Pink Discharge: What Does It Mean?

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Pink Discharge: What Does It Mean?

Pink discharge can cause alarm for many women if they notice pinkish spotting on their underwear or when they wipe the vaginal area. Thankfully, in most cases, pink vaginal discharge can be normal and nothing to worry about. Noticing some light pink discharge is often a sign of ovulation or implantation. Or, you may experience pinkish brown spotting if you have an irregular menstrual cycle. However in some cases, pinkish discharge between periods may require further investigation by a doctor.

You may also be concerned about pink discharge during pregnancy. Of course, you should report any abnormal bleeding during pregnancy to your obstetrician. However, light pink-tinged spotting can occur in early pregnancy as your cervix goes through changes and hormone levels fluctuate.

If you are worried about what pink discharge means, then this article will help you find out the cause. We will also look at the symptoms and the most common reasons for irregular pinkish discharge.

At the end of the article, you will find answers to questions like: what does pink discharge between periods mean? Is brown-pink spotting in early pregnancy normal? Should you be worried about pinkish discharge after intercourse?

What Pink Discharge Looks Like

Vaginal discharge is a normal part of your menstrual cycle. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that regular discharge helps to keep the vagina healthy and free from bacteria, germs, and infection. Usually, vaginal discharge is a clear to white color with a sticky consistency. However, this can change during your menstrual cycle.1

Why can discharge sometimes be pink or have a pinkish brown look to it? Discharge can look pink if there is a small amount of blood mixed in with cervical mucus. For example, a common reason that discharge has a pink tinge to it is ovulation. The American Pregnancy Association says that light spotting commonly occurs around the time of ovulation.2

Because some old blood may be left over after your period, discharge or spotting could look like a pinkish-brown color. Also, the National Institutes of Health says that a week or so after conception a woman may notice slight spotting that is lighter than normal menstrual blood.3

What it Means if You Have Pink Discharge

Let’s look in more detail at what it can mean if you have noticed light pink blood when you wipe or you have pink brown discharge on your underwear or pad.

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Ovulation can cause pinkish discharge

Ovulation is one of the most common reasons why many women have pink discharge when they are not expecting it.

Ovulation generally occurs in mid-cycle when one of your ovaries releases an egg for fertilization. Leading up to ovulation, you may notice an increase in milky-white sticky discharge. This is necessary to help sperm live long enough to fertilize the egg.

According to Professor Andrew Kaunitz MD from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Florida, changes in hormone levels around ovulation can cause light vaginal pink spotting.4

So, light pink spotting around the middle of your menstrual cycle is often caused by ovulation and is nothing to worry about.

Irregular menstrual cycle and pink spotting

If you have an irregular menstrual cycle, you might experience light pinkish bleeding when you don’t expect it.

Dr. Trina Pagano on WebMD says that women who have irregular menstrual cycles often have brownish spotting between periods.5 Depending on the amount of blood in the discharge or if it is new blood, the discharge could look pink.

In fact, in some cases, an irregular menstrual cycle could be a reason for having black or very dark period blood during your menses.

Birth control and pink discharge

Pink discharge or spotting is very common if you have just started taking birth control pills.

According to gynecologist Dr. Shannon Laughlin-Tommaso, birth control pills can cause breakthrough bleeding. The birth control pills cause pink spotting during the middle of your menstrual cycle due to your body adjusting to the hormones. It could also be possible you notice pink discharge if you miss a pill or become ill with vomiting.6

Pinkish spotting caused by taking birth control pills should stop after a few months. Dr. Laughlin-Tommaso recommends keeping track of any irregular pink spotting. You should speak to your doctor if you are worried about abnormal bleeding while taking oral contraceptives.

Implantation causes pink spotting

Implantation can cause pink spotting before your period and be one of the early signs of pregnancy.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that implantation bleeding can happen 10-14 days after conception. You may also have some light implantation cramping as the fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. Because the spotting happens just before your period, it can be easily mistaken for the start of your period.7

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What does implantation spotting look like? Dr. Nivin Todd on WebMD says that implantation spotting looks like pink spots on your underwear. The blood will be very light in color compared to regular menstrual blood. This is completely normal at the start of pregnancy.8

Pink discharge can mean ovarian cysts

Sometimes, ovarian cysts can cause pink discharge before your period is due.

Ovarian cysts are considered to be a normal part of the menstrual cycle. Very often, ovarian cysts don’t produce any symptoms. However, according to Obstetrician-Gynecologist Dr. Wayne Blocker, large ovarian cysts or cysts that rupture can cause irregular bleeding.9 Depending on the amount of bleeding, you may notice pink discharge-like spotting between your periods.

Other symptoms of ovarian cysts include severe abdominal cramping but no period, nausea and vomiting, pain when urinating, or problems with bowel movements.

Uterine fibroids

Irregular pink spotting is a common symptom of a uterine fibroid which is a noncancerous growth that develops inside the muscle of the uterus.

Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet says that fibroids can cause varying degrees of abnormal vaginal bleeding. Some large fibroids can cause heavy, painful periods or they may just result in light spotting between periods.10

Other warning signs of uterine fibroids include pelvic pain or discomfort, problems with bladder control, lower back pain, and heavy menstrual bleeding.

Perimenopause

As you approach the menopause, you may find that you often have light pink spotting.

Doctors from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists report that in the years before the menopause, changes in hormone levels affect menstrual periods. The result of this is irregular spotting between periods. You may find that the length of your period and amount of flow changes from month to month.11

After the menopause, any kind of vaginal bleeding or light pink spotting is classed as abnormal bleeding. If you experience heavy bleeding before the menopause or any bleeding after, you should speak to your healthcare practitioner.

Pelvic inflammatory disease

In some cases, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can cause unusual discharge along with pink spotting between periods.

According to doctors from the Cleveland Clinic, PID is a bacterial infection that is often associated with sexually transmitted diseases. One of the symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease is spotting throughout the menstrual cycle. PID also causes abdominal or pelvic pain in women, yellowish discharge that has a foul odor, and irregular periods.12

It’s important to get a proper diagnosis and treatment for pelvic inflammatory disease. If left untreated, it can lead to infertility and other complications of the reproductive organs.

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Cancer

In rare cases, unusual pinkish spotting may be one of the signs of cancer of the uterus or cervical cancer.

Doctors from the National Health Service say that abnormal bleeding is a common symptom of uterine cancer. The bleeding starts as light pink bleeding with a watery discharge. This may then lead to heavier than usual periods.13

It’s good to remember that pink spotting between periods is rarely a sign of cervical or uterine cancer. However, if you have been through the menopause and have vaginal bleeding or are worried about heavy bleeding during your period, you should speak to your doctor.

Your Questions Answered About the Causes of Pink Discharge

Here are answers to many questions that you may have regarding the causes of pink discharge.

Is pink discharge in early pregnancy normal?

Yes. Many women experience pink discharge in the form of implantation bleeding not long after conception.

This light spotting is generally a pinkish or rust color and may be accompanied by light cramping. Implantation discharge usually only lasts up to two days.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, pink spotting or discharge during pregnancy is common in the first 12 weeks. If you are pregnant, you may notice pink blood when you wipe or light pink spots on your underwear. If you have heavy bleeding (i.e. enough to cover a panty liner), you should speak to your gynecologist.14

Can you have pink discharge with a yeast infection?

Yeast infections don’t usually cause a pink discharge.

According to Dr. Trina Pagano on WebMD, a vaginal yeast infection usually causes a thick, creamy white vaginal discharge. Along with the thick white discharge, you might have swelling around the vaginal opening as well as itching and pain.5

Pink discharge along with a yeast infection is usually caused by one of the reasons mentioned in this article.

If you suffer from a yeast infection (candidiasis), there are many natural ways to get rid of a yeast infection. For example, coconut oil is a natural remedy for candida because it contains antimicrobial properties that can help to kill off candida pathogens. Other natural treatments for candidiasis include apple cider vinegar and applying natural yogurt to your vagina.

Is pinkish discharge before period normal?

For many women, pinkish discharge is normal before their period.

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Dr. Jane Harrison-Hohner on WebMD says that light brown or pink discharge may be a sign of premenstrual spotting. Other reasons for pink discharge before your period are implantation spotting or ovulation.15

What does pinkish-brown discharge mean after your period?

Pinkish brown discharge after your period may mean that your body is clearing out old blood after your period.

Also, depending on the length of your menstrual cycle and its regularity, ovulation may occur sooner than expected after your period. This can cause light pink spotting after your period.

I have pink discharge after intercourse – is that normal?

Pink discharge after sexual intercourse may be light bleeding that some women experience from time to time.

For example, doctors from the National Health Service report that vaginal dryness or friction during intercourse can cause light bleeding.16

Other causes of noticing light pink blood after having sex are pelvic inflammatory disease, vaginal tears caused by childbirth, or cervical polyps.

Do STDs cause pink discharge?

Sexually transmitted diseases don’t usually cause pink discharge.

According to doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STDs usually cause yellowish or green discharge that has a distinct fishy odor. Along with the unusual vaginal discharge, an STD will cause itching, burning, and discomfort around the vulva.17

Is pink spotting after menopause something to worry about?

If you experience pink spotting after the menopause, you should speak with your doctor about the abnormal bleeding.

According to Dr. Traci Johnson on WebMD, any kind of vaginal bleeding, including light pink spotting, is classed as abnormal in postmenopausal women. Some reasons for pink spotting after the menopause are a drop in estrogen levels, polyps of the cervix, thinning of vaginal tissue, or cancer.18

When to See a Doctor about Pink Discharge

For many women, some amount of light pink spotting can be part of the normal menstrual cycle. However, there are some circumstances when you should speak to a doctor about pink spotting or vaginal bleeding.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that you should consult your physician if you have abnormal vaginal bleeding in the following situations:

  • You are pregnant and have vaginal bleeding.
  • You have passed the menopause and aren’t taking hormone therapy.
  • Some postmenopausal cyclic hormone therapies cause withdrawal bleeding. Speak to your doctor about any other vaginal bleeding – even if it looks like light-colored discharge.
  • Bleeding continues for more than 6 months after starting continuous hormone therapy for the menopause.
  • You have any concerns about abnormal vaginal bleeding or pink discharge.

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Article Sources

  1. MayoClinic. Vaginal discharge.
  2. AmericanPregnancy. Signs of ovulation.
  3. NICHD. What are some common signs of pregnancy?
  4. UpToDate. Abnormal uterine bleeding.
  5. WebMD. Vaginal discharge: What’s normal?
  6. MayoClinic. Is breakthrough bleeding common?
  7. MayoClinic. Getting pregnant.
  8. WebMD. What is implantation bleeding?
  9. eMedicineHealth. Ovarian cysts.
  10. MedicineHealth. Benign uterine growths.
  11. ACOG. Perimenopausal bleeding and bleeding after menopause.
  12. ClevelandClinic. Pelvic inflammatory disease.
  13. NHS. Womb (uterus) cancer.
  14. AmericanPregnancy. Spotting during pregnancy.
  15. WebMD. I have light brown discharge.
  16. NHS. What causes a woman to bleed after sex?
  17. CDC. Trichomoniasis.
  18. WebMD. Postmenopausal bleeding.
  19. MayoClinic. Vaginal bleeding.
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