Periods, discharge, pipes and parts… there’s a lot going on down there. But how much do you really know? Are you a vagenius, or just a bit of a twat?

Let’s find out!

What colour should your period be?

How does an egg get from an ovary to your uterus?

How are your eggs stored?

How many holes are there down there?

How much blood do you lose during an average period?

What does discharge do?

What's a labia?

What actually *is* a period?

How many periods does an average woman have in a lifetime?

This week a betty girl has written in because she’s worried about her discharge. Dr Yaz is on hand to talk about what you should and shouldn’t be worried about, and what you should do if your discharge changes.
Got a question for Dr Yaz? Email dryaz@betty.me

My family used to have a dog called Tilly. She was a black cocker-spaniel who liked to bark at inanimate objects, and lie on your feet when you were trying to fall asleep.

Tilly also had a habit of eating the crotch out of women’s underwear. Used women’s underwear.

Most dogs like to chew on bones or rope toys or table legs, but not Tilly. Nothing was as delicious to her as the crotch of women’s underwear. She felt about lady pheromones the way I feel about pastries – that they’re an appropriate snack at any time of day or night, no matter who made them or how long they’ve been sitting around.

And so, Tilly would tip over laundry baskets, rifle through overnight bags and sneak into bathrooms while unsuspecting victims were showering and emerge, triumphant, with knickers in her mouth.

One weekend, when my brother and his girlfriend had come back from university to stay, I caught Tilly happily trotting through the corridor with a pair of bright pink pants in her teeth.

Oh. My. God.

I can see them so clearly in my head, over a decade later. Hot pink, with lace around the top. I wrestled them out of Tilly’s mouth, which was not an easy feat. A bit like taking a teddy from a toddler, or an iPhone from Kim Kardashian.

Thinking the horror was over, I glanced down at my prize and… wait, “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT WEIRD WHITE STUFF? Where did it COME from?!”

Little did I know, I was about to find out exactly where it came from.

What felt like the next day, but I’m sure actually wasn’t, I took off my knickers and saw the trademark white goo of a grown-up vagina. Discharge. I had discharge.

In the absence of facts, I logically concluded that this was a disease and my brother’s girlfriend had given it to me. I never liked my brother’s girlfriend as much after that (not even after I learned that she was in no way responsible for temporarily ruining my underwear).

It turns out that discharge isn’t a disease at all – it’s a totally natural fluid produced by your clever, self-cleaning cervix – and it definitely isn’t passed down to you from your older brother’s girlfriends. They are a completely innocent party in this.

Hungry dogs, though, you sometimes need to keep an eye on.

Image: Katie Edmunds

Unfortunately, we’re not talking about the little guy above. We’re talking about the other type of thrush, which is far less welcome in your (lady) garden.

Thrush is one of those things that most girls and women will go through at some point or other in their lives. Like thinking it’s a good idea to have a fringe, or kissing someone you already know is bad news.

Ok, but what actually is it?

Yeast naturally occurs in your vagina, but it’s a delicate balance. Put simply, thrush occurs when your vagina gets super excited and makes too much yeast.

To blast a popular misconception, thrush isn’t a sexually-transmitted infection – and nor does it only affect women. Virgins, nuns and men can all get thrush. We know it doesn’t make anything less itchy or uncomfortable, but it might help to know you’re not alone in this. A whopping 75% of women will experience thrush, with many (including the entire betty team, hiya) having thrush multiple times in their lifetime.

What does thrush look like?

If you have thrush you’ll generally feel itchy or sore around the entrance to your vagina (labia).

This pain might get worse when you go for a wee, and you might experience a burning sensation. Do not panic, nothing is on fire – it’s just some over-excited yeast.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Thrush is basically when your vagina gets super excited and makes too much yeast.
  • If you have thrush you’ll generally feel itchy or sore around the entrance to your vagina and you discharge might look thick and white.
  • Thrush isn’t a sexually transmitted infection that only affects women - virgins, nuns and men can also get thrush.
  • Luckily, thrush is super easy to treat. You can buy a treatment from the chemist, they’re generally behind the counter, so just ask the pharmacists who will be able to help you out.

Your discharge shouldn’t have a funky new odour (if you notice any unusual or fishy smells, it might be a common bacterial condition, so it’s probably a good idea to head to your GP) but it might look thick and white, a sort of… cottage cheese consistency. We’re sorry. But hey, at least it’s not a good cheese we’ve just ruined.

What causes thrush?

Sometimes thrush is completely unavoidable. For example, lots of women find that they develop thrush when they’re taking antibiotics (because that’s just what you need on top of being ill, sure).

However, if you find that you are getting thrush frequently, you might want to avoid using strongly scented soaps, bubble baths or shower gels anywhere near your vagina. You might also want to try wearing cotton knickers and changing your pad or tampons more regularly than normal, as thrush is more likely to occur when your vagina can’t breathe or is irritated by damp conditions.

And if you’re getting thrush more than once every six months – firstly, you poor thing, and secondly, it’s probably best to head to your GP for a quick chat.

Is it treatable?

Luckily, just like the garden bird, thrush is super easy to chase away. Mild cases of thrush often clear up on their own, but you can also buy a lot of great treatments from the chemist. They’re generally behind the counter, so just ask the pharmacist who will be able to help you out (if you’re confused, ask a person in a white coat. It’s a safe bet, unless your chemist is in a butcher’s shop).

You can get a cream that you use over the course of a few days, a one-time-only tablet or a combination of the two. Talk to the pharmacist about what will work best for you.

Now that’s sorted, maybe it’s time to draw up a pro and con list for the fringe.

Image: Katie Edmunds

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in your best knickers… oh hey! Discharge.

This totally wasn’t on the list

Don’t worry if you didn’t get the message. Discharge is a bit like the middle sibling of puberty – it shows up every day and does a great job, but often gets ignored. However at betty, we pay attention to both middle siblings (hey guys) and every weird and wonderful change happening in your body right now.

Like discharge.

There’s a party in my pants

Discharge is a natural mucus that is produced from your cervix. Formed from normal bacteria and fluids, and it’s your vagina’s way of keeping itself clean. We know, if only bedrooms did that.

You normally start producing discharge about six months to a year before your first period, so its appearance is a bit of a ‘hello!’ from your reproductive system, letting you know that changes are happening down there.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Discharge is your vagina's self cleaning system. You’ll probably start producing it about six months to a year before your first period.
  • The amount of discharge and the consistency you produce will vary throughout your menstrual cycle.
  • If you notice a dramatic change (it looks grey, green or cottage cheesy) it might be a good idea to see your GP.

How much discharge should there be?

The amount of discharge you produce varies through the stages of your menstrual cycle. Generally you produce around a teaspoon of discharge a day, although at some times, like before ovulation, this could be quite a lot more. Around this time discharge can change texture too, becoming less like a liquid and more like a gloopy gel. Or for the sci-fi fans among you, ghost slime.

If you want to, you can wear a pantyliner (a thin pad) around that time of your cycle to absorb everything. Or not. You do you. Discharge comes out easily in the washing machine (woo!), so it’s really about what makes you feel more comfortable.

Anything else I should be looking out for?

Some variation throughout the month is perfectly natural, but a sudden change in your discharge could be a sign that something is a bit off – especially if you notice it looking grey or green, if it has a lumpy consistency like cottage cheese, if it starts to have a strong smell or if there’s suddenly a lot more than usual.

In that case, who you gonna call?

Ghostbusters?

No, your GP. Relax.

Image: Getty/Katie Edmunds