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Science Lab

What’s the white sticky thing on my underwear?

That thing you see is called vaginal discharge, a sticky, white or watery fluid that begins to come from the vaginal area after puberty. You might see this on your underwear or when you use the washroom. It’s completely natural and normal. Let’s find out more about it in today’s Science Lab.

What is vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge is the fluid that comes out of a woman’s vagina area once she reaches puberty. Usually, it’s clear or whitish. The consistency of vaginal discharge can vary between thick and almost crumbly or even be similar to egg white. 

It is normal to discharge this fluid. Most women have it at least sometimes in their life. Some women have discharge all the time, and yet others rarely have discharge. That’s all okay. 

Why does it happen?

Have you ever heard someone say that the vagina can cleanse itself? That’s true and the reason for that is vaginal discharge. Its main function is to keep the vagina clean. It flushes away dead cells and bacteria and prevents infections. That’s why it’s so important to be gentle to your genitals and not use any harsh soaps to clean them. 

What causes faded stains on my panty?

The discharge is slightly acidic with a pH varying between 3.5 to 7. The acidic nature of the discharge is due to the presence of good bacteria that not only maintain the acidity level of your vagina but also ward away infection.

Due to its acidic nature, the colour of the panties gets faded or bleached. If you wear white or off-white coloured panties, they turn yellow in the crotch area but the coloured or black panties look faded there. This is normal and nothing to worry about. 

Does it change during the month?

Throughout your menstrual cycle, vaginal discharge changes considerably. On most days, it is sticky, milky and whitish. Around the time a woman is ovulating ( when the eggs from the ovaries are released), it will become clear and more gel-like. It’s also normal to have more discharge when you are ovulating ( i.e 12-13 days after your periods).

When should you see a doctor?

As vaginal discharge is perfectly normal and healthy, usually there is no need to discuss it with a doctor. What may be normal for one woman may look completely different for another. However, if you see any drastic changes in smell, colour or quantity, especially in combination with vaginal itching, vaginal infection, pain or redness, it could be a sign of infection. 

In that case, you must consult your doctor and get it checked. Ideally, you would consult a gynaecologist but a general physician can also help. 

What can change vaginal discharge?

Any urinary, bacterial or vaginal infection can affect the colour or odour of your discharge. It may change even if you are taking antibiotics or some other regular medicines or even vitamins. Overdoing genital hygiene (or not doing enough) can also cause issues.

It is very important to keep an eye on changes in the discharge so that you can seek help when needed.

Photo: Shutterstock/Jihan Nafiaa Zahri/Person in the photo is a model. 

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