Pink discharge in your underwear got you freaked out? Don’t panic! In this quick guide to pink vaginal discharge, we’ll go over why pink discharge is usually nothing to worry about—and what to do if it is.
What Does Pink Discharge Mean?
Pink discharge has lots of totally harmless causes, as well as a few potentially serious causes. We’ll go over the most likely culprits here and whether you need to seek medical attention.
Hormones and Pink Discharge: Normal
Shifting hormones can cause a little bit of spotting, leading to completely normal pink vaginal discharge. This is what could be up:
- Pink discharge before periods and pink discharge after periods: A little bit of pink vaginal discharge before or after your period is completely normal. One to two days before your period starts in earnest you might see a little bleeding to herald the flow. As your period winds down and becomes lighter, you may see some light pink discharge at the tail end, even after you think it’s over.
- Ovulation bleeding: Some people bleed a little bit when they ovulate. If you consistently notice light pink discharge around the middle of the cycle, you’re probably experiencing ovulation bleeding.
- Perimenopause: Hormonal shifts during early menopause can cause major changes in your menstrual cycle. This may include irregularly timed pink discharge and spotting. You may even sometimes see pink vaginal discharge instead of a period.
- Hormonal birth control: While your body adjusts to a new form of birth control, you may experience some breakthrough spotting or pink discharge at any point in your cycle. If you have spotting for longer than six months, you may need to consult with your doctor about switching doses or delivery methods.
Pregnancy and Pink Discharge: Probably Normal
You may see pink discharge due to implantation bleeding, which is one of the first indicators of pregnancy. Your cervix is also more sensitive during pregnancy. This may make you more likely to bleed a little after sex, which can cause pink vaginal discharge. Finally, you’ll see bleeding and pink vaginal discharge after you give birth as your body expels any remaining tissue from the pregnancy. All of these situations are normal.
However, in some cases, bleeding may be an early sign of miscarriage. So while pink discharge during pregnancy is most likely benign, you should still consult with a doctor just in case.
Sex and Pink Discharge: Probably Normal
Noticing some pink discharge after sex? Pink discharge in the next few hours or day after sex is usually due to minor tearing or abrasion of the vaginal walls. This is especially likely with rough sex or if you weren’t totally lubricated. You might also feel some minor irritation or tenderness in the area.
While it’s probably harmless, note that pink discharge could be a sign of an STD. See a doctor if the pink discharge doesn’t go away in a day or so, or if you have other symptoms—like itching, pelvic pain, or an unusual smell.
Pink Discharge Caused by an Infection or Condition: Possibly Serious
Finally, there are a few situations where pink vaginal discharge could be due to an underlying issue requiring medical attention. Here are the main ones:
- An STD or STI: Chlamydia and gonorrhea can both cause unusual discharge and bleeding. So if your pink discharge smells strange, or if you are experiencing burning, itching, or pain in the area, it could be due to an STI. If you are also experiencing pain higher up in your pelvic area, the infection may have migrated up your reproductive tract to become Pelvic Inflammatory disease, or PID. PID can adversely impact your future fertility if you don’t get it promptly treated with antibiotics. If you do have an STI, make sure your partners get tested and treated, too.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is a chronic condition that causes the irregular growth of many cysts in the ovaries. The presence of all of these cysts can cause irregular periods, which can cause pink vaginal discharge at any point in your cycle. Some other major symptoms of PCOS include acne, weight gain, body hair growth, fertility issues, and depression.
- Cervical cancer: While extremely unlikely, one of the early indicators of cervical cancer is post-menopausal bleeding, which can cause pink discharge. Cervical cancer is usually diagnosed before it becomes symptomatic, but other symptoms include pain during or after sex, weight loss, and weakness.
The Bottom Line on Pink Discharge
A little light pink discharge is usually nothing to worry about. Pink vaginal discharge is caused by minor bleeding in the vagina or cervix mixed with your regular mucus.
Pink discharge can be caused by the following:
- Hormonal shifts: Any shift in your hormone levels can cause a little bleeding, which is why it’s totally normal to see some pink discharge after periods, with ovulation bleeding, during early menopause, or when you’re adjusting to a new hormonal birth control.
- Pregnancy: There are a few harmless causes of pink discharge during pregnancy, from implantation bleeding to cervical sensitivity. However, because bleeding can be an early sign of miscarriage, consult with a doctor if you see pink discharge during pregnancy.
- Sex: Rough sex can cause abrasions in the vaginal walls, leading to pink discharge.
- Infections or medical conditions: Pink discharge can also be caused by an STI, a chronic condition like PCOS, or even cervical cancer. If you have other unpleasant symptoms with your pink discharge or your discharge doesn’t resolve quickly, see a doctor.