5 min read
by Toni Brannagan | November 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 yeast infections, awkward gyno visits, and period poop on the reg.)
It might not be cute, but your V’s natural secretions—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.
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.
First of all: Most discharge you find in your underwear is normal, something many folks with vaginas don’t learn early enough. (🙋♀️) Typically, healthy discharge will either be white, clear and watery, or clear and *stretchy* — the latter actually indicates you’re ovulating, but more on that later.
Around the time your period is beginning or ending, you’ve probably also noticed discharge that is brown or appears bloody, which is also called “spotting.” This is usually normal, but spotting before your period is due, then missing a period could also be an early indication of pregnancy. If you have had unprotected sex in the month prior, you should check to be sure.
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 itching and a change in texture (anecdotally, described “like cottage cheese”), is probably symptoms of a yeast infection.
Other characteristics to look out for are a yellow or green hue, discharge that is clumpy, and 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 discharge could be signs of a sexually transmitted infection, bacterial vaginosis, an infection, or something else amiss — in general, if you’re a difference from what’s normal for you down there, it’s best to check in with your doctor.
For many folks who use the Fertility Awareness Method, getting to know your 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.
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!
by Toni Brannagan