Pink Discharge: Everything You Should Know!

While vaginal discharge is a natural secretion of the vagina, it can be concerning when it strays from its normal color. One type of discharge that can cause concern is pink discharge, which occurs when a small amount of blood mixes with vaginal discharge, turning it pink.

Most cases of pink discharge can be attributed to a woman’s period and are not a cause of concern. However, there are some health issues that can cause pink discharge, making it important for women to listen to their bodies and seek a doctor’s opinion if they are ever concerned.

Table of Contents

What Is Vaginal Discharge?

Vaginal discharge is a fluid that comes out of the vagina. It is produced by the cervix, uterus, and vagina, and it is mainly composed of cells and bacteria.

The role of vaginal discharge is to help clean and lubricate the vagina, making it a natural and normal product. In most cases, it will be clear or off-white and will have only a mild odor.

The amount of discharge that someone’s body produces can vary, with some people naturally producing more than others.

Is It Normal to Have Pinkish Discharge?

Pink discharge can range in color from light pink to red, depending on how much blood has mixed with the discharge.

Vaginal discharge is typically clear or white in color, though, making pinkish discharge an abnormal color. However, there are entirely normal situations that can cause pink discharge, so it is not always a cause of concern.

Nevertheless, if you are ever concerned about a change in your vaginal discharge, it is always best to see a doctor to discuss what is going on.

What Causes Pink Discharge?

There are many causes of pink discharge, some normal and some that should be checked by a doctor.

Your Period

The most common cause of pink discharge is blood, which is why your period may be to blame for the appearance of pinkish discharge. This is because period blood can combine with normal vaginal secretions at the beginning or end of menstruation, which is why you might have pinkish discharge before your period or after your period.

Sometimes, pink discharge may appear at a time that does not match your standard “time of the month.” In these cases, it may be a sign of irregular menstruation, which can result from stress, age, weight fluctuations, or lifestyle changes.

Perimenopause

As the body transitions to menopause, the ovaries do not produce as much estrogen, which can lead to pink discharge.

Some other symptoms of perimenopause include:

  • hot flashes
  • vaginal dryness
  • low libido

Ovulation            

In addition to before or after your period, some women may also notice pink discharge around their time of ovulation, which is typically 14 days before the beginning of your next period.

The body can go through spotting at this time, but when the slight amount of blood mixes with vaginal discharge, it can turn the discharge light red or pink.

Ovulation can cause this to occur because the body experiences a sudden surge in estrogen, which causes the endometrium to destabilize and may cause spotting.  

Hormonal Imbalance

Your hormones play an essential role in the body, and for your sex hormones, this involves the state of your uterine lining. If your estrogen levels are too high or too low, the uterine lining may break down and shed before it is supposed to in the menstrual cycle. This can then lead to spotting or pink discharge.

One case where this may occur is in those with PCOS, who have irregular menstrual cycles that may result in cycles where no egg is released. This means that progesterone is not released, which allows estrogen to continue thickening the lining of the womb. When this lining is then removed incompletely or irregularly, pink discharge may occur.

Some other signs of hormonal imbalances can include:

  • insomnia
  • hot flashes
  • brain fog
  • mood swings
  • UTIs

Pregnancy

Some women may experience something called implantation bleeding when pregnant, which occurs when pink discharge is triggered after a fertilized egg takes root in the lining of the womb. However, not all women experience this.

If you’re experiencing unexpected spotting and have had unprotected sex, keep an eye out for other signs of pregnancy, including sore breasts, morning sickness, and fatigue.

Pink discharge can also affect women when they are well into their pregnancy due to bleeding from the edge of the placenta, especially if their placenta is lying low. Women with abnormalities on their cervix may also find that they have pink discharge.

As a woman approaches her due date, pink discharge may signify that she is about to start labor.

Regardless of when in your pregnancy you are, it is always recommended to visit a doctor in any cases of pink discharge to ensure that you and your baby are healthy,

Miscarriage

While most miscarriages present with heavy bleeding, there are some cases where it may instead resemble pink discharge. Because of this, it is essential to always have pink discharge checked during your pregnancy, especially if there are any other signs or sensations that you are concerned about.

Changes in Birth Control

When you change your contraception, your body experiences a wave of new hormones, which may cause something called breakthrough bleeding. This term is used for pinkish, reddish, or brown discharge or spotting that can occur within the first few months of you beginning hormonal birth control.

Ovarian Cyst

Ovarian cysts can result from various causes, including hormonal imbalances or endometriosis. In addition to a pink discharge, ovarian cysts can cause bloating or a feeling of heaviness or pain in the pelvis.

However, it is important to note that only a minority of women experience abnormal bleeding or pink discharge when they have an ovarian cyst.

Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)

Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause a change in vaginal discharge, and in some cases, the change may be pink. If you’ve had unprotected sex recently and are not pregnant but still have pink discharge, it is often recommended to get checked at a clinic, especially since some STIs, if left untreated, can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or infertility.

Recent Rigorous Sex

If you have had sex recently that was vigorous, you may have irritated the vaginal lining or caused slight bleeding, which can result in pink discharge when the blood mixes with normal vaginal secretions.

If you’re noticing pink discharge after sex, it’s probably best to take a break and allow the body some time to heal.

How Long Does Pink Discharge Last?

The length of time that pink discharge lasts can vary considerably based on what is causing it. For example, pink discharge after sex may last only an hour or so, whereas pink discharge after switching to a new method of birth control may last for a few months.

It is best to discuss with your doctor what may be causing your pink discharge and at what point you should be concerned about its continued appearance.

What To Do About Pink Discharge?

Most of the time, pink discharge can be easily explained and often does not require treatment. For example, if you notice pink discharge before or after your period, there is no need to intervene as the pink discharge will go away on its own.

In these instances, many women may choose to use a panty liner until the pink discharge goes away. 

However, if your pink discharge occurs between your periods or is accompanied by pain or stomach cramps, it is best to see a doctor to determine the cause of your pink discharge.

When To See a Doctor?

Pink discharge is not always a cause of concern, especially if it occurs around the beginning or end of your period.

However, it is recommended to see a doctor if you experience any spotting or pink discharge during pregnancy. While it can be normal, such as during implantation or early pregnancy, it may also be a sign of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, so it is always best to have it checked by a doctor.

Another case when you will want to see a doctor about pink discharge is if you experience it after menopause, as that is not normal and may be a sign of cervical cancer or fibroids.

If you are concerned about your pink discharge but are unsure what the cause might be, an online doctor can be a great resource. With DrHouse, you can meet with a doctor in just 15 minutes, no matter where you are, to discuss your symptoms and concerns.

Key Takeaways

Vaginal discharge is a normal fluid to come out of the vagina, and in general, it is clear or white. This can cause some people to wonder why their vaginal discharge is now pinkish in color and if this is something to be concerned about. However, in most cases, pink discharge is not a concern.

Pink discharge occurs when a little bit of blood mixes with vaginal discharge, which causes it to turn pinkish. The most common cause of this is at the beginning and end of a woman’s period. However, there are other causes of pink discharge, such as ovulation, hormonal imbalances, changes in contraception, and pregnancy. There are also some health concerns, such as ovarian cysts or STIs that can cause pink discharge.

If your pink discharge is ever accompanied by concerning symptoms, such as pain, cramps, or burning when peeing, or if you are ever concerned about it, it is recommended to visit a doctor to further look into the cause of your pink discharge.

References

  • Dasharathy, S., Mumford, S., Pollack, A., Perkins, N., Mattison, D., Wactawski-Wende, J., & Schisterman, E. (2012). Menstrual Bleeding Patterns Among Regularly Menstruating Women. American Journal Of Epidemiology, 175(6), 536-545. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwr356 
  • Long WN. Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 173. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK282/ 
  • Hasan, R., Baird, D., Herring, A., Olshan, A., Jonsson Funk, M., & Hartmann, K. (2009). Association Between First-Trimester Vaginal Bleeding and Miscarriage. Obstetrics &Amp; Gynecology, 114(4), 860-867. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1097/aog.0b013e3181b79796 
  • De La Cruz, M. S., & Buchanan, E. M. (2017). Uterine Fibroids: Diagnosis and Treatment. American family physician, 95(2), 100–107. PMID: 28084714.
  • Rao, V., & Mahmood, T. (2020). Vaginal discharge. Obstetrics, Gynaecology &Amp; Reproductive Medicine, 30(1), 11-18. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1016/j.ogrm.2019.10.004 
  • Brache, V., Sitruk-Ware, R., Williams, A., Blithe, D., Croxatto, H., & Kumar, N. et al. (2012). Effects of a novel estrogen-free, progesterone receptor modulator contraceptive vaginal ring on inhibition of ovulation, bleeding patterns and endometrium in normal women. Contraception, 85(5), 480-488. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1016/j.contraception.2011.10.003 

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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