A few years ago in her HBO special, Amy Schumer joked that one of her New Year’s resolutions (along with catfishing someone) was to “just once take off a pair of underwear and make it not look like I blew my nose in it.” It’s funny because it’s kind of true: Why does having a vagina have to be so goddamn messy?
A lucky few have so little vaginal discharge, it’s not even noticeable. But for the rest of us, discharge is an (almost) daily occurrence. However much you may relate to Amy’s joke about wanting to be rid of it, you should know that discharge isn’t usually something you need to be worried about. “It’s completely normal to have anywhere from no noticeable discharge to up to one tablespoon per day,” says Leah Millheiser, MD, director of the Female Sexual Medicine program at Stanford University Medical Center. “Vaginas are self-cleaning ovens: Discharge is just your vagina cleaning up by shedding old cells.”
And while discharge might sometimes ruin a great pair of undies, if you’re paying close attention, your discharge (the type, color, and quantity) can tell you some crucial things about your health, such as when you’re most likely to conceive or if you’ve contracted an STI. You just need to know how to read it. In other words, your discharge is your friend — it’s definitely not something you need to feel ashamed of or even grossed out by.
Ahead, we go over what’s normal and what’s worth getting checked out, along with some very specific examples of what that looks like.