It’s annoying enough when your period ruins your fave pair of pants, but what about when you’ve finally stopped bleeding and you’re free to wear your prettiest, frilliest knickers – only for discharge to arrive loud and proud. Should we be deflated at its bold return or should we be happy to see the sticky residue? Here, we give you the lowdown on vaginal mucus…
What actually *is* discharge?
Discharge is a totally natural mucus, produced by your cervix, that’s made up of normal bacteria and fluids and is essentially your vagina giving itself a lovely little clean. It usually starts showing itself about six months to a year before your first period. It’s basically a ‘hey, you’re hitting puberty’ from your reproductive system.
“It’s normal to see white stuff in your underwear. It’s a combination of shed cells from your vaginal wall as well as healthy bacteria and, most importantly, fluid or mucus made by your cervix. In addition to its role in fertility, vaginal discharge keeps your vagina moist and healthy and free from infection,” says Dr Lara Briden, naturopath and author of The Period Repair Manual.
How much discharge should I produce?
Most bodies produce around a teaspoon of discharge per day, but the amount actually changes throughout your menstrual cycle – especially around the time you ovulate. Expect a fair amount more when that egg is released from your ovaries. The texture will be wet and stretchy too, but remember it can vary across the month from a clear liquid to a gloopy white gel. If you want to protect your sexy pants from you vagina’s own body wash then this is the time to use a panty liner, but if you want to embrace what your body gave you, then let it flow.
“Healthy vaginal discharge is white or light yellow and has a mild salty odor. If your vaginal discharge is a copious slippery blob, it’s something normal and healthy called fertile mucus,” says Dr Briden.
She adds, "At its peak, fertile mucus looks and feels like raw egg white and can occur in a fairly large quantity. You’ll notice fertile mucus on your panties or toilet paper after you wipe and it can be a bit disconcerting when you see it for the first time. Fertile mucus is stimulated by oestrogen, which is why it normally occurs when your estradiol is high just before ovulation."
How do I know if it’s unhealthy?
"It is also important to understand that vaginal discharge is normal. The vagina is lubricated by mucus producing glands which give a clear white discharge, this can be heavier at certain times in the period cycle. Only ‘abnormal for you’ discharge should be of concern," says GP, Dr Helen Webberley.
If at any point you experience a dramatic change, you may need to book in with your doctor. Some things to look out for are; a cottage cheese-like texture, a strong odour, a grey or green colour, or a whole load more mucus than you usually deal with. See your GP too if you are experiencing side effects such as dizziness, abdominal pain, itching or burning.