall. About 30% of all women experience some bleeding during their successful pregnancies, and so it's not a big issue.

Subchorionic hematomas can also cause bleeding during the first trimester. This is simply a small pocket of blood that forms between the outer fetal membrane and the placenta.

Blood can also be a sign that something is wrong. So, if you're bleeding, be sure to discuss this with your birthing health care provider immediately.

The excess discharge during pregnancy helps to fight off germs and pathogens. Strangely enough, your baby's head pressing on the cervix can also increase vaginal discharge. All this is normal.

Nothing should smell strongly. If your discharge has a strong or foul odor, has yellow, green, or grey color, or is accompanied by redness and itching of your skin, or vulvar swelling, you may have an infection. This, too, must be dealt with without delay.

Pregnancy Can Be A Bit...Messy

Urine is not the only messy part of pregnancy. There's also the very real possibility of increased vaginal discharge,as discussed above. It is clear and essentially odorless, but it's still liquid. Where is it coming from? It could just be hormones making you more wet. It could be coming down from the cervix, where it is also produced. All of this is normal, by the way.

It can even be amniotic fluid, which may be an issue. There's even a product to help you determine whether this is the case called the Pregnancy Panty Liner. It's an in vitro self-test and detects amniotic fluid leaks. This can be reassuring when you feel a gush of wetness. The pad itself changes color within ten minutes of getting wet, in the presence of amniotic fluid. This non-invasive test requires you to do nothing different than usual.

Oligohydramnios is the name for the condition when amniotic fluid begins leaking out through the vaginal opening. Usually, amniotic fluid levels can be measured with an ultrasound exam. This is what is meant by the term "water breaking." The amniotic sac ruptures. This should happen immediately before the birthing process.

If it happens a long time before then, it's a serious issue. Leaking a little bit of fluid before that time may be normal, but serious leaks can be dangerous to you and your baby. The leak presents a breach in the barrier protecting the growing baby from pathogens, and means that germs can be introduced to the baby.

Risks Of Losing Amniotic Fluid

This can result in birth defects, miscarriage, premature birth, or stillbirth during the first or second trimester.

During the third trimester, a loss of amniotic fluid can squeeze the umbilical cord during labor, decreased the available oxygen that the baby gets. The baby's growth can slow, with less nutrients available, as the amniotic fluid supplies nutrition to the baby. And lastly, it can make you a candidate for a mandatory C-section.

Amniotic Fluid Just Keeps On Keeping On

Remember, amniotic fluid is replenished every three hours. So don't worry too much, your body is prepared for even the worst. But if you suspect anything is amiss, contact your birthing medical professional immediately.

Amniotic fluid is clear, or flecked with mucus or blood, and very thin like water. It's odorless. Compare that with urine that smells unmistakably like....urine. Or, vaginal fluid, which is usually flowing in abundance during pregnancy,and is thicker in texture and white or yellow in color, as compared to amniotic fluid.

Testing For Amniotic Fluid

Even if you don't have the special pantiliners that test for amniotic fluid, there's another test you can do without any products: Start by emptying your bladder. Right afterwards, put a sanitary pad in your underwear and check the discharge on the pad after 30 minutes to an hour. If it's yellow, it's probably urine. If it's clear, it can be amniotic fluid or vaginal discharge. The way to tell the difference is that vaginal discharge is always way thicker.

Another test is to put on a panty liner and hold your pelvic floor muscles down, like you're tyring to stop peeing, or you're doing Kegel exercises. If you do this and the pad remains dry, it was probably urine all along. If it gets wet, it may be amniotic fluid.

These tests are not a surefire way to know the difference; if you are concerned, a visit to your ob-gyn or midwife's office is in order.

Without Urine, A Pad Or Liner is Usually Enough

Many women experience increased wetness down there during pregnancy, but wearing a pantiliner or maxi-pad is usually enough to prevent accidents. Even a very free flow of discharge isn't usually going to be anywhere near as much moisture as leaking urine might. And so, incontinence underwear is usually not necessary if you're having vaginal discharge alone, without the addition of leaked urine.

Some women start to find increased discharge begins after only a few months of their prenatal experience, with others may not notice a change for much longer. However, this is a nearly universal experience most pregnant women deal with at some point.

What If It's...Green?

If you have discharge that is green-tinged or brownish-yellow, it's time to call your doctor or midwife. This means the baby may have had a bowel movement in the womb, and this can cause complications at birth. This could also be a sign of an STD.

Bright red discharge could be a sign that you're experiencing placenta previa or placenta abrution. These are also good reasons to visit the doctor.

Can Wearing a Pad Cause A Rash?

Itchy skin and rashes may result from pads, especially when they're not changed frequently enough. It is true that your bottom needs to breathe! And so, if pads are helping, be sure to change them frequently enough to prevent yeast infections and dermatitis on your skin. Don't wear a liner for 24 hours straight.

Even wearing one for twelve hours in a row can cause issues. As they're relatively inexpensive, just some pocket change for each, don't be stingy and change your pad often. It's commonly accepted that a pad or liner should be changed every 3-4 hours, at most.

Still, know that wearing pantiliners is perfectly safe. It is also important to remember that dark, wet, and warm places are spots that yeast dream of! It's the perfect environment for them. So, the only variable you can change is dryness.

And really, if you're wearing a pad to stay dry in the first place, why would you ever leave one on after it's soaked through? It's probably a good idea to change for a fresh one every time you visit the bathroom. This may seem excessive, but it can prevent the headaches, and itching and burning, that you might run into with yeast infection. Once you have a yeast infection, it's not always so easy go get rid of. It's better to avoid it in the first place.

Go Bare At Night...If It Works For You

Also, consider skipping the pantiliners at night. This way, your private parts can breathe and dry out for a portion of every 24 hour cycle. This may be a good idea for some women, but not every person who is pregnant will find this a viable option. If your underwear is not sufficient to catch the discharge, you're going to make a mess of your bedding.

That's where the idea of "free bleeding" comes in. It's a social movement that began in the 1970s, more of a revolt really, against longstanding negative perceptions and social stigma about menstruation rooted in misogyny. It is also said to have begun in response to the deaths caused by tampons in the same era due to Toxic Shock Syndrome. Part of this philosophy includes normalizing menstruation in the wider society. Another aspect involves bleeding without relying on traditional menstrual products.

True; you're not actually bleeding when you have vaginal discharge during pregnancy, but you can borrow a page from the Free Bleeding movement and sleep sans-panties at night. You may want to put a plastic liner over your bottom sheet, and place a towel over that, if you choose to go completely bare. This way, your sheets will remain clean, and you won't be creating new hassles in an attempt to deal with prenatal vaginal discharge. The biggest benefit is that you're keeping dry.

"Free bleeding" underwear, often known as period panties or mentrual underwear, are accepted as positive developments in the Free Bleeding movement. However, such products may just defeat the purpose in foregoing use of liners and pads during pregnancy. There are differrent types; some are synthetic fiber, others are advanced systems that have multiple layers and wick moisture away from the skin. Both work. But not all work euqally well. Experiment for yourself and see what's best for you.

A Wet Pad Is A Lot Like a Wet Diaper. Yuck!

Some women feel that liners during the day are worse than simply wearing underwear, because a wet pad or liner is a lot like wearing a wet diaper, in their opinion, and they instead suggest changing your pad every hour or so if you must wear one during the day.

Many women argue that cotton underwear dry out better and do an overall better job at keeping you dry. But even underwear may need to be changed out for a fresh pair before the day is over, like a pad or liner. If you're at home anyway, what's the big deal? Your comfort and hygiene trump an easier laundry day, any day.

What Else Can I Do?

Avoid yeast infections by wearing cotton underwear, not synthetic materials. "Period panties" are sometimes made from synthetic material and keep menstrual blood in. Wearing a pair for too long can be disastrous. Your vulvo-vaginal area needs to breathe, as there will almost certainly be more moisture. Just like with a pad or pantiliner, keeping a pair on for too long is never suggested.

There's more you can do. Take probiotics. Don't binge on sugary snacks. Wash your perennial area daily with soap and water, being careful not to get any soap inside your vagina. And, keep your pantiliner dry by changing frequently.

Your issue may not even be a yeast infection. It could be that cool new pregnancy personal care product you bought that smells so lovely (and cost so much). Or, it could even be the toilet paper or brand of clothes detergent you're using. You may be more sensitive than you've ever been during the pregnancy, and only by a careful process of elimination can you truly determine the root cause of your infection.

A good rule to remember is that anything with a scent can lead to irritation. It goes without saying that you should only use scent-free pantiliners and maxi-pads. Odor-killing chemicals and fragrances are not ever really necessary, even outside of pregnancy; just change out your pad when it's appropriate and you'll never have a need for a a scent to cover up any other smell. Remember to consider soaps and bath washes when trying to ascertain the source of vulval skin irritation. These can be a nightmare, some containing ingredients that are harsh and caustic.

Can I Wear A Tampon?

This is definitely not suggested. Tampons can introduce bacteria and other germs into the vagina, and up through the cervix into the uterus. Also, tampons aren't created for this type of situation, they're created for menstruation, a time when there's a significant amount of blood and shed uterine lining flowing down in a short period of time. But during pregnancy, things are different. By the time a tampon would have to be changed out, it wouldn't ever be fully expanded, and removing a dry tampon may be painful.

You also lose the opportunity for feedback and learning about your body, as you need to see what's on the pad or liner. Looking at your discharge daily, noting the color and texture, can keep you in the loop regarding what's going on deep inside where the baby is growing.

Finally Toxic Shock Syndrome can be life threatening, and is associated with tampons. For the record, know this is caused by leaving a tampon in for way too long. Even so, why risk it? There are other alternatives.

What about After Pregnancy?

You'll want the large, long pads for that time. There are products made specifically for the postnatal phase. You will be expelling the placental remains and meconium, and it's going to be a mess. Be forewarned, it's not a moment to relish, but it's over in short order, and dryer times will be ahead of you. This discharge may smell strongly, and is often red or brown. That's completely normal.

There are postpartum pads that are called "padsicles," and have a secondary purpose of providing cold therapy, besides sopping up discharge. While this is an interesting concept, it's probably not necessary for most people who have just given birth. Iced pads are for real; it's just debatable whether you need them.

Where Do I Begin?

If this all seems a bit overwhelming, just start where you are, addressing your needs right now. That's really the ideal way to approach pregnancy. Don't over-think this, and don't try preparing for issues that have not arisen. Buy a few different brands of pantiliners, maxi-pads, or incontinence products, if you need them. As mentioned above, start light and work your way up. Deal with today, and tomorrow, just do the same.





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