Yes, Discharge In Your Pants Is Normal

Photo: Kate Anglestein
Body shaming hit a new low last week when the unusual hashtag #PantyChallenge started circulating on Snapchat and Twitter. The highly problematic trend stemmed from "one woman's ignorant Facebook post" boasting that her vagina is so superior, she never gets “crusty” pants. Inspired, women (supposedly) started posting pictures of their own immaculate pants, in a bid to prove and champion their “ability” to defy the laws of nature and magically avoid producing any kind of vaginal discharge. Thankfully, #PantyChallenge was quickly exposed, lightly-to-heavily mocked, and ending up sparking an important public conversation about the various and natural states of vaginas.
As hundreds of posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pointed out, it is still crucial to break the silence on taboo topics such as discharge, menstruation and body hair, in an effort to encourage girls and women of all ages to understand, respect and take care of their bodies. The absurd #PantyChallenge turned into a myth-busting marathon, debunking many harmful misconceptions that still deem regular female bodily functions as embarrassing or disgusting.
Discharge is perfectly normal. Every healthy woman has it and should have it, as it gets rid of dead cells and bacteria, and can even prevent infections. It can also help track the menstrual cycle or flag up health conditions that may otherwise go dangerously unnoticed. Of course, vaginas may not make it into the top ten of best dinner party conversation starters, but there is nothing inherently gross about them and women should never be humiliated for how their bodies work.
So, that said, here's a lesson in discharge – when it's normal, when it might not be normal, and what to do about it – with quotes from Dr Virginia Beckett from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Vaginal Discharge Is Natural
You probably know this by now, and I just said it, but it bears repeating that clear or white vaginal discharge is absolutely normal and healthy, and the only shameful thing about it is the body stigma it still hauls around. It is mostly mucus produced naturally from the neck of the womb – what is called the cervix – and its amount can vary throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle, as Dr Beckett, explains: “Healthy discharge doesn't have a strong smell or colour, but women may feel an uncomfortable wetness." So, yes, damp underwear is absolutely okay, but it is important to know your body and watch out for any unexpected change, as it may indicate an underlying problem.
Do Not Overlook Abnormal Discharge
"Any sudden change in a woman’s discharge may indicate a vaginal infection,” warns Dr Beckett. And women should be aware of how their discharge naturally varies throughout their cycles in order to spot if and when anything slightly unusual occurs. The warning signs of an infection, says the Dr, typically include a change in colour or consistency, a sudden bad smell, excessive amounts, itching outside the vagina or pain in the pelvis or tummy, or even unexpected bleeding from the vagina. Of course, if a woman isn’t sure whether her discharge is normal, she should visit her GP, practice nurse or pharmacist. As Dr Beckett says: “There are many possible causes of abnormal vaginal discharge, but it's usually a sign of infection. “Infections are often caused by something that upsets the natural balance of bacteria or yeast in the vagina, such as washing inside the vagina, or it may be a sexually transmitted infection.” The most common causes of abnormal discharge are thrush, bacterial vaginosis, or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as trichomoniasis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, or genital herpes.
Vaginal Discharge And Thrush
Almost every woman has it at some point in her life. As well as causing abundant discharge, vaginal thrush is a common yeast infection that can lead to itchiness and soreness around the entrance of the vagina, but also pain during sex and a stingy sensation when urinating. “It may be unpleasant and uncomfortable, but can usually be treated with medication available from pharmacies or on prescription from GPs,” Dr Beckett says. “However”, she adds, “for some women, it can be difficult to treat and it keeps coming back.” Some STIs Can Cause Vaginal Discharge
STIs are infections that are passed from one person to another through unprotected sex, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Unfortunately, many people with STIs don’t get or don’t recognise symptoms. In women, abnormal discharge can be a red flag, as Dr Beckett points out: “Several STIs including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and trichomoniasis can cause a vaginal discharge in women.” If someone has unprotected sex and sees a difference in their discharge, it’s worth getting tested. If someone has unprotected sex but feels fine, it’s probably worth getting tested anyway.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common infections that can affect the bladder, the kidneys and the tubes connected to them. “They can cause pain or discomfort when urinating, a need to urinate more than usual, a sudden urge to urinate, pain in the lower tummy, cloudy, foul-smelling urine which may contain blood, and a general feeling of being unwell, achy and tired," explains Dr Beckett. Some women, unfortunately, experience them regularly, and they are called recurrent UTIs. “UTIs can be painful and uncomfortable, but usually pass within a few days. However, if symptoms persist the infection can be treated with antibiotics.” For information, check

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