The Guide To Your Vaginal Secretions: What’s Normal & What’s Not

Remember that absurd panty challenge that had women taking pictures of their panties showing no trace of vaginal discharge and then posting them online? Yeah, ridiculous. The truth is that vaginal secretions are a normal part of daily life, so you need to stop feeling embarrassed about them. By paying attention to, instead of ignoring, them, you can learn what they’re trying to say about your health and wellbeing. Here are 13 things to know about vaginal discharge.

It’s your vagina’s idea of a bath. Discharge is a way for the vagina to clean itself by getting rid of bacteria. So be glad it’s happening! The amount of discharge varies, but you’re likely to see some every day – and that’s normal.

How to spot a normal discharge. If you’re wondering what normal discharge looks like, it’s clear, white or beige in color, and it has no strange or harsh smells.

Your discharge tells you when you’re in the mood. When you’re turned on, your discharge will also be a clear fluid. This is your body’s natural lubricant and it happens because blood vessels in your vagina dilate so that fluid can pass through them. This increases the amount of clear, watery discharge before and during sex so it can feel much nicer.

Green or yellow discharge isn’t a reason to panic. Sometimes discharge starts to look different, like becoming yellow or green, but don’t worry. There’s probably a really logical reason for this. It might be from taking vitamins or the foods you’re eating. Check it out again in a few days. If it’s not going away, it could be an infection, or something more serious like an STI.

Red or brown discharge – what if it happens when you’re not on your period? Red or brown discharge is normal during your period, but if you see it when Aunt Rosie isn’t around, then your hormonal birth control could be to blame for the spotting. Or, it could be that you’re pregnant, as spotting in this case is referred to as implantation bleeding – that’s when the fertilized egg clings to the lining of the uterus so that baby growth can begin. Any reddish discharge that keeps coming up even though you’re not pregnant is worth checking out with your doctor as it could signal other health issues, such as ovarian cysts, thyroid problems, or cancer.

Your discharge could be gray – wtf? This tends to be a sign of bacterial vaginosis, a common vaginal infection that’s basically the overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. You might also experience itching or burning. To treat it, you’ll need antibiotics.

If your discharge is telling you something’s wrong, you’ll know. Your discharge might change suddenly, which could signal that something’s up, like an infection. If so, your body will give you other signs, such as itching, burning, pain, discharge that’s like cottage cheese in texture, vaginal bleeding when you’re not on your period, and/or an offensive odor.

Your discharge changes throughout your menstrual cycle. You’ll find that your discharge becomes thicker before your period – this is your cervical mucus and it looks like raw egg whites. During your period, your discharge tends to be clearer and stretchy – it’s all about creating a nice environment for the sperm to reach the egg! Once your period’s gone, you’ll see that your discharge is clear and watery again. It’s good to keep track of how your discharge changes throughout your cycle so you know what’s normal for you.

Don’t freak out about bad odor. There might be days when your discharge doesn’t really smell that great, but there’s no need to panic. These days are normal. Lifestyle habits, such as washing the vagina too much or with the use of cleansers that irritate it, or changes to your diet, can affect the vagina’s pH balance, leading to changes in discharge. If the bad smell, and other symptoms like those listed above, continue for several days, then you know there’s something else going on.

Surprising things that mess with your discharge. You might not think that not drinking enough water can affect your discharge, but it can! When you’re dehydrated, your body sabotages its own ability to create bodily fluids because it’s focused on the important task of holding onto any water it can. So, your bodily fluids, like vaginal discharge, might become stickier or thicker. Stress can also affect your discharge during sex. When you’re not relaxed, your body can’t get into the mood, which means that you’re not going to produce as much lubricant.

Just don’t douche, okay? Douching, the act of washing out the vagina with water and vinegar (or by purchasing a douching product from the store) is never a good idea. Douching products often contain fragrances and antiseptics that can irritate the vagina. Research shows that douching removes healthy bacteria in the vagina, which leads to an overgrowth of the bad kind. This can cause infections or even push unhealthy bacteria into the uterus, Fallopian tubes, or abdominal cavity. Yikes! Stay away from it – your vagina and discharge are normal!

Your pubic hair could be a good thing. If you hate your pubic hair, here’s something to consider: it soaks up your vaginal discharge so that it doesn’t get onto your skin where it can irritate it. Plus, pubes might be able to protect you against bacteria. They prevent friction, such as during sex, which can lead to skin abrasions that let bacteria inside. Hmmm. Time to rethink that waxing session!

If your discharge bugs you, wear a panty liner. This can prevent you from worrying about discharge on your undies, but be careful not to wear panty liners all day long or every day. If you do, you increase your risk of infection. It’s unhygienic AF. Panty liners prevent air flow and hold onto any sweat, so they can result in bacterial or fungal infections. When your discharge is heavier, such as before your period, wearing a panty liner is fine. On other days, give them a miss.

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