health

A gyno on what that white stuff in your undies is trying to tell you.

There's just something about 'vaginal discharge' that make people feel ~uncomfortable~. See! We can see you squirming from here. For something that gynecologists say every woman has, we're all like, super weirded out by the stuff.

Why? Well, it's mostly because no one has a clue what constitutes as 'normal' discharge. How much is too much? What colour should it be? Should it smell? What if you get no discharge at all? It's confusing, and the guy taking all the hits is our friend Google, 'cause no one really talks about it. But don't worry - that's what we're here for! *Winks*.

To give you a no-BS explainer, we spoke to a gynecologist to get their advice on the mystery surrounding the stuff in your pants at the end of the day.

Listen to Mamamia's podcast for your face, You Beauty, where host Leigh Campbell reveals why your hair is falling out after pregnancy. Post continues below. 

So, yeah - what's the go?

Repeat after us: Every vagina has discharge. And it's totally fine. In fact, it's unusual if you don't have any kind of markings in your undies before your evening shower.

To get into the nitty gritty of where this stuff actually comes from, Associate Professor Gino Pecoraro, a specialist obstetrician/gynaecologist in Brisbane explained, "Vaginal discharge is that usually small volume of sometimes watery and sometimes thicker fluid. The fluid is made up of secretions by both the cervix and the wall of the vagina and these both change during a normal cycle."

So what exactly is it? "The egg-white, runny mucus of the mid-cycle is due to high oestrogen levels, while progesterone in the second half of the cycle makes the mucus thicker and appear less in volume," said Prof. Pecoraro. 

"Normal bacteria inhabit the vagina and feed off the sugars that are found in the secretions to help keep the normal vaginal pH, and an acid level which discourages the growth of fungi (like thrush)."

In short, this means your vagina is healthy. Yay! Your discharge is basically a sign that your vagina is cleaning itself properly, by maintaining its pH balance and keeping the balance between good vs bad bacteria. What a champ.

What's the 'normal' amount of discharge?

Your discharge will fluctuate throughout the month and taking the pill may impact this natural rhythm - but the normal kinda process usually goes like this. After your period, you might have a couple of 'dry' days (your vagina is still cleaning itself, but there isn't a lot of cervical mucus going on). 

Then, as estrogen levels rise (if you didn't listen in Health class - this means one of your eggs is ready for ovulation), you'll experience that "egg-white, runny mucus" Prof. Pecoraro was talking about earlier. As estrogen levels keep rising, this discharge will become thinner, slipperier and way more crafty. Wanna know why? It's basically doing this on the sly so that sperm can travel more easily through your vagina and into your uterus. Read: Your cute bod is defaulting to 'Get Pregnant' mode. 

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After ovulation (and if you don't get pregnant), your estrogen levels drop and this discharge can get thicker and cloudier. Then, you get your period and the whole beautiful cycle starts again!

However, if you're consistently experiencing an increase of discharge, Prof. Pecoraro said this may be a sign of infection or an imbalance in the normal bacteria that live in the vagina. 

"Recurrent bouts of thrush, for example, might be linked to being on a high oestrogen-containing method of contraception, underlying diabetes or even iron deficiency which affects the body’s ability to fight off minor infections."

Our advice? It's best to get a check-up with your doctor or gyno to clear things up.

What does it mean if you're consistently dry?

"Dryness is one of the most common complaints menopausal women have and responds very well to topical oestrogen treatment. Dryness during intercourse may also be related to simpler things like lack of adequate foreplay, stress, underlying chronic illnesses like thyroid dysfunction or other autoimmune disease." 

Okay, so what does that mean?

If you're consistently dry and itchy, especially during ovulation, Prof. Pecoraro says it's worth taking a trip to the gynaecologist for an examination and perhaps even some investigations to rule out other causes.

What kinds of changes will signal if something is off?

"Just as the posters say, if there is a change in how your body works or is performing, it is usually worth a trip to the doctor to find out that everything is okay," said Prof. Pecoraro. "This goes in both directions, whether it’s a significant increase or a significant decrease in the normal vaginal discharge." 

"Any offensive smelling discharge must immediately be investigated to rule out a serious infection which may be related to sexually transmitted infections, overgrowth of vaginal bacteria or even on occasion, a forgotten tampon that has been left in or a condom that has come off during intercourse."

In a nutshell, discharge in your undies is totally normal (and healthy!), but if yours is different in any way, hit up your doctor for a chat. 

"Sexual and intimate health is an important part of overall health and well-being. No one should feel embarrassed to discuss sexual function with their GP or gynaecologist and if you don’t feel getting the answers you need or want, don’t forget to ask for referral to a specialist gynaecologist or for a second opinion."

Feature image: Getty

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