Putting it simply discharge before your period is completely normal. However, there is much more to discharge to be uncovered- so let’s dive in.
Sadly, in today’s world vaginal discharge remains a taboo topic, leading many of us to feel embarrassed or worried that our discharge is not normal. Discharge is broad term which refers to fluid which comes from the vagina. It is our bodies way of cleaning itself and of supporting the menstrual cycle- which is super cool! These amazing abilities are rarely discussed and we are made to think discharge is something which should not exist.
Today I want to dive into discharge and explore how it changes throughout the menstrual cycle…
So what is discharge?
Vaginal discharge is completely normal and most people with a vagina will get it. Discharge is a fluid that keeps the vagina moist and protected from infection. It is usually nothing to worry about however, certain smells, consistencies and colours may be a sign of something else.
Discharge refers to any non-period fluid and leaves your vagina. Now let’s get a little science-y. A large component of discharge is cervical fluid which is produced by the cells of your cervix. This fluid changes during your cycle due to hormonal changes.
Cervical fluid enables reproduction by allowing sperm to enter the uterus and reach an egg during ovulation. Cervical fluid also protects sperm from the acidic environment of the vaginaand helps to protect the vagina from bacteria. At different points during the cycle, the cervical fluid changes making it more or less difficult for the sperm to reach the uterus.
How discharge changes throughout the menstrual cycle?
Discharge changes throughout your menstrual cycle, once again showing how cool our bodies are. Everyone’s experience will be slightly different but I will outline below the common changes which occur during the menstrual cycle. Now discharge actually likes a routine, it is a creature of habit and will change (roughly) in the same ways during every cycle.
During your period/menstruation: Beginning of cycle
At the start of your cycle (during your period), blood will mix with cervical fluid and so you probably won’t notice any discharge.
After your period
Just after your period there is commonly not any discharge or very little. It may also be brown but do not worry this is just the end of your period.
In the days up to your ovulation phase, cervical fluid will increase due to an increase in oestrogen (a hormone). Your vaginal discharge will likely to be thicker in consistency and white or cloudy in colour. So why? Again our bodies are being very smart. The fluid is actually thick to try and intercept any sperm and stop them reaching your uterus.
It is important to note that sperm can still make it through and so always used contraception during sex unless you are trying to conceive.
At your most fertile phase, the ovulation phase, this is when you will produce the most discharge. Discharge will be clear, slippery and stretchy. This will likely feel more wet than usual- do not worry it is completely normal! I am sure you can guess that discharge during this phase is a certain consistency to help sperm reach an egg- the fluid allows sperm to live for longer making it more likely to reach an egg.
After ovulation discharge will change once again. Progesterone (another hormone) increases to support a possible pregnancy. This increase in hormone will prevent the release of cervical fluid making discharge thicker.
Signs of something else
Vaginal discharge is 100% normal and changes during our cycle- as our bodies are super cool. Discharge can also change due to hormonal birth control but in some cases may also be the sign of an STI or a vaginal infection. Discharge does have an slight odour and will usually be clear or white, but strong changes in smell and colour can be signs of an infection. Read more about these signs here or visit your GP, nurse or sexual health centre if you are worried (they are there to help!)
Why are we so freaked out by discharge?
Unfortunately, discharge still remain a taboo for many. Women’s bodies and those with uteruses are commonly demonised and stigmatised. A lack of education around vagina health, menstrual health and sexual health and false images and expectations of women means we are made to believe that discharge is something evil. I hope this article opened your eyes to the wonder of our bodies.
If you want to find out more about Lilypads education which aims to challenge the taboo around puberty and menstrual health click here.
Sustainable, plastic free, eco-friendly period products. They have become more and more prevalent over the last few years. Now this is great for the planet but with so many more choices it can feel a little daunting. I am not a sustainability expert. I try my best, I try to keep learning and I have been committed to making changes to my lifestyle. One of these changes includes trying sustainable period products.
Today on environmenstrual week,I want to share my journey (or rollercoaster) trying sustainable products for the first time…
I started my period when I was around 12 (I think). As most people I know, I initially used pads. From the very start I remember hating them. Hating the crinkly feeling, the sound in the bathroom and the feeling that you were sitting in a wet nappy all day. Not ideal.
Even very early on, my mum was really open with her hatred of pads too and encouraged me to give tampons a try. There was no pressure, just the option to try them when on my period. I was super keen as I hated pads. It took a few months but I finally managed it, preferring non-applicator tampons, and that was me for the next 7 (ish) years.
The cup revolution
I was in my third year of University when the chat around menstrual cups really entered into my world. Countless friends turned to be explaining that “I had to try the cup” as it would “change your life”. I had heard of the cup prior to this, but was a little apprehensive. I am a fairly lazy person and so any extra effort on my period was not the most appealing. Luckily my life was made a lot easier when my University introduced free mooncups as part of their free period product provisions.
Trying the cup for this first time was not easy. My friend had recommended inserting it in the shower, however my tiny student flat shower with soaps, razors and bottles everywhere was not the most spacious. Getting it inserted was not my main struggle, it was getting it out. Like so many people who try the cup for the first time, I found removing the cup very stressful. After several attempts and several internet searches, I finally managed it. Phew.
Why do I not love the cup?
I remember thinking my life was going to be changed by the menstrual cup. Expecting to not have to change it throughout the day (as I was told by my friends they didn’t have to). Maybe my expectations were too high. But I started thinking why do I not love this product the way everyone else does. Looking back now, I think it is silly. Of course not everyone is going to have the same experience, of course not one product will change the lives of everyone with a period in exactly the same way.
For me, the issue was once again my laziness and frantic lifestyle. I am constantly running out the door grabbing shoes, bags and keys as quickly as possible and speed walking to work just so I can have those extra few minutes in bed. And for me, the cup did not fit into that at all times. I would forget to wash it, I didn’t give myself time to insert it or I was too rushed and stressed to insert it.
As well as time restrictions, my periods are SUPER heavy. I did not have the luxury of leaving it in all day. This meant I had to find a toilet with a sink, or remember a bottle of water to rinse it with. My part-time work toilet was super small and did not always flush well and so I did not want to change it there. As well as that, sometimes the cup doesn’t work (cup advocates please do not be mad). For me, if I had not inserted it properly it would leak, a lot, and I did not need that added stress.
Now to be clear although me and the cup have our differences I still use it- just not all the time. I tend to use it in the middle of my period or on my heaviest days when I am organised or at home.
I still want to be sustainable
So where am I now? As I mentioned I wear the cup at points during my period. I also use reusable pads and liners to back it up. On my lighter days or some nights I use pads alone. I came across reusable pads when I got involved with Lilypads and thought they were great. Reusable pads were great to back up tampons on heavier days or give me extra peace of mind when trying the cup. As well as cups and reusable pads, I still use non-applicator tampons sometimes. I used to feel guilty about this but I am trying to celebrate the fact that I have cut out my waste by using the cup on some days! I have also come across organic non-applicator tampons recently, which have been another great swap.
Periods are unique to the individual and so are our product preferences
This whole journey has provided me with lots of thoughts and questions. The main thought being that periods are tough, we are not all on an equal playing field and pressure around using certain products still exists.
It is so important to recognise that accessibility is the most important aspect of period products. This is not as simple as talking about price. We need to talk about the multitude of factors impacting access to products; education, culture, health to name only a few.
I was privileged to have access to products when I started my period. I had been given the information about periods and had few barriers to trying different products. This is not the case for everyone.
Sustainable period products tips
My tips for trying sustainable products is to be kind to yourself, be kind to others. The whole aim of exploring period products is to find the right product for you and to feel comfortable in your choices. There should be no judgement or pressure. Celebrate small wins, recognise your privilege and fight for making all period products, including sustainable products, more accessible.
Check out our pads here and tips for trying them for the first time.
Lilypads strongly believe that collective action is necessary the end period poverty. This week we sat down to chat to the founder of the Period Poverty Society Saffron Roberts. Lauren from the Period Poverty Society has shared her thoughts in this blog:
Menstruating people have a lot on their plates. From the monthly process of working their way through packets of painkillers, routine doctors appointments and endless diagnosis of low iron. To ruined underwear and stained sheets. But there is one fundamental aspect of having a period that should not be another weight on their shoulders: accessing products.
A study carried out by Plan International found that, during the recent lockdown, 3 in 10 girlsstruggled to afford or access sanitary wear. Outside of the pandemic, this struggle continues for 1 in 10 girls. The bottom line is that this statistic should not exist at all. In an ideal world, the needs of menstruating people should be considered and prioritised. This will ensure that when a global crisis like the one we have experienced this year does occur, people with periods do not have the additional stress of wondering how they will afford or access sanitary products.
So, where is this poverty coming from?
It is estimated that the average menstruating person spends £4,800 on period productsin their lifetime. With the average cost of a packet of pads or tampons falling at £2.37 (one packet is often insufficient for one cycle.) For the5.2 Million women already in poverty in the UK this is a huge exacerbation and could be the choice between a meal or a pack of sanitary pads- a choice no one should have to make in today’s society. Plan International found that in a year, 137,700 children in the UK miss school because of period poverty.
Period Poverty boils down to the simple, unfortunate fact that menstruation is not seen as a priority health issue. This is evident in the government’s failure to include menstrual hygiene management in the Covid-19 health response.
Where legislation is gradually being announced in an attempt to combat period poverty on a large scale, it simply is not being brought into action fast enough. In 2016, the Scottish Government claimed that menstruation is ‘not a health issue’ and only now, well over a year since the Bill to end period poverty was introduced by Monica Lennon MSP, is it in the first stage of moving towards becoming law.
How does stigma tie into it?
If menstruation is not being considered a health issue, then Period Poverty is not going to go away. Systemic sexism and the reluctance to place emphasis on taboo subjects such as periods mean that the needs of the female body will continue to be pushed aside into a bundle of things to ‘think about later,’ unless more is done to prioritise them.
The reluctance to regard these issues as fundamentally important puts women themselves
directly in harm’s way. The narrative around what a period is and how menstruating people are regarded in society is still today, even in a country that praises itself on being progressive, having a negative impact on people’s lives.
What are the risks?
Widely, the danger that comes from stigmatising periods is not going away. The practise of ‘Chhaupadi’ involves the shunning of women and young girls in western/rural Nepal, from everyday life during their periods. Menstruating people are banished to an outside hut or animal shed for up to ten days, due to the belief that they are ‘impure, unclean and untouchable’ on their periods. Although less extreme in the UK, this notion of treating periods as something unhygienic and dirty is still very much an active mentality.
WaterAid UK found that1 in 4 menstruating peopledid not understand what was happening to their bodies when they first got their period. A further 1 in 4 regard their periods as embarrassing. This embarrassment has a direct impact on the lives of young, menstruating people, with around49% missing schoolbecause of their periods, implicating their education and hindering their chances at academic success later in life. And if periods are not reported as being embarrassing enough for young, menstruating people, then not having access to suitable sanitary wear is making it near impossible for them to thrive in any given environment. The silence around these issues arising from stigmatising periods also massively increases the risk of anxiety around body image, as well as making chronic illnesses like Endometriosis harder to diagnose because of this hesitancy to approach the topic of periods confidently and openly.
What can be done?
Clearly, not enough is being done to normalise menstruation and as long as we continue to treat it as something taboo, the means of dealing with it will continue to be unaccessible. It is vital that more is done to ensure that the basic needs of women and menstruating people do not continue to be undervalued. Although there are groups working fantastically to put an end to period poverty, from far-reaching organisations like Bloody Big Period, right down to student-led initiatives on university campuses, the ability to end this issue lies in the hands of the Government who must continue to push for legislation protecting and prioritising menstruating people. The ability to access suitable hygiene products should not be compromised, and people with periods should not have to continue jumping through hoops just to get their hands on an essential item.
Sustainable periods. You may be wondering what sustainability has to do with periods? You might be thinking, ‘hey periods are hard enough, please do not give me an added stress’. Well do not worry I had the same worries but after learning about the environmental impact of periods and exploring the easy ways some of us can cut this down I am confident you will want to learn more too. Today I am going to dive into sustainable periods. Exploring the environmental impact periods have, why period products can be unsustainable and how we can make small changes to make our periods more sustainable.
If you are interested in hearing more about my own experiences listen to our recent Time of the Week Podcast where me and Alison chat all things sustainability.
What does sustainability have to do with periods?
So first up, what does sustainability have to do with periods? Periods lead to A LOT of waste. The average person with a period actually uses over 11000 disposable period products in their lifetime. How crazy! Now of course, they are not using these just for fun. Period products are a necessity. But it took me by complete shock when I discovered that many of the standard and most popular disposable period products out there can contain up to 90% plastic. This products add up to an equivalent of 500kg of plastic which can take over 500 years to degrade in a landfill.
So what needs to change?
Sustainable lifestyle is a growing change. Most of us want to live more sustainability. We recycle, we cut out certain products or we turn the tap off when brushing our teeth. The environmental impact of periods is also gaining much more attention and that is definitely stage one- more awareness, more learning. Progress is being made, for one, this week is actually Environmenstrual week (19thOctober – 25thOctober 2020). This is a whole week dedicated to raising the awareness of the environmental impact of periods and aiming to reduce the amount of menstrual waste, run by WEN (Women environmental network).
So after awareness what next? What do we do with this information? Sometimes it is easy to feel helpless. To feel so shocked by a statistic or fact that you think to yourself; what impact can I have? I am here to tell you; stay hopeful, you are more powerful than you think. There are lots of individual changes that can help make a big difference. Changing what products we use, changing hoe we dispose of these products or cutting down on additional and unnecessary products are some of the few. Explore my own personal, more specific tips at the end of this article…
Now I am not here to just rant and judge. We have to realise that periods are a biological function- no one choses to have a period and so sustainability has to be a choice and has to be accessible to everyone. Periods are also unique to the individual. For some cutting out certain types of products will be easier than for others and some change will simply not be possible for some. On a much wider scale, we have to rally together and pressure the large companies and institutions distributing or selling products- only then will sustainability actually be feasible for the majority.
Some tips from someone trying her best
Now I admit I still have a lot to learn about sustainability, and there are individuals and activists who have achieved much more than me. (my favourites outlined at the bottom of this article). I still think it is important to start somewhere. To not set the bar of expectation too high or to criticise ourselves too much. We are all trying our best.
Below I have outlined some of my personal tips for trying to become more sustainable when it comes to periods. Have some of your own tips? Comment on this blog below, message our Instagram or Facebook pages or get in touch via our contact page- we love to learn!
Reusable is best
So reusable products save up to 90% of the waste created from disapoable products. By using reusable products (such as menstrual cups, period underwear or reusable period pads) our waste is drastically cut. This has a huge impact and can also be a real poiitve in other ways; reusable products save you money as you do not need to buy products very month, they also do not contain the harmful chemcials which disposable porducts can contain. Overall they are great for you and great for the planet.
Just swap 1
So I was a tampon user since I was pretty young. I hated pads. Yet I still wore them on my heavy days as well as tampons “just in case”. This is a super common behaviour as most of us hate leaks. Swapping out just one of these products can have a huge impact. Either cutting the pad out entirely or swapping it to use a reusable pad or reusable underwear to catch leaks can be a great first step and also makes reusable porducts slightly less scary.
Small steps make all the difference. Even if it is just swapping from applicator tampons to non-applicator you are cutting so much waste. Or if you are able to, buying organic cotton tampons instead. These contain less chemicals and are easier to degrade. We have to celebrate these small wins! Not all changes are for everyone or accessible to everyon and so remember to not feel bad if you might not be using the most sustainable products, every little change makes a difference!
Cut out the washes, wipes and other extras
Special period washes, wipes or sprays are not needed. Ideally, just water is all that your vulva and vagina need- it is naturally cleaning how impressive! If you feel you need a soap, an unscented bar soap can be fine. Or if you feel the need to use wipes start using reusable cloths or just wet tissue paper instead!
To wrap up, I want to make it clear that having a period can be tough! Adding a new sustainability pressure is not the aim of this article. It is about sharing the facts and sharing some of the solutions about sustainable periods. Finding what works best for you is key. Hopefully with added pressure and awareness sustainable products will become much more accessible and widespread. For now, dream big, celebrate your wins and be kind to yourself and others- we are all trying our best!
My experience of reusable period pads has been pretty surprising. For as long as I can remember my periods have been heavy and painful. Its not something I dwell on but I always viewed periods as something to endure or ‘get through’ even. Not exactly what you want considering the average woman will spend 10 years on her period in her lifetime (yes 10 YEARS). I viewed my period products in much the same way – I got by and I endured the annoying side effects that came with using disposable and heavily scented pads.
The dreaded side effects
These pads led to itching , the irritation and the chaffing to name just a few. Until one day I decided I had enough! I had to make a change. Periods have rightly so been a hot topic of conversation in the media of late and through this I realised I did have other options, options that would not only benefit me but the environment to. Through researching these alternative and more sustainable options I discovered reusable pads, cups and period pants. The one that appealed the most to me was the reusable pads after all they were still pads but I was intrigued to see how they might feel different and what effect this might have on me and my periods.
Trying Lilypads for the first time…
Trying lilypads reusable pads for the first time I have to admit I was apprehensive, nervous even. Having never tried them before I really didn’t know what to expect other than what I had researched online. I opened them slowly and peaked in to see some lightweight and cool yes cool cloth pads not a word I would usually use to describe pads! Now confession time I did have visions …or dare I say it nightmares of reusable pads being big and bulky. Let’s just say I could not have been more wrong. The design of lilypads reusable pads is right up my street – the black design of the pads makes them look sleek and modern.
The pads are pretty!
The look of the pads is not something I would initially say is important for a pad but considering you will be wearing it again and again I think its important they looked aesthetically pleasing. But now for the real talk and what you’ve probably been waiting for… did they actually work and how did they feel? Well my most frequent fear was that the pads would feel ‘damp’ for a better word while I was wearing them on my period as I bled. Another worry was if I would feel protected – having heavy periods this was a big concern. The answer is a huge no to feeling damp and a huge yes to feeling protected. I didn’t feel that icky damp feeling at all but one tip is to always have a bundle of reusables at hand to change regularly.
Some tips from me about trying reusable period pads…
Much like my disposable pads I still had to change my reusables regularly but I found I felt fresher for longer and so much for comfortable. I definitely felt protected from leaks as my reusables felt secure with the handy button fastening keeping them in place. You might be wondering how you wash them and how that all works. Well to be honest I had no idea before I first tried lilypads reusable pads how to wash them ,luckily the super handy instructions that came with the pads explained how to go about washing them.
Washing them is easier than you think
You can simply stick your lilypads reusable in a cold wash (30-40 degrees) with your other washing for the day but just make sure to not include any whites or bedsheets and DON’T dry wash or tumble dry them. But was it all just a big faff you might be wondering. Honestly… no it wasn’t – but I would say for it not to become an annoyance I would always make sure to have a bundle of them at hand to change easily. I did forget one day to actually wash them in time for the next day( blame it on a lack of coffee that day) but apart from that its no different from remembering to do your laundry each day.
Overall I loved them!
The most profound change for me personally was to not have to deal with any of the nasty side effects that came with using disposable pads. Resuables felt so much more comfortable against my skin. I felt happy knowing I was no longer contributing to the immense pollution our menstrual products can cause to the environment but that’s a whole other story I could go on and on about! Overall I would definitely say I’m a convert to reusables but to make them work for my busy lifestyle I think initially I would wear them on my lighter days to start with and most definitely at night( as they are sooo comfy) this is simply until I can get into a rhythm of washing them.
Period poverty has gained a lot of attention over the past few years, and rightfully so. As many as 800 million people menstruate at any one point. Every single one of these people experience their period differently. But one thing unites them all. They all deserve to feel safe and secure when on their period. Access to period products is a vital part of this.
So what is period poverty?
Putting it simply, itmeans a lack of access to period products. A recent research survey by Plan Internationalestimated that 1 in 10 girls in the UK are unable to afford period products. 1 in 7 have had to ask to borrow a product from a friend due to affordability. 1 in 5 have changed to a less suitable product due to cost. Access to period products is so important so people can remain in school or at work, live their lives with dignity, confidence and ensure they are not disadvantaged or endangered.
It is important to recognise, that like many inequalities, period poverty is complex and unique to the individual. There is not just one experience of period poverty. Furthermore, it is tied to other socio-economic factors and this is important to understand. Safe and effective spaces to change products, access to underwear, access to education surrounding periods, period stigma and gender inequality are just some of the factors which are linked to period poverty.
Period poverty and stigma
As many of us know, periods are highly stigmatised. Period stigma remains a huge issue within the UK. Nearly half of those aged 14 to 21 are embarrassed by their periods. Almost three quarters of girls admitted to feeling embarrassed when purchasing products and only 1in 5 felt comfortable discussing their period with their teacher.
What is the impact?
Period poverty has unique, complex and variable impacts on different individuals. The same survey by Plan International noted that 49% of girls have missed an entire day of school because of their period. Period poverty is a challenge facing many people with periods around the world. Having a period each month is hard enough and it is extremely unfair that in the 21stcentury certain groups are disadvantaged.
Lilypads believes that no one should be limited by their period. Our pads are more affordable than others as we think sustainable period products should not be a luxury. Read more about what Lilypads are doing internationally to provide access to products on our website.
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