Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why Pantiliners Are Evil

Sometimes a solution can create an even bigger problem. M. came into my office on Monday, worried about her increased vaginal discharge. She had started a new birth control pill several months earlier, and was overall happy with it. But she had noticed several episodes of spotting, and had taken to wearing pantiliners every day. M.’s spotting had stopped, but her pantiliner habit continued. She now has noticed more—and daily—discharge, and fear she may have an infection.

With apologies to Always et al, pantiliners are the bane of a vagina’s existence. Yes, they’re perfect for light flow days during your period when a tampon is not needed. And they’re great after a bout of weekday-morning sex, when you still feel drippy but need to get to work. But there’s no need to slap one on your undies every day. Your vagina is self-cleaning, and a certain amount of discharge (and even odor) are totally normal. Some women, though, use daily liners to “catch” their discharge to “protect” their underwear. Then their vagina can’t breathe (could you, through that weave?), which actually increases the amount of discharge, starting a vicious cycle. Chemical irritants like douching, by the way, make it all worse.

We have this notion that we need to be bone-dry, all the time (except if we’re aroused, then we can’t be too wet). But a little discharge on your vulva is okay—moisture keeps you from sticking or chafing. So don't wear liners to protect your panties - wear panties to protect your clothes (which is actually what underwear is for). Just change them during the day if you feel the need.

Photo credit: Nena P. Love


Zofia said...

Hi there,

Just wondering what your thoughts are on pantiliner use during pregnancy, when the amount of discharge increases a lot. Is it better to wear pantiliners and change them regularly to keep things clean down there, or is it better to go pantiliner-less, in favour of maintaining good air circulation (changing underwear as needed)? Do you know of any research linking regular pantiliner use with infections?

Dr. Kate said...

Zofia, I still have the same negative feelings about pantiliners in pregnancy. There's no data that shows an increase in INFECTIONS, so it's not dangerous to use them. But I think it may make the discharge worse. So for my pregnant patients who are sick of changing their underwear, I encourage them to wear liners just during the day, while at work or in school, and go liner-less at night, as a compromise.