Have you ever noticed a bleach-like stain in your underwear? Well, you can thank your vaginal discharge for that.
No, you didn’t accidentally mess up a load of laundry. Aside from keeping your vagina clean and healthy, it’s common for discharge to have tie-dyeing properties.
So if you’ve ever looked down at your favourite pair of knickers and noticed some sort of discolouration, don’t worry you’re not the only one.
What is vaginal discharge
“Vaginal discharge is a fluid produced by our cervix, AKA the neck of the womb, that keeps our vaginas clean and hydrated,” explains Dr. Suba Thiyagalingam, a junior Obstetrics and Gynaecology doctor and host of In Hysterics, a podcast on women’s health.
“Our vaginas connect the outside world to the inside of our bodies so we need some tricks up our sleeves (literally) to keep any unwelcome bacteria and viruses at bay.”
Although many of us have been led to believe that vaginal discharge is gross or abnormal, most of the time it’s a perfectly healthy bodily function that indicates your vagina is doing what it’s meant to.
The consistency, quantity and colour of vaginal discharge changes throughout your cycle in response to hormonal fluctuations, or because of a possible infection (like thrush or BV). Healthy vaginal can be white or clear in colour, and thick or slippery in consistency.
Your vaginal pH fluctuates
“Our number one defence is having lots of healthy bacteria in our vaginas,” says Dr. Suba. “These bacteria make up what’s called the vaginal microbiome.”
Healthy bacteria – mainly Lactobacilli – produce lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide to lower your vagina’s pH, keeping it acidic in order to prevent the growth of harmful pathogens.
“A healthy vagina has a pH level of 3.8-4.5, but this fluctuates throughout our cycle and gets less acidic during menstruation, menopause or with vaginal infections.” Certain medications like antibiotics, feminine hygiene products and sex (yep) can also affect your vaginal pH.
To balance your vaginal pH, it is good to take probiotics. Daye's ProViotics strenghten your vaginal microbiome and help prevent infections such as thrush and BV.
Can vaginal discharge “bleach” your underwear?
Simply put, yes – it’s just your discharge interacting with the dye of your underwear’s fabric. “It’s the acidic nature of the discharge that creates these bleached spots on your knickers and so it’s more than ok, it’s a sign that your vagina is healthy!”
It may be annoying to find yet another pair of knickers ruined because of your vagina, but it’s definitely nothing to worry about.
Dr. Suba recommends these tips for looking after your vagina:
- Don’t ever wash in your vagina, only wash the vulva (warm water will suffice)
- Wear cotton underwear
- Get to know your discharge so you can spot any changes
- If you notice a change in the colour or smell of your discharge, or notice blood-stained discharge when you’re not on your period, see your GP about it.