Did you find pink discharge on your underwear or on the toilet paper you used? Don’t worry, it’s a fairly common occurrence for menstruators. There are several biological processes, including your menstrual cycle, that influence the formation of pink discharge.
In this piece, we give you a 101 low-down on everything you need to know about pink discharge.
Vaginal discharge is mostly cervical mucus and a mix of fluid and cells from the vagina. The cervix secretes mucus in different amounts and consistencies throughout your cycle. When mixed with a tiny amount of blood, discharge can look pink or even brown.
Depending on what is going on with your body, discharge can look white, clear, tan, gray, or even green.
Cervical mucus looks and feels very different depending on where you are in your cycle. Check out our guide on tracking your cervical mucus for more info about these cyclical changes.
Is it normal to have pink discharge?
The first thing you should know about pink discharge is that it is generally normal. Especially around their period, many women notice pink discharge, which is not necessarily a cause for concern.
One thing to pay attention to is vaginal bleeding that happens outside of your period. Since we’re used to seeing blood during our period, women may disregard this symptom. But dark red or brown bleeding when you’re not on your period is something to alert to your doctor.
Spotting and pink discharge, meanwhile, are generally normal, but if you’re spotting consistently outside of your period you should tell your doctor. Reasons for this could range from birth control to hormonal imbalances.
Pink discharge means that there is just a little blood mixed in with your cervical mucus. There are several different reasons this can happen. Let us explore why you see pink discharge in your underwear.
Common causes of pink discharge
- Pink discharge affected by your period:
Pink discharge a day before or a day after your period is normal. You may be seeing the beginning of your menses, or the tail end of it. When early or later menstrual bleeding mixes with your cervical mucus, it can result in pink discharge.
Irregular periods can also cause pink discharge. Women on birth control may have periods that are so light they look like pink discharge for several days.
These very light menstrual flows are sometimes called hypomenorrhea. This can also be caused by stress, overexercising, breastfeeding, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), and menopause.
Other factors that could make your period irregular are weight changes, stress, medications, and menopause.
- Hormone changes can cause pink discharge:
Changes in your hormones may lead you to bleed at irregular times in your cycle. Estrogen and progesterone fluctuations can cause your body to shed uterine lining even when you’re not on your period.
These hormonal changes can be linked to birth control medications and IUDs (intrauterine devices). If you’re just getting off birth control to have a baby, your cycle may take as many as 3 months to regulate.
Hormone changes from coming off birth control can also lead to mood swings, fatigue, weight changes, and acne.
Perimenopause, when your body is transitioning out of child-bearing years, can also cause pink discharge at random times. Estrogen is dropping during this time, but not in a straight line. Because of these fluctuations, women may notice pink discharge along with hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, and weight gain.
- Pink discharge during ovulation:
Ovulation bleeding can be a rare cause of pink discharge. Ovulation, when the ovaries release an egg, can cause spotting for some women. A few drops of blood from ovulation may appear as pink discharge.
This happens between days 12-14 before your next cycle. During ovulation, your hormone levels go through big fluctuations. This small amount of bleeding, along with breast tenderness and mittelschmerz, are letting you know that you’re in your most fertile window.
The color of blood changes as the speed of your flow regulates. For some women, this may result in pink discharge, while in others, the standard red discharge. Know more on ovulation bleeding.
- Implantation bleeding can look like pink discharge
Implantation occurs when the fertilized ovum attaches to the uterine wall. This marks the beginning of pregnancy, causing a rise in hCG as your body begins bringing new life into the world.
This attachment can lead to very light spotting or pink discharge for some women. Cramping, mood swings, nausea, lower back pain, and headaches are other symptoms that some women notice around implantation. Learn more about implantation bleeding here.
Miscarriages are more common than most people realize. They refer to losing a pregnancy before 20 weeks of gestation. Miscarrying causes a gush of bloody fluid and tissue, which may look like red or brown discharge.
Pink spotting occurs in early miscarriages. Heavy bleeding is typical of a miscarriage, while light spotting continues for a week or two before the miscarriage passes.
Other symptoms of miscarriage can be abdominal pain and cramping, passing clots and tissue, dizziness, and sometimes lightheadedness or fainting. Miscarrying is often traumatic and can be medically serious occasionally.
You should let your OBGYN know if you bleed during pregnancy.
- Ovarian cysts:
Most ovarian cysts go away on their own. Rarely, these fluid-filled sacs that develop on your ovaries can grow large enough that they cause pink discharge or spotting. Larger cysts may also cause pain, heaviness, or a bloated feeling in the belly.
Ovarian cysts can be associated with endometriosis or other hormonal imbalances. If you have a history of ovarian cysts, your doctor may tell you to watch for bleeding or spotting outside of your period. A pelvic examination will be able to adequately detect an ovarian cyst.
- Uterine fibroids:
Uterine fibroids are another growth that can happen in the reproductive system. They are non-cancerous fibrous growths in the uterus. Uterine fibroids don’t always cause symptoms, but when they do, pink discharge may be the first one.
Uterine fibroids sound scary, but they’re more common than you think. Some experts think that 20-70% of women will get a fibroid at some point in their reproductive life. Generally, they’re harmless. But they may come with other symptoms, like pelvic pain, sexual pain, and painful urination.
- Ectopic pregnancies:
Ectopic pregnancies are a rare condition. They occur when an embryo mistakenly implants inside the fallopian tube instead of in the uterus. Trauma to the fallopian tube can cause light bleeding that may look like pink discharge. Ectopic pregnancies can also cause abdominal and pelvic pain, dizziness, fainting, and a feeling of pressure on the rectum.
The fallopian tube is not built to carry the embryo, and this can cause the tube to rupture. An ectopic pregnancy ruptured or not is a medical emergency. If you’re noticing the above symptoms, see a medical professional immediately.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease:
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) happens after STIs (sexually transmitted infections) go untreated. If unchecked, infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia can move up the reproductive tract and cause inflammation in the pelvis.
PID can cause light bleeding, along with painful intercourse and urination, itching, and spotting. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, approach a health professional for advice.
Yeast infections, while they are not sexually transmitted, can also cause pink discharge. These happen when the candida or yeast in your vagina overgrow.
Other symptoms of a yeast infection include itching and burning around the vulva, vaginal pain and rashes, and thick discharge. If you’re sick, or have taken antibiotics, you may be more likely to get a yeast infection.
- Pink discharge after sex:
Pink discharge after sex could be a sign that you have bruised your cervix, owing to rough intercourse. The sex could have caused tears in your vagina or irritated your cervix.
This is accompanied by pain and sometimes cramping. The good news is that it resolves on its own. Take a break from sex for a little while, and the bruising will heal on its own. Take a look at our guide on bruised cervix to learn more about this.
- Cervical cancer:
It’s rare but pink discharge could be an indication of cervical cancer. Irregular bleeding and spotting is one of the most common signs of invasive cancer and tracking your menstrual cycle will help you identify signs early.
In the initial stages of cancer, the discharge is typically white or clear liquid which, when mixed with blood, can look pink.
Worldwide, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in females. If you are between 21 and 29 years of age, getting a pap smear every 3 years is one way to protect yourself against cervical cancer.
Other late-stage cancer symptoms are pelvic pain, difficulty urinating and defecating, weight loss, fatigue, and leg swelling.
Timing your pink discharge
As we can see, several different reasons can cause pink discharge. Here’s a chart to understand clearer these causes, as well as the timing of your discharge and any other symptoms.
Light pink discharge during pregnancy
If you’re pregnant and noticing pink discharge, don’t panic! This is often perfectly normal.
A major study found that pink discharge in the first trimester was not linked with increased risk for miscarriage.
So if you’re in the very early stages of your pregnancy, you could be experiencing implantation bleeding or spotting. This is a sign that a fertilized ovum has attached to the uterine lining, and pregnancy has begun.
Pink discharge can also happen late in pregnancy as your body gets ready for labor. It’s important to look out for other symptoms when you notice pink discharge. Are you also having cramps, contractions, or has your water broken? Either way, it’s best to consult your doctor if such a situation arises.
- Pink discharge is caused by bleeding along the reproductive tract. When a few drops of blood mix with your cervical mucus, the color of the discharge turns pink.
- Pink discharge is generally normal, and is most often found before and after your period.
- If you do notice pink discharge, note the timing during your cycle as well as any other symptoms you’re experiencing. These signs can give you a hint as to the cause of your pink discharge.
- There are a lot of different reasons why pink discharge is released, ranging from ovulation bleeding or in rare cases, cervical cancer. Most times though, pink discharge is nothing to worry about.
- If you’re noticing spotting that continues or repeats outside of your period, tell your doctor. They’ll be able to tell you whether your pink discharge is something you should worry about or not.