I have a problem in my uh "area." See, you know the natural lube that comes out of a woman's vagina? Well, it is constantly dripping, and I don't have sex or anything. I always have to wear toilet paper in my underwear. Do I need to get it checked out by a doctor? Or can I treat it myself?
Dear Ew gross,
The natural lube you’ve mentioned in your question is usually referred to as vaginal discharge. Vaginal discharge is very common; however, every woman experiences it differently. Vaginal discharge varies in quantity, color, scent, and consistency. All of these factors vary not only from woman to woman, but also throughout every woman’s menstrual cycle. Although you may be alarmed by the amount of discharge you experience on a daily basis, most vaginal discharge is healthy and perfectly normal. In fact, most discharge is simply the product of your vagina cleaning itself. There are many ways to handle vaginal discharge. For example, you can wear breathable cotton underwear, change your underwear throughout the day, or use panty liners or pads to absorb discharge and keep you comfortable and dry.
Familiarize yourself with what your vaginal discharge looks, smells, and feels like so you’ll be aware of any significant changes over time. At some times of the month, discharge may be thin and watery, and at other times, it may become thicker and stickier. These changes are normal. However, if your vaginal discharge takes on a foul odor or starts to cause discomfort, you should consider making an appointment with your doctor.
Excluding normal vaginal discharge, a number of gynecological issues can cause changes in vaginal fluids, including:
- Yeast infections
- Bacterial infections
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis
- Hormonal birth control methods (the pill, patches, rings, IUDs)
- Allergies to soaps, creams, powders, laundry detergent, fabric softeners, feminine hygiene sprays, douches, or spermicides
- Medical conditions that change the balance of hormones (chemicals) in the blood
If you feel you may be experiencing abnormal discharge and want to determine whether you’re dealing with any of the above issues, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your gynecologist. During your visit, s/he will ask whether the presence of discharge in your underwear is a change for you, or if you've always had lots of natural lubrication. They will also likely ask if you have any other symptoms, such as pain, itching, or burning in your vaginal area. Your visit may also involve an examination of your vulva (the outer part of the female genitals) and a sample collection of the discharge so that it can be looked at under a microscope in order to determine the exact source of the issue.
One last thought: some women mistake urine leaking from the urethra for discharge secreting from the vagina. If the natural lube you’re experiencing is actually urine, it could mean that you have bladder infection. Bladder infections are fairly common in women, and there are medicines to treat them. Make sure to discuss this possibility with your health care provider.
Vaginal discharge is something all women experience and it is likely something you’ll grow accustomed to eventually. If you have any remaining concerns, reach out to your health care provider. Columbia students can contact Medical Services (Morningside) or Student Health (CUMC) for more information or to make an appointment to see a health care provider on campus. Kudos to you and your interest in knowing more about your own body!