It often goes a little something like this: You’re in a little bit of a rush and perhaps tense a little too much before you feel moistness happening in your panty area.
Or perhaps someone special catches your eye, and your body stirs, but you’re also nowhere in the mindset, or space, to think about sex.
So is your vagina actually reacting to something? What exactly is it doing?
We got a few questions from our readers about wetness down there and went straight to the expert, certified sex therapist Dr. Janet Brito, for answers.
1. Why am I ‘wet’ down there, if I’m not in a sexual situation?
Even when you aren’t aware of it (such as explicit leaking wetness), your vagina produces lubrication. It’s a natural part of your physiological functioning.
The glands in your cervix and vaginal wall create essential lubrication to protect your genital area from injury or tearing, and keep your vagina clean and moist. Depending on where you are in your cycle and hormone levels, the amount of cervical fluid could vary.
Keep in mind that this fluid, or something similar, also appears during sex. But just because you see it doesn’t mean you’re turned on.
If there is lubrication, it’s your glands at work. The responsible glands for producing lubrication for sexual activity are the Bartholin glands (located to the right and left of the vaginal opening) and the Skene glands (close to the urethra).
Overall, how wet you become depends on several factors, including:
- mental health
- relationship factors
- perspiration and sweat glands
- the type of clothing you wear
- hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)
For some, the type of birth control you use may increase vaginal wetness, as estrogen tends to increase the production of vaginal fluids. If this bothers you, consider asking your doctor about an alternative birth control that has less estrogen.
Infections, like bacterial vaginosis, could cause a feeling of wetness, as the wetness helps to move bacteria out of your vaginal canal. Vaginal lubrication also increases near ovulation to increase the chances of fertilization by providing an easier passage for the sperm to travel.
2. Is it water down there? Urine? Lubrication?
It may be difficult to immediately determine what kind of fluid that’s come out, especially if it leaks out as a surprise while you’re waiting in line for coffee. For the most part, you won’t know until you’re in the bathroom, checking your underwear.
If it’s the mucus type, it could be cervical fluid (which is not what causes sexual arousal). Cervical fluid is made up of carbohydrates, proteins, and amino acids, and it is the most informative of the vaginal fluids. It changes in texture, color, and consistency, depending on your cycle and hormone levels.
Cervical fluids are a natural bodily response, but if you have fluids that are green, smelly, or have a cottage cheese texture, it is best to check with your doctor, as this could be a sign of infection.
Another type of fluid that could be down there is vaginal sweat, which comes from your sweat glands. During sexual excitement, your vaginal area swells to due increased blood flow. This vasocongestion creates a watery solution called vaginal transudate.
Stress can cause you to sweat more, including in your vaginal area. To combat this, wear breathable underwear, stay trimmed, and practice good hygiene.
A milky white secretion that’s believed to be different from other fluids is another vaginal fluid that comes from vaginal transudate and from the vaginal glands.
As mentioned earlier, the Skene glands (known informally as the female prostate) have a role in lubrication and fluids. These glands moisten the vaginal opening and produce a fluid that is known to hold antimicrobial properties that protect the urinary tract region.
The Skene glands are also known to be responsible for squirting, possibly because they are located close to the lower end of the urethra.
Unfortunately, due to lack of research on women’s sexual health, there continues to be controversy about what actually is female ejaculate and what is it made of.
Remember that everyone’s body is unique, and you may experience fluid ratios differently from others.
3. I'm wet down there, but not horny — what does that mean?
You don’t have to be sexually aroused to be wet down there. Sometimes, it’s just a common bodily response — your vagina is wet because that’s how anatomical functioning works.
This is called arousal non-concordance. It may confuse some and could feel like the body has betrayed the mind, but it’s a normal reaction.
Other situations for being wet without being horny could be due to viewing something erotic, or reading something arousing, and your body naturally becoming physiologically responsive.
Wetness may also just be your body’s way of maintaining balance. For the most part, you have nothing to worry about. If it’s not lubrication, it could be your sweat glands or where you are in your cycle.
When it comes to your sweat glands, your vulva has numerous sweat and oil glands that keep your vagina wet. In these cases, it is best to maintain your hygiene, wear panty liners, or wear cotton underwear to keep things cooler.
A new type birth control or increase in exercise may also be the reason behind your wetness.
If you are wet, and it smells fishy, rotten, or abnormal, it is best to call your doctor, as this may be a sign of other problems.