Take your vaginal health seriously.
What is on your underwear can tell you a lot about what is going on in your body, particularly your hormones and your overall health.
First things first: blood or dark brown spotting is usually a sign that your period is on its way. However, if it is happening at an off time it can indicate that something is off (or IN) the uterus which is causing irregular bleeding.
"Endometrial polyps and submucous fibroids (fibroids within the uterine cavity) can cause intermenstrual spotting. And while these are usually benign, irregular bleeding can also be a sign of endometrial or cervical cancer," says Dr. Sheeva Talebian, a fertility specialist.
For women who are on the pill or some form of hormonal contraception who see irregular or persistent dark brown on their underwear, it can indicate that the amount of estrogen in the pill is not right. "Low-low pills are great, but sometimes the estrogen dose is too low to maintain a stable uterine lining. In these cases persistent spotting can occur," says Talebian.
The next most common thing women see when it comes to their vagina is discharge: yellow, white, green and even gray. "While it may make you want to gag, the color and the smell can signify a bacterial vs. a fungal vs. a viral infection," says Talebian. Some amount of discharge is totally normal. While it can ruin your Hankies Pankies it is a sign of normal hormonal production.
Here are 7 vagina problems women experience, and how to determine what is normal... and what is not.
1. Leaking urine
It is not uncommon for women, particularly those of us who have had a couple of children vaginally, to lose urine throughout the day. "Running, sneezing, coughing and laughing — an increase in intra-abdominal pressure can lead to leakage of urine," says Talebian.
2. Mucous release
"Vaginas are continually cleansing themselves. Part of this process is the release of mucous which will show up in your panties, especially when you're ovulating," says Antonia Hall, psychologist, relationship expert and sexpert.
3. Bleeding (but it's not your period)
You’re bleeding, but it’s not your period! "Often, this may signal a hormonal imbalance, most likely because you missed a birth control pill. You should call your doctor if it persists as it can be a sign of infection, pregnancy, or polyp on your cervix," says Tristan Weedmark of We-Vibe.
4. Abnormal discharge
You may notice some abnormal discharge with a cottage cheese-like consistency in your underwear, but no need to worry — it is easily treatable.
"This kind of discharge combined with itchiness is usually a vaginal yeast infection, which is more common than you might expect. It can happen because you’re taking antibiotics or from sitting around in a wet swimsuit for hours. It can be easily treated by your doctor with OTC antifungal cream or pill," says Weedmark.
5. Bleach stains
Obviously, this doesn't come from anything inside you (we hope) but from cleaning your panties due to everything else going on. The best way to avoid this? Stick to white panties. Darker colors will show those stains more.
6. Pink stains
Outside of normal bleeding, if you have spotting (which can be pink-like), it’s mid-cycle bleeding. "This is an indication of ovulation and also nothing to worry about," says OB/GYN Dr. Judith Levy, MD.
7. Green or yellow discharge
This is not traditional discharge. "Abnormal discharge can be a sign of an infection, so you should see a doctor," says Dr. Levy.