Anna Gragert
Updated August 25, 2017 4:22 pm

Vaginal discharge is one of those things we really can’t prepare for. One day (maybe every day!), you look down and it’s simply there, staring back at you, slowly staining your favorite pair of underwear as you wonder why you even bother buying such fancy undergarments in the first place.

With that being said, vaginal discharge is COMPLETELY normal – but here some things you may not know about it.

1. Discharge is the vagina’s cleaning product.

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The vagina uses discharge to clean out bacteria, extra water, and even the vaginal wall’s cells. Sexual health activist Emma Kaywin explains, “That’s right, this goo is your home-grown vaginal cleaning tool, and it’s all you need to stay clean.

2. Discharge changes throughout the menstrual cycle.

Dr. Nancy L. Brown revealed that up to 30 times more mucous may be released before one ovulates. It also tends to appear stretchy and watery (which is why panty liners would be a big help during this time).

3. Your discharge changes for a reason.

Dr. Karen E. Boyle says, “The change in your discharge during ovulation is designed to create a hospitable environment for the sperm to travel up to the egg.” Another example involves pregnancy, since the NHS reports that vaginal discharge increases during this time (and it’s also completely normal).

4. The average amount of discharge is 4 ML per day.

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Dr. Brown adds that a teaspoon of discharge (4 ML) is typically released every day. Some days, it may be more noticeable than it is on others.

5. Dark-colored discharge is actually old blood.

According to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, dark brown discharge may appear right after your period ends. That’s because your vagina is getting rid of old blood that didn’t make its way out when you were menstruating.

6. Discharge can be released before you start getting your period.

For girls who have not yet begun menstruation, Dr. Brown notes that it’s perfectly normal for them to see yellow or white discharge in their underwear.

7. Discharge appears at different times for different people.

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The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services came out with a “Vaginal Discharge Fact Sheet,” which mentions that some women may deal with discharge every day while others only deal with it once in a while.

8. You may notice a change in discharge after exercising.

Palo Alto Medical Center explains that clear, watery discharge may increase after you exercise. Dr. George Krucik confirms this, adding that it is perfectly normal.

9. Your discharge is connected to your lifestyle.

Dr. Alyssa Dweck divulges that your lifestyle, diet, and weight can all contribute to the appearance of your discharge. However…

10. Discharge will warn you if something is wrong.

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If you experience itching, notice that your discharge is releasing a pungent scent, are managing way more discharge than usual, or see that these secretions look like cottage cheese, you should pay your OB/GYN a visit ASAP. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, this could indicate vaginitis: Vaginal inflammation that can lead to pain, discharge, and itchiness.

11. Normal vaginal discharge does not need to be treated.

Though some women feel the need to get rid of vaginal discharge with douching, the Health & Human Services Department states that this is not the best idea. They write, “Using a douche washes away the healthy bacteria in the vagina and can cause other health problems. The healthy bacteria prevent other infections.

12. Panty liners can help you deal with discharge, but they shouldn’t be worn 24/7.

Wearing a panic liner on the reg can make you susceptible to infection. Dr. Mary Peterson states, “The plastic backing on the panty liner prevents air from flowing through and retains heat and sweat, and wearing the same one for too long can lead to bacterial or fungal infections.” However, when you do feel the need to use panty liners, it’s recommended that you change them at least every four hours.