I grew up in a household with almost no filter and very open dialogue about all things vagina and vulva-related. As cringeworthy as it was at times, I’m grateful for that constant education, and that I never have carried any shame around natural bodily functions.
But that’s not the case for everybody.
I’ll never forget the time I was at a friend’s house and she was changing in front of me. She pulled down her underwear and in it was a pantyliner. I was a little confused because she wasn’t menstruating, but of course, I respected her individual choices with what she does with her body.
It did raise a red flag though, and when I asked her about it, she says she wears one everyday, so that her panties don’t get gross. Seeing my shocked, sympathetic reaction, she followed that up with “I know, I know, it’s a bad habit, but…” she trailed off and shrugged.
In that moment, I had my Nana’s words ringing in my ears “You have to let your pishigugi breathe!” One of the words our family so fondly used to refer to our vulvas. I felt a twinge of heartbreak for my friend, that she felt such fear, disgust, and anxiety around her body working how it’s supposed to.
She’s not the only one. A fear of discharge seems to be all too common amongst women and people with vaginas.
Why The Fear?
We don’t exactly live in a world that praises and accepts women for all that they are – although we’re working towards it.
Part of living in misogynistic societies, is internalizing those feelings, and building shame around the bodies we live in.
Although no one’s sure how the conversation got started, insecurities about vaginas are nothing new. With people comparing them to rotten fish, cottage cheese, and worse, it’s no wonder so many people are less than proud of their parts.
There’s many reasons why someone may feel insecure about discharge. They could have been made fun of for it, or other bodily functions. They may carry weight from sexual trauma or abuse. There could have been negative talk about female bodies in their families growing up, or no conversation at all.
Furthermore, general sex education does not set people up for success when it comes to normalizing bodies.
Time to Dump It
If you’re resonating with what I’m saying, and often feel insecure about your vagina and its happenings – it’s time to dump that fear.
Building a better relationship with your body not only helps you heal emotionally but can help you lead a more holistic, healthy life.
Feeling a sense of peace for your body and all that it does for you, no matter where it’s at physically, is a constant practice of staying grounded and grateful.
What does that have to do with discharge?
Everything. Discharge is a gift from the vagina gods, and it’s one of the key insights your vagina gives as to its current state of health.
Think of discharge, period blood, and any potential aches and pains as the language your vagina uses to communicate with you. And you better believe that discharge has a lot to say.
Get to Know Your Discharge
Your vagina likes to keep a mellow pH of 4.5 in order to keep your vaginal flora happy and thriving. Discharge is part of the natural maintenance system your vagina uses to stay in this optimal state, and is made up of bacteria, mucus, skin cells, and fluid from the cervix and vagina.
Healthy discharge is typically white or clear, and odorless.
Trusting your body enough to pay attention to your discharge means you’ll be first to notice any warning signs your vagina sends out. If your discharge changes too much in color, texture, odor, or consistency you may be experiencing an infection, side effects from a medication, stress, a localized allergy, bacterial vaginosis, or an STI – especially if you’ve recently had a new sexual partner.
Knowing what normal vaginal discharge is for your body, means being able to tell when something is off.
Ovulation, Oh My!
Another reason to get comfortable with examining your discharge? It can tell you where you are in your menstrual cycle!
The type of discharge you secrete changes throughout your menstrual cycle. In the second half of your cycle leading up to your period, it’s typically thicker and more viscous. Whereas during ovulation, it’s usually clear, stretchy, and mucus-like.
Keep in mind that birth control and other medications may change your discharge. Hormonal birth control in particular, suppresses natural ovulation, which means even if you release discharge, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re ovulating.
Other vaginal changes to watch out for are abnormal bleeding and itching. If these come up, you’ll want to schedule a time to see your Gynecologist.
Keep your vagina healthy by knowing what to look out for, eating a vagina friendly diet, and avoiding douching and soap near your vulva.
I hope this has helped ease any securities you feel around your vagina, even just a little bit. At Intimina, we want women and people with vaginas to feel proud and secure in their bodies. We hope to help instill a sense of empowerment through education so that you can make the best possible choices for you, your body, and yes – your vagina.
Facts Checked By:
Dr. Shree Datta is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in London, specialising in women’s health including all menstrual problems such as fibroids and endometriosis. Dr. Shree is a keen advocate for patient choice, having written numerous articles and books to promote patient and clinician information. Her vision resonates with INTIMINA, with the common goals of demystifying periods and delivering the best possible care to her patients.
Article written by:
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.