Physical Health

Everything You’ve Ever Secretly Wondered About Discharge


There are just certain things we don’t talk about with our girlfriends. I’ll probably never have a conversation with my friends about my bowel movements, body odor, or indigestion. You know what else I put on that list? Vaginal discharge. Even the word “discharge” is gross. Say it. It’s gross, right? 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think women are gross because we have discharge. It’s actually a beautiful and convenient thing that our vaginas clean themselves. But I’ll be honest that I don’t feel comfortable talking about the gross stuff in my underwear with my BFFs over fondue and white wine. This leaves us wondering what the heck it is and if our’s is normal all too often.

We consulted Dr. Kate White, MD, MPH, Director of the Fellowship in Family Planning at Boston University/Boston Medical Center, on all the questions we have about discharge. The #1 thing we learned? There’s no reason to be embarrassed about it! Keep reading to have your questions answered and maybe learn a thing or two about the female body. Anatomy is fun! 


Is it supposed to smell like this?

“Discharge should smell like your body does — sometimes musky, sometimes sweet, depending on the makeup of the discharge,” Dr. White said. So, if it smells different out of nowhere, that’s when you should consult a doc. 


Mine is a different color than normal — what does that mean?

If the color of your discharge changes, that might be normal. According to Dr. White, the color of your discharge changes throughout your cycle, changing from white to clear back to white again. “If your discharge turns yellow, green or gray, though, that may signify an infection, and you should head to your gyno,” Dr. White said.


What is the consistency supposed to feel like?

The consistency of your discharge also changes throughout your cycle. “It starts out drier and tacky, turns creamy, and then, sticky/stretchy like egg whites around the time of ovulation. Then, it might return to tacky before going away until your next cycle,” Dr. White said. If it feels different from that, you know the drill — this could show that you have an infection, so you should talk to your doctor. 


How much am I supposed to get?

According to Dr. White, there is no “normal” amount of discharge to get — it changes from person to person based on your hydration level, how many toxins and impurities your vagina is discarding, and what’s going on with the biome of your vagina day to day. If it changes a lot, no sweat — that’s what is normal! 


Is it weird if I don’t get discharge?

It’s pretty rare for someone to not get any discharge at all since it’s your body’s way of flushing out the bad bacteria in your vagina. Dr. White says you might have dried discharge in your underwear that you don’t even realize is leaving your body. However, she said, it is normal to not have any or a lot of discharge during the second half of your cycle (before your period). 

She says if you’re still feeling well and not experiencing any pelvic pain, vaginal itching, or fever, you should be in good shape.


What if I get discharge during sex?

Woohoo! That’s actually a good thing! “Your vagina produces more fluid when you’re aroused to help your vagina be ready for intercourse (if that’s part of sex for you). Think of this fluid as added lubrication to make sex more comfortable,” Dr. White said. So, stop stressing about it, and just let it happen.


Why do I get it at certain times of the month?

Your hormone levels go up and down during the different stages of your cycle, and your body produces different levels of discharge based on your hormones. Dr. White says the clear, slippery discharge you see during ovulation is the kind that makes it more likely that you’ll get pregnant. Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or are avoiding it, this kind of discharge is one to look out for!


Why does it look like my underwear changed color?

Discharge is acidic, so it can actually bleach your underwear a white or yellow color depending on the color of your undies. It’s actually healthy for your vagina to be acidic because the natural pH of the vagina is about 3.8 to 4.5.  Having these bleach spots in your underwear is extremely normal — no need to fret! If you want to keep your fancy panties looking nice, the best thing to do is wash them immediately after you wear them instead of letting them sit in your laundry hamper.


Is there anything I can do about it?

We get it — discharge is uncomfy. If you’re not feeling so hot by the wet or moist feeling, bring a change of underwear with you during the day. Your discharge levels will fluctuate, so it’s OK if they go up and down sometimes. There isn’t any way to lessen the amount you get other than waiting it out. 

Dr. White advises to not wear a panty liner every day if the discharge bothers you. “Wearing liners every day will actually increase the amount of discharge your body makes,” Dr. White said.