Reading Time: 16 minutes
Discharge released from the vagina is the way of cleaning out the vagina and warding off infection. Most women have a normal white color or stretchy clear discharge, so seeing a pink discharge is a cause for concern. In most cases, women who experience a pink discharge wonder if they need to see a doctor. Mostly, a pink discharge is perfectly normal. But in other cases, it can be a sign of a complication. The body signals the state of its reproductive health through a discharge from the vagina, so changes in color could signal changing levels of hormones or other changes in the reproductive system. While white, clear, creamy, sticky, watery or tacky vaginal discharges are normal, a change in color can signal a lot of questions, especially for women trying to get pregnant. If you experience a pink discharge outside of the length of your period, you need to consider the causes, possible complications and then see if you want to opt for treatment.
Causes of a Pink Discharge
Light pink discharge occurs normally when a minute amount of blood is there in the discharge. It is generally a sign that women are about to begin their periods. But there are some cases when such a discharge can mean different things.
One of the most common causes of pink spotted discharge is that a woman’s period is about to commence. In early menstruation stages, blood may be lighter and appear pink in color. Across time, the flow becomes heavy. This is associated with changes in discharge linked to normal monthly periods or the menstrual cycle. Once an egg is produced on the fourteenth day, a lot of mucus can occur in the vagina. This generally clears up too.
A light or dark pink tinge can also take place before the menstruation is due. This just indicates the periods are about to start. On account of changes in hormones, a light blood missed cervical mucus exits the vagina.
At the point of ovulating, the ovary follicles rupture and an egg being released. This egg sometimes creates a tiny hole and exacerbates minor bleeding. It lasts only a few hours at most. The hormone increase at the time of ovulation can lead to light spotting. This is not serious. Pink discharge due to ovulation generally occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle between 12 to 16 days. This process of ovulation is when ovaries release mature eggs. It is during this period that ovary rupture along with cervical mucus leads to pink discharge. Some women may also experience pain while secreting the pink discharge due to ovulation. This is known as the ovulatory syndrome. In case the pink discharge is accompanied by strong discomfort and severe pain, medical treatment may be required. This indicates serious complications such as heavy bleeding once the follicle ruptures or there is a hemorrhage in the ovary.
#3 Birth Control/Contraceptives
Certain contraceptives such as birth control pills and IUDs can also lead to spotting in the early stages of use. The hormone in these contraceptives interrupts the body’s normal cycle leading to spotting between periods. IUDs can also lead to bleeding as the body is accepting a foreign object. Spotting occurs randomly if birth control pills and devices are the cause.
If oral contraceptives are taken without the gynecologist’s onset, then improper vaginal discharge may be experienced. This usually takes place in the first three months of the contraceptive intake. This can take place any day of the menstrual cycle. It occurs as the body is trying to adapt to new hormonal levels. Such a discharge, if normal, will be little in value and not last more than 2-3 days. If the discharge is prolonged for more than 3 months, it is not appropriate for the user.
An intrauterine device can be either hormonal or non-hormonal. But the presence should not cause a problem or any discomfort if properly inserted
Contraceptives can range from pills to patches, vaginal rings, Alderamin implants or IUDs. As they affect hormonal changes, suppressing the process of ovulation, bleeding and spotting can be a side effect.
#3 Bleeding After Birth
Women who experience pink discharge post their birth can also experience it as a result of the following reason. Large tissue amounts can be pushed outside the vagina along with the baby. This pink discharge is when the body undergoes healing. It can last for several days.
#4 Gynecology Issues
Gynecological issues can underlie a pink discharge too. These include the following:
In cases where the fertilized egg does not reach the uterus and gets attached to the Fallopian tube, it is known as ectopic pregnancy. This is a complicated medical condition, as Fallopian tubes cannot support a pregnancy. As the walls of the Fallopian tube are further stretched, blood gets mixed with mucus from the cervix and appears in the form of a pink discharge. Apart from this discharge, women with ectopic pregnancies may also experience severe abdominal pain as well as pain in the pelvic and side regions. An absence of periods, dizziness or weakness and GI issues like nausea and bloating can also take place.
Another problem leading to pink discharge is a fibroid, which is a growth on the uterine walls. A UCLA study found that 20-50 percent of mature women in reproductive age have a fibroid. Not all fibroid are effectively diagnosed. This can exacerbate pink spots and discharge apart from other symptoms like lower back pain, painful intercourse and pain during movement, abnormal pink discharge and heavy bleeding for an extended period of time. If pink discharge results from the fibroid, the gynecologist may suggest a surgery or treatment eliminate the growth and stop the abnormal discharge.
Swelling of the endometriosis or endometrial inflammation takes place on account of infection. In such cases, a lot of pain and abnormal vaginal discharges may result. There may even be fever, rectal pain, abdominal swelling and discomfort in passing stool.
Endometrial/cervical cancer can lead to pink discharge prior to periods and pink spotting at any point in the menstrual cycle. Discharge takes place in later stages. Symptoms of cervical cancer are limited. It generally occurs in women above 45 during the time before menopause or during the menopause. Regular gynecological visits are needed.
Cervical erosion/ectropion is when the cells in the cervical canal grow on the outer surface of the cervix, and this causes a pink discharge at any point in the menstrual cycle. Pink spotting is also common after physical actions (including intercourse). Heavy workouts can also trigger cervical erosion, as can sexually transmit infections and bacterial vaginosis. Colposcopy must be carried out to check if cervical erosion has taken place.
Vaginal infections like parasites, bacteria, and yeast also trigger pink discharge. Trichomoniasis and bacterial vaginosis are the common causes of a discharge that is pink colored. This can also trigger other symptoms such as pain, a burning sensation in the vulva or vagina, and itching. STDs or infections can cause a pink discharge as well. Consulting a doctor is the means of confirming the diagnosis and medical cause of the discharge.
#5 Hormonal Imbalances
These are pretty common in women and can impact the type of vaginal discharge secreted directly. Some causes of hormonal imbalance lead to pink spotting before the periods. These are listed below.
- Thyroid imbalances can cause pink discharge at any time of the menstrual cycle. This includes hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
- Medications that lead to blood thinning such as heparin, warfarin, and aspirin also lead to pink discharges.
- Women with PCOS or Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome also experience spotting prior to a period as a consequence of bleeding when mature eggs are released by the ovaries.
- Stress can also cause hormonal levels to vary resulting in pink discharge.
- Perimenopause leads to abnormalities like pink discharge, as the body prepares for lack of menstruation and hormonal levels vary.
#6 Internal Issues
Other internal issues not linked to the reproductive system can also trigger pink vaginal discharge.
Blood clotting is a disorder brought about by vitamin K deficiency. Low RBC cell count or specific medications disrupt the normal clotting process. Common blood clotting disorders include hemophilia A and B Factor II, VII, V, X or even XII. A pink discharge means there is a problem in blood clotting. A medical doctor needs to be quickly informed to be aware of the treatment for it.
Those with diabetes cannot respond to or produce insulin. This hormone is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels in the body. Two important hormones are progesterone and estrogen. These can get imbalanced due to lack of correct levels of sugar in the body. This, in turn, leads to pink discharge and gynecological issues.
Kidney or Liver Disease
In advanced stages, liver or kidney diseases like gallstones can also trigger pink vaginal discharge. But before getting to this conclusion, it makes sense to check if there are other symptoms like fever, pain, and weakness. Medical consultation with doctors can also be helpful for drawing conclusions. Other disorders and diseases leading to pink discharge include vesicovaginal and rectovaginal fistula, and pathologies like hematopoietic and others.
Medical Side Effects
Drugs which have antidepressants and corticosteroids linked to this can lead to pink discharge just a few days before menstruation commences. It is a common side effect and nothing to worry about.
#7 Sign of Pregnancy
If you are trying for a pregnancy, the pink discharge can be a sign of implantation. It is during this process, that the fertilized egg moves to the uterine cavity and embeds within the endometriosis region. On account of more hormonal activity, the endometrium or inner layers of the uterus lack blood supply. At the point where the egg is attached, slight bleeding may take place.
This blood is mixed with cervical mucus and releases from the vagina. This type of discharge can be pink. It may also be accompanied with cramping in the abs. Implantation bleeding takes place for a period of up to 5 days beyond which medical doctors must be consulted.
Spotting or Bleeding
To discover whether you’re just spotting or bleeding, you need to go to a doctor. This may involve general exams, examining your medical past, menstrual record, physical examination, vaginal ultrasound, biopsy, pap test, and blood test. Spotting is light vaginal bleeding while extended bleeding is when pads need to be used to prevent blood from soaking clothes.
Reasons for Spotting Before a Period
For many, the first few years of menstruation are a problem. This includes not just cramps and irregular menstruation but spotting as well. Girls may experience spotting due to off schedule menstrual periods. This can result in a pink discharge.
Trying a New Contraceptive
Many women use birth control. Whether you’re starting out on, stopping or turning on birth control medications, spotting is a common side effect. Estrogen ensures the lining of the uterus remains in place. Changing or disrupting the levels of estrogen through contraceptive use can lead to pink discharge. This may not last more than 1 to 3 months as the body adapts to new levels of estrogen.
Hormonal contraceptives an cause spotting, whether its injections, the pill, a patch or an IUD. Treatments concerning progesterone also result in spotting. This primarily occurs due to falling hormone levels.
When hormonal contraceptives are taken, spotting may be experienced around 2 weeks prior to the last period. The periods return to normal within six months. Spotting may appear for a month or two after starting a contraceptive and reappear while ending its use. Additionally, HRT also causes spotting.
Taking Emergency Contraception
Emergency contraception or the morning-after pill can lead to pink discharge. The hormones in the medication can trigger the discharge.
Spotting During Pregnancy
In the early stages of pregnancy, implantation spotting may result, when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall. Tiny blood vessels erupt as a result and one-third of women may then experience what is known as implantation bleeding. Spotting also indicated an ectopic pregnancy.
This is common for women post ovulation spotting. Several potential reasons for this exist. When follicles burst and mature, it leads to light pain and a little bleeding. Increase in estrogen levels during ovulation can result in pink discharge
Prior to menopause, pink discharge and even light bleeding before the periods may occur. During this period menstruation can be infrequent and sometimes heavier. Hormone levels become irregular and do not follow the normal pattern. Consult a doctor if vaginal bleeding occurs.
This is also known as vaginal dryness and causes pink discharge. It results when the vaginal tissue loses its moistness and elasticity and becomes irritated on account of a change in estrogen. When production levels are disrupted, it results in itching, dryness, and irritation. Women may experience vaginal atrophy more so during menopause. Not all women in menopause suffer vaginal dryness. Those who do, do so on account of less production of estrogen by the ovaries resulting in thinner vaginal tissue layers and reduction of lubricating glands. Women who do not undergo menopause can experience vaginal dryness too. Childbirth, intercourse, hormone treatments, medications, and alcohol can also trigger vaginal dryness.
Stress and Tension
Stress can cause just about anything in the body, and this includes pink discharges. Emotional and physical stress can impact the period cycle. This is when extreme stress causes the release of the hormone cortisol. This then causes the body to release less progesterone and estrogen. This imbalance messes up the periods and delays or hampers them causing pink discharge.
Falling Estrogen Levels
About 1 in 10 women experience light spotting or pink discharge when estrogen levels dip during ovulation. This spotting takes place 10-14 days before the next period. Spotting also results in a reduction of estrogen preceding ovulation. This spotting occurs on account of estrogen that stimulates the endometrium. This fall in estrogen causes spotting. Women may also experience pain or cramps.
In case a woman ovulates later in the cycle, it results in delayed ovulation with pain. This can cause a pink vaginal discharge as well. Delayed ovulation can also be due to ovary cysts and eggs breaking through, leading to vaginal spotting.
Delayed or Missed Periods
In normal menstruation, blood released from the vaginal also comprises dead tissue, old blood, and endometrial lining. When delayed or partial periods result, a small amount of lining is left behind. When the remaining tissue is released, it leaves a pink discharge or spotting. This can be alarming but is actually normal.
#1 Urethral Prolapse
The urethra is a tube connecting the bladder to the external part of the body, which carries urine from the bladder to the opening. Urethral prolapse takes place when the inner urethral lining protrudes through the opening of the urethra. On account of this, the urethral opening represents a pink ball swollen rather than normal. This can cause a pink discharge. It can be treated with estrogen cream, antibiotic medication or sitz baths.
#2 Thyroid Problems
Slow or low thyroid is one of the prime reasons for pink vaginal discharge. A woman may have produced excessive estrogen on account of thyroid issues. A sluggish thyroid or hypothyroidism can cause metabolic imbalances, disturb homeostasis and cause symptoms like hair loss, neck pain, massive weight gain and chronic fatigue.
#3 Side Effects of Anticoagulants
These are a blood-thinning medication that keeps the blood from clotting or clots from growing. These drugs keep clots from forming in the veins, heart or arteries. While these help with clotting, they also lead to pink discharge. Medications like phenothiazines, including antipsychotic medication and tricyclic antidepressants, can impact serotonin uptake resulting in spotting. Spotting also commonly occurs in women taking corticosteroids or anti-inflammatory medications. Blood-thinning medications like Aspirin, Warfarin, and Heparin can also result in pink discharge.
#4 Cervical Erosion/Cervical Ectropion
This is when the cells from the cervical/ glandular cells canal are present on the external cervix surface. This is found if cervical screening tests like a smear test indicate that glandular cells are red. Cervical erosion can be a congenital condition or developed as a result of hormonal changes. For many women, no issues are associated with cervical erosion. It can lead to spotting as glandular cells easily bleed and cause more mucus to be created.
#5 Spotting Before a Miscarriage
Women spotting prior to a miscarriage can suffer pink discharge as well. Loss of the pregnancy prior to full development of the embryo or fetus is called a miscarriage. In impending instances of this, spotting and pink discharge can be a symptom, if occurring within the first 20 days of pregnancy.
In case the bleeding becomes heavier or blood color changes, it indicates a miscarriage. An incomplete miscarriage may require curettage while those with RH negative group in blood type injected with Anti D to prevent further spotting.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a hormonal imbalance interfering with normal ovulation, leading to bleeding and pink discharge. It can even trigger acne and unwanted hair. It occurs among women and teenagers. Estimates show 1 in 10 women have PCOS. If one has PCOS, the ovaries are not receiving the right hormonal signals from the pituitary gland. Sans the signals, ovulation cannot take place each month, thereby impacting the menstrual cycle. This leads to irregular periods and spotting in between. Symptoms like irregular periods or dark skin at the neck and other areas are some other symptoms. Hormonal therapy like birth control is used for PCOS patients.
#7 Inflammation of Cervix
Cervicitis or cervical inflammation or irritation can cause a pink vaginal discharge as well. It has similar symptoms as vaginitis like vaginal discharge, itching, painful intercourse, spotting. If the Ureter or urine tube is impacted, pain and burning will be felt while peeing. It also results from frequent douching, trauma or even exposure to chemicals that are toxic. Cervicitis is also caused by STDs.
Vaginal infections are associated with a bloody discharge. This causes a problem and leads to pus-filled or mucal secretions, pain, burning, and itching. Endometrial inflammation also causes pink colored discharge. Some women experience fever and additional cramping along with spotting, whereas others experience no symptoms.
Women who are 45 years + are at the risk of developing endometrial or cervical cancer. Pink discharge can result due to this condition and occurs in later cancer stages. Pink discharge can indicate cancers like cervical, ovarian and endometrial. While endometrial cancer is malignant, it is curable compared to the other two. It comes from the glandular cells in the uterine lining. Most patients don’t realize they have this form of cancer til it metastasizes. There are many other symptoms besides pink discharge as well. Ovarian cancer causes abnormal malignant cells that commence in the ovaries. Women with this cancer also have other symptoms besides spotting. Cervical cancer is detected via pap smears and pelvic exams. Vaginal spotting is the first symptom of this disease. Heavier bleeding, heavy vaginal discharge and lower pain in the abs are other symptoms that take place. Early detection is the key to effective management of symptoms.
#10 Other Health Conditions
Pink vaginal discharge can also be an indication of other health conditions. This includes liver and kidney diseases, blood clotting, diabetes issues and more.
#11 Ectopic Pregnancy
This takes place when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the external part of the uterus which cannot support a normal pregnancy. Pink vaginal discharge is common with ectopic pregnancy and requires immediate medical care.
#12 Cervical Erosion
Cervical erosion also causes a painless pink-colored discharge which appears before, after and between periods. This may occur post sexual intercourse or physical activities.
Cervicitis causes spotting and can be a sexually transmitted disease. Common manifestations of these STDs include gonorrhea and chlamydia. If not treated, such conditions can trigger health issues like infertility and pelvic inflammatory diseases. As this does not cause symptoms, it is essential to get tested each year. Chlamydia is not associated with symptoms, which means it needs to be tested yearly. Symptoms include pink discharge, pain in the stomach and back, burning sensation while urinating and painful intercourse. Another common STD is Gonorrhea, and if this is left untreated, it leads to diseases like HIV and infertility. It can spread to other body parts such as heart, joint or even the brain. Symptoms include the same ones as those noted in other STDs such as chlamydia. Gonorrhea also impacts parts of the body such as anus and throat. Genital herpes and trichomoniasis can also cause cervical inflammation.
#14 Ovarian Cyst
Pink discharge also indicates the possibility of ovarian cysts, which are small sacs developing in ovaries filled with fluid. Ovarian cysts may not be known until there is a rupture. If there is a rupture. lower pelvic pain and chronic discomfort are the results. Cysts may have to be surgically removed.
#15 Uterine Fibroid
This is also known as myomas or leiomyomas. These are non-cancerous uterine growths that happen during pre-menopause years in women. Ranging from tiny growths the human eye cannot detect to large, bulky growths altering and enlarging the uterus, there are chances these fibroids can be developed one at a time. Women have fibroids at different points, and symptoms can be so hard to detect that the condition escapes diagnosis. But some women do have heavy bleeding and discharge of a pink nature, frequent urination, and constipation, among other symptoms. This causes pain, discomfort and triggers complications such as heavy blood loss and anemia. Overly prolonged painful periods, spotting in between or pelvic pain that refuses to go are also symptoms of uterine fibroids.
#16 Uterine Polyps
These are also known as endometrial polyps. These are non-cancerous growths attached to the inner wall of the uterus extending into the uterine cavity. These can be linked to fibroids. Polyps are formed due to cell overgrowth in the uterine lining. They are found in those women who have gone through menopause. Polyps can even be cancerous. Some travel into the opening of the uterus and the vagina. You need immediate medical attention in this case.
This is a non-cancerous growth that takes place when endometrial tissues grow into the uterine walls. The tissue thickens, bleeds and breaks down. But the enlarged uterus is an issue that leads to pink discharge. It usually takes place post menopause. Some treatments can ease the pain. Hysterectomy is the only cure.
#18 Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
This infection takes place in the reproductive organs of a woman and results from STDs, use of IUDs and douches. This is a serious health condition that affects women and causes vaginal discharges that are pink in color. PID impacts fertility and there are no tests for it as symptoms are mild, the detection is virtually impossible. Additionally, PID is only curable if detected early. The longer one waits for treatment, the more damage occurs. Leaving it untreated causes scar tissues and tubal blockage in the Fallopian tubes, besides tubal blockage, infertility, and pain in the pelvic region.
#19 Other Conditions
One of the most common causes of pink vaginal discharge is bacterial vaginosis. It is associated with a fishy smell that worsens post sex or periods. It is not an STD. It is merely the overgrowth of normal bacteria in the vagina. Symptoms are mild and may be treated through antibiotic medication.
Thrush is yet another condition associated with vaginal discharge. Also called candida, it results in pink discharge and a host of other symptoms. Certain skin conditions such as lichen planus and dermatitis also cause vaginal discharge. Itching is the most common symptom.
Spotting between periods is not a cause for worry. But if the pink discharge is persistent and accompanied by other symptoms you need to see a doctor. If the woman is pregnant, spotting cannot be explained, spotting is post menopause or heavy bleeding follows, and there are a pain, exhaustion, and dizziness, this can be a problem too.
Check with your gynecologist, who can study the symptoms and reach a diagnosis based on a thorough examination of medical history. STD symptoms may also have to be ruled out. Treatment depends on the cause of the discharge. Bacterial infections require antibiotics, yeast is treated with antifungal cream or gel. STDs require own treatments. If the discharge has an odor and is accompanies by fever, rashes, nausea etc, you need to see a doctor. If the discharge changes to heavy bleeding, has a foul odor or increases in amount along with other symptoms, medical care is essential. A doctor can offer the right guidance and diagnose the condition. For bacterial vaginosis, metronidazole or clindamycin may be prescribed. Candida is treated with creams or pessaries containing fenticonazole, clotrimazole, econazole, and miconazole.
Polyps need to be surgically removed, and cervical ectropion can be treated by burning with a cautery using a local anesthesia. Certain cases like ovulation or implantation have discharge normally, so no treatment is required there. You need to avoid douching, eat nutritious foods, keep stress at bay and maintain hygiene to keep vaginal odors away. Intercourse must be carried out with precautions like lubrication. Blood thinners should be avoided and always get your birth control pills or devices under medical supervision to keep pink discharge at bay. Going for regular check-ups and having the right care in place can make a world of a difference to your sexual health and wellness.