Sarah replies:I'm a 15 year-old girl who is, yes, a virgin. The thing is I discharge, like, a lot. Not only is it embarrassing if I'm at a friends house and always worried about if I'm on my period or just discharging like crazy or if I'm with my boyfriend and having the same reaction. I always close up and get insecure. I tried talking to my mother about it who now believes I'm sexually active with my boyfriend. So that didn't help. I have no idea what to do about this, and it freaks me out cause what if something is wrong with me?
To paraphrase a certain bumper sticker, "Discharge happens."
Seriously, it does. Every person with a vagina in the world has discharge. It's just one of those things that you get when you've got a vagina. Discharge plays a very important role in both your vaginal health and in fertility. It serves to "clean out" your vagina and keep things in there in good balance. During certain parts of your cycle, you'll also have discharge that is specially designed to assist sperm in getting where they need to go! Then there's also the kind of "discharge" that occurs when you are sexually aroused that is designed to make penetrative activities smoother and more comfortable. So everybody's got discharge and it really is necessary.
So what changes the amount of discharge you've got going on? Depending upon where you are in your fertility cycle, you'll have a different amount and type of discharge. Typically, you will have less discharge (be drier) during the days just following your period. Around ovulation, you will probably notice you have more plentiful discharge and it will be more slippery, wet, and stretchy (often like egg-whites). After ovulation, discharge typically becomes drier and/or more sticky until you reach your period. If you want more information about the way your discharge (or "cervical mucus") changes throughout your cycle, I suggest you check out the books "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" and "Cycle Savvy: The Smart Teen's Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body" by Toni Weschler.
Sometimes discharge also sometimes changes based on what's going on with other things in our bodies. Depending upon what is going on with you hormonally, you may produce more or less discharge. As you move through your life, you may find that during some times you have more discharge and some times you have less. Some medications can also cause changes in the amount or consistency of your discharge. If you're pregnant, you will have different discharge than you had during a regular cycle.
The bottom line is that you're going to have discharge, and there's really not much you can do about it (nor should you). In terms of amount, what you've got is what you've got. If you find that your discharge is an odd color, has a bad smell, is chunky or cottage-cheese like, etc., then there might be some concern that you've got some sort of an infection brewing. If that is the case, then you need to head to your health care provider ASAP to get that checked out. Vaginal infections are not always sexually transmitted (unless we're talking about something like chlamydia or gonorrhea, for example). Bacterial infections can pop up on their own, for example.
If you are uncomfortable with your discharge, your best bet is to manage it with something like panty-liners. There are many brands and styles available commercially. You should avoid the anything that's "scented" or "deodorized" because those could encourage bacterial infections. If you don't like commercial disposable products, you may wish to try reusable, washable pads. I personally love the ones from Luna Pads. They are breathable and comfortable. Other than that, the best thing to do is just deal with it. If you're not at least charting the dates of your period and counting how many days are in each cycle, you could start doing that to see if you can tell when to expect your period. (You can do this by getting a little calender and recording the start day of each period as "Day 1." You then count each day until your next period starts, and then it becomes the new "Day 1." The number of days between your "Day 1"s will tell you how many days are in your cycle.) Not every person who menstruates has a completely regular cycle, and especially when you're young you might be more irregular than you will be when you're older. Knowing this information won't decrease your discharge, but it might allow you to be more confident that you're not starting your period everytime you feel something.
You may want to check out our article: Honorably Discharged: A Guide to Vaginal Secretions