In today’s modern age of feminism you would assume that women are now confident about their bodies, unashamed and proud of their genitals but a recent study from Balance Activ shows this is not the case at all.

Vaginas should not be taboo. Of course, on a personal level, there needs to be some mystery surrounding them, few people want to show them off to the public, but there should be no mystery at all when it comes to knowing our bodies and understanding vaginal health, yet there is. A lot.

In the study conducted by Balance Activ over a fifth of women claimed they hadn’t received any education on female anatomy at all at school. A whopping 74% of the 5000 surveyed said they had been taught to hide their experiences of their own anatomy, not to share details and to be discreet. On the surface this seems ok, no one brings up their children to shout about their private parts in public but sharing experiences helps us to learn while reassuring us about what’s normal and what’s not. Which may explain why, in the same study, nearly half of all women had experienced a discharge that was unfamiliar to them, worrying and unidentifiable through their own general knowledge. This is not surprising when 77% will avoid talking about their vagina, even to a health professional.

Gustave Courbet, Origin of the World, 1866, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France

Women have grown up believing that the word discharge has dirty connotations. They worry they’ll be seen as unclean if they mention it when discharge is a perfectly normal part of having a vagina. Healthy discharge is good, it doesn’t smell, it doesn’t look offensive, although it can bleach your underwear, which shows just how great it is at cleaning your vagina.

What is the solution? When we’re ashamed to talk about our private parts we hide changes, especially those that we feel are unclean, for example, discharge with a horrible colour or odour. It’s this avoidance that stops many from talking to their GPs or from having cervical smears and the problem is getting worse.

A fifth of us were not taught female anatomy in school

Over a fifth of those asked said they wouldn’t recognise the signs of thrush (itching, cottage cheese like discharge, dry feeling despite discharge) while 44% wouldn’t recognise the symptoms of BV (a foul odour – don’t be alarmed, it just means your friendly bacteria is out of whack and can easily be fixed with Balance Activ products over the counter).

We’ve all seen the statistics on how many avoid cervical smears.

A Rebranding for Discharge?

Maybe we need a new name for discharge. The word itself sends shudders down people’s spines, like the word moist. Maybe we should come up with something else, something a lot more friendly to help all generations talk freely about their vaginal health. It worked for poo. Once people started using the word poop the whole of TikTok blew up with influencer after influencer sharing their daily toilet habits!

Suggestions include:

Cream cleanser
Cleaning gel

Let us know on social media what you would call it.