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What’s the Deal With Discharge?



5 min read

Thinx - Periodical - What’s the Deal With Discharge?

by Toni Brannagan | 11/12/2020

Of all the fun things that come with having a vagina that nobody wants to talk about, vaginal discharge is probably pretty high up there. (This, coming from folks who chat about vaginal yeast infections, awkward gyno visits, and period poop on the reg.)

It might not be cute, but your V’s natural secretions and discharge — no cute way to say that either—serve a very important function: carrying away bacteria and keeping things happy and healthy down there. This is also why it’s not just unnecessary, but harmful to wash inside your vagina with soap or chemicals, it can do that job all on its own to maintain a healthy vagina.

Of course, if you’ve ever experienced an aforementioned yeast infection, you know that all discharge is not created equal. Yes, even through your discharge, paying attention to what your body is telling you can help inform your health.

what does normal discharge look like?

First of all: Most discharge you find in your underwear is normal, something many folks with vaginas don’t learn early enough. (🙋‍♀️) Typically, white discharge or discharge that appears clear, watery and *stretchy* are healthy -- the latter fluid actually indicates you’re ovulating, but more on that later. 

Around the time your period is beginning or ending, you’ve probably also noticed brown or bloody discharge, which is also called “spotting.” This is usually normal, but spotting before your period is due, and then missing a period could also be an early indication of pregnancy. If you have had unprotected sexual intercourse and without birth control in the month prior, you should check to be sure.

when to call your gynecologist

When your discharge varies from the healthy types detailed above, this is often your body’s way of letting you know something’s up. Even regular white discharge, when accompanied by vaginal itching, burning sensation, and a change in texture (anecdotally, described “like cottage cheese”), is probably a symptom of a vaginal yeast infection.

Other characteristics to look out for are a green hue or yellow discharge that is clumpy, and accompanied by a *smelly* odor. Remember, healthy vaginas aren’t supposed to smell like flowers or rain (Truly, what does rain smell like, feminine hygiene commercials??), but they shouldn’t smell fishy, either. 

Changes to your daily discharge could be signs of a sexually transmitted infection, bacterial vaginosis, a vaginal infection, or something else amiss — in general, if you’re experiencing a difference from what’s normal for you down there, it’s best to check in with your doctor.

tracking ovulation using vaginal discharge

For many folks who use the Fertility Awareness Method, getting to know your daily discharge is a key component. In short: Before ovulation, your cervix produces more mucus, which will also appear thinner, while after ovulation, the mucus will decrease and thicken. 

It’s important to remember that a number of outside factors, including medicine, the period products you use, and using lube can affect the way your cervical mucus appears. If you’re interested in using the Fertility Awareness Method, you should consult your doctor for more details.

yes, your vagina can bleach your underwear

This may be my favorite fun fact about vaginas. If you’ve ever noticed bleached spots in your underwear (something that’s more obvious if you wear underwear with a colored gusset, like Thinx), you’re far from alone! 

As you may know, vaginas have a naturally acidic pH, and for some folks, that acidity fluctuates so that it interacts with the underwear’s fabric, causing those bleached spots. This a totally normal thing, and it’s actually more of a problem if your vagina isn’t acidic enough than the opposite. 

Naturally tie-dying your undies might seem stressful, but it’s not unhealthy! Seriously, it’s true. Even TikTok knows about it.

I can count the number of conversations I’ve had about vaginal discharge on one hand, but it’s a normal bodily process just like anything else! When did you learn that discharge was a normal and healthy thing, and not just a weird thing that only your vagina did to you? Is it weird that I was like, in my 20s? Weigh in, in the comments below!

Toni Brannagan is a writer and was the former Copy and Content Manager at Thinx.

by Toni Brannagan

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