Pink discharge, in most cases, is a result of a menstrual cycle, birth control pills or hormonal changes. These are considered to be normal conditions and pink discharge in these contexts is not a sign of concern.
However, in some cases, pink discharge can be a sign of other conditions that require assessment, especially if there are also other symptoms (like abdominal pain, nausea, or foul odor). Pink discharge in these cases may be associated with ovarian cysts or pelvic inflammatory disease.
While pink discharge on its own may not be clinically significant, you should see a doctor if you additionally experience abdominal cramping, pain with sex, vaginal clots, or a fever. Read more about what different colors of vaginal discharge can mean.
Some conditions that can cause pink discharge include:
1. The beginning or end of the menstrual cycle
Some women may have pink discharge at the beginning or at the end of their menstrual cycle. It is usually a combination of menstrual blood and normal vaginal discharge.
What to do: Having pink discharge at the beginning or at the end of menstruation is perfectly normal, therefore no treatment is necessary.
2. Hormonal imbalance
When a woman undergoes hormonal changes, she may have pink discharge. This happens when estrogen levels are not sufficient enough for keeping uterine lining stable, which causes it to shed. The shedding can mix with normal vaginal discharge, giving it a pink color.
What to do: Hormonal imbalance can be influenced by several factors, like stress, bad diet, being overweight, or a disease. Therefore, it is important to visit a general practitioner or endocrinologist in order to understand the cause of the imbalance.
3. Using birth control
Some women have pink discharge when they start or change contraceptives. This is more common when the contraceptives used have low estrogen doses, or if they have progesterone in them.
Additionally, pink discharge can also happen if the contraceptive is not taken properly. Learn more about the different birth control options available to manage reproductive symptoms and prevent pregnancy.
What to do: Generally, this symptom arises during in the first 3 months of starting the contraceptive. However, if you experience pink discharge for over 3 months, you should follow-up with your prescriber.
4. Ovarian cysts
An ovarian cyst is characterized by liquid-filled sac that can form inside or around the ovary. Many women can be asymptomatic, but others may experience symptoms such as pink discharge, pain, changes to cycle, or difficulty getting pregnant. Check out our online symptom checker to assess your risk for an ovarian cyst.
What to do: Ovarian cysts are only treated in certain situations (e.g. if they cause intense symptoms or are very large). The doctor may recommend the use of a contraceptive pill that contains estrogen or progesterone to control the cyst, or, in extreme cases, surgical removal of the ovary may be advised.
Pink discharge can also be a symptom of early pregnancy. It is associated with implantation of the embryo to the endometrium (the lining of the uterus). Read more about what implantation bleeding looks like and how long it can last.
What to do: Pink discharge during implantation is perfectly normal, even though it does not happen to all women. However, if the intensity of the bleeding increases, see your doctor or obstetrician. Read more about pregnancy discharge and how it can change.
6. Pelvic inflammatory disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection that starts in the vagina and rises, affecting the uterus, the fallopian tubes and the ovaries. It can also spread to a great part of the pelvic area and even the abdomen, creating symptoms such as pink, yellowish or greenish colored discharge, bleeding during sexual intercourse, and pelvic pain.
What to do: Generally pelvic inflammatory disease is treated through antibiotics. However, depending on the severity of the illness, surgery may be necessary.
Pink discharge can also be a sign of miscarriage, which is very common in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. It can happen due to the fetus not developing properly, the mother consuming too much alcohol or medication, or abdominal trauma.
Generally, the signs and symptoms of a miscarriage occur suddenly and can include fever, strong abdominal pain, headache, and pink discharge that can evolve to greater blood loss with clots.
What to do: If you suspect you are having a miscarriage, go straight to the emergency department.
When a woman is in the transition period to menopause, she undergoes hormonal changes, which result in changes to the menstrual cycle. As a consequence, symptoms such as pink discharge, hot flashes, sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness, or mood changes can occur.
See the other common signs of menopause and what you can do to relieve these symptoms.
What to do: A woman going through menopause should only undergo treatment if symptoms cause discomfort and compromise quality of life. In some cases, hormone replacement therapy or diet supplements may be advised.