Your guide to examining your dirty knickers (yes, it’s totally normal)
It’s happened to all of us. You’re out in public and you feel like you’re peeing or your period is coming. You go to the toilet and find that you haven’t actually peed (thank god) and your period hasn’t come either (another yay.) Instead, you see some white or yellow marks on your underwear but you’re not sure what it is.
No-one told you about this in sex ed and your friends don’t talk about it either, so what exactly is it? Well, those white or yellow stains are vaginal discharge. Every person with a vulva and vagina experiences this regularly and it’s completely normal, but people don’t like to talk about it. So here’s a guide to everything you need to know about vaginal discharge.
What is vaginal discharge?
Vaginal discharge is a liquid made by the glands in the cervix and vagina. It may feel a bit gross, especially the first time you get it. But it’s the vagina’s way of keeping itself clean and protecting itself from infection or damage, so it’s actually pretty smart.
How much is too much?
Everyone’s body is different. Some people with vaginas and vulvas will produce a lot of discharge and others will produce a little. And that’s completely normal and okay.
How do I know if my vaginal discharge is normal?
Normal vaginal discharge may be clear or creamy white. It can be sticky, jelly-like, thick or thin like water. It may be odourless or may have its own unique smell. Your vaginal discharge will change during your menstrual cycle, so don’t freak out if it looks different over time.
What are signs of abnormal discharge?
Everyone’s vaginal discharge is slightly different. It’s really important to pay attention to your discharge, so if it changes from what’s normal for your body, you can go see a GP.
Here are a few symptoms of abnormal discharge, likely due to an infection:
- A fishy smell that may have grey, white, thin or watery discharge, often seen in bacterial vaginosis
- White clumpy discharge, like cottage cheese, which is a common symptom of thrush
- Yellow or green discharge, that may be thick, thin, or frothy, common symptom of trichomoniasis
Don’t panic, they can all be easily treated by your GP.
Can I stop my discharge?
The short answer is no. But you may want to wear panty liners if you really can’t bear it. Don’t worry, over time it will become normal, just like your period. Most importantly, don’t forget that your discharge is doing its thing to keep your vagina healthy. So the next time you get annoyed by your discharge, consider that without it, your vagina wouldn’t be doing so well.
Page last reviewed: 3 July 2020