Pink Discharge: Causes and What to Expect

By Terez Malka, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
May 31, 2022

Noticing pink spotting in your underwear can be worrying.

However, pink vaginal discharge can be normal, especially if your period is due or you are newly pregnant.

If neither of those things applies to you, pink discharge may still be no big deal, but it could also signal a medical condition that needs attention. 

To help you out until you can see a doctor, in this article, we’ll discuss both common and more serious causes of pink discharge.

Then we’ll explain what normal discharge is like. We’ll wrap up with how pink discharge is treated and when to see a doctor about it.

What Causes Pink Discharge

There are many reasons why you may see pink vaginal discharge.

Some causes are simply part of having female anatomy.

Other causes require treatment from a healthcare provider.

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Common causes

Below are the most common reasons for pink discharge.

Even if you think your discharge is normal, if you have any concerns, see your doctor.

  • Normal period bleeding: Depending on your cycle length, you may notice pink discharge at the start or end of your period. As the uterus sheds its lining, bleeding can range from light to heavy flow. Lighter flow tends to look pinker, especially if it mixes with normal vaginal discharge. 
  • Light vaginal bleeding: Due to a rich supply of blood vessels, the vagina can sometimes bleed easily. Sexual intercourse, a pelvic exam, or an IUD insertion can all cause vaginal irritation that can lead to temporary and light bleeding, even if there is no pain. The blood mixes with normal vaginal discharge, making it appear pink.
  • Implantation bleeding: About 30% of people who become pregnant notice some light bleeding in the first trimester. This can look like pink or brown-tinged discharge. While implantation bleeding can be normal, if you suspect that you are pregnant or know that you are, check with your healthcare provider to ensure everything is OK.
  • Irregular menstrual cycles: If you have irregular periods due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or perimenopause, you may experience pink discharge instead of full flow around the time of an expected period. You may also notice pink discharge at other times in your cycle.
  • Breakthrough bleeding: Any amount of menstrual blood that occurs when you aren’t expecting a period is known as breakthrough bleeding. This can occur in response to hormonal contraceptives or emergency contraception. It is more common in people with vaginas who use cigarettes. Depending on any other symptoms, breakthrough bleeding can sometimes be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, so see your doctor.
  • Low estrogen levels: Estrogen helps thicken the uterine lining and prepare it for pregnancy. As you approach menopause, estrogen levels slowly decline and may be insufficient to keep the uterine lining thick and stable. As a result, small amounts of spotting may happen throughout the cycle. This discharge could appear pink, red, or brown and usually happens with other signs of perimenopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, or mood swings.

More serious causes

In some cases, pink discharge may be a sign of a potentially serious cause that requires medical attention.

  • Ectopic pregnancy: Ectopic pregnancies happen when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, such as in the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies are rare and do not produce viable pregnancies. If untreated, they can lead to life-threatening health complications. If you notice spotting with severe abdominal cramping, lightheadedness, nausea, or shoulder pain, seek emergency medical care.
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): STIs can cause infection in the uterus, cervix, or vagina. The most common causes are chlamydia and gonorrhea. In many cases,STI cause brown, pink, white, green, or clear discharge along with painful urination, pain during intercourse, foul-smelling discharge, or lower abdominal pain. However, some people may have an STI with no symptoms, or with only discharge. See a doctor if you think you may have STI. They can obtain appropriate testing and prescribe medication to cure the infection and prevent complications.
  • Uterine fibroids: These noncancerous growths may cause no symptoms, but if they do, light vaginal bleeding or discharge is a common sign. Other symptoms can include low back pain, pelvic pressure, pain during intercourse, painful urination, or problems emptying the bladder. Depending on their size and the severity of symptoms, fibroids are sometimes surgically removed.
  • Miscarriage: As many as 26% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Most of these losses occur early in the first trimester and are commonly due to chromosome abnormalities that prevent normal fetal development. Symptoms can happen suddenly or may begin with pink discharge or spotting. If you are pregnant and notice pink discharge, see your healthcare provider.
  • Cervical cancer: Rarely, discharge can signal cervical cancer. It typically occurs with other symptoms such as bleeding between periods, painful intercourse, and unexpected weight loss. 

How long does it last?

Depending on the cause, pink discharge may last up to a few days.

It may only be seen once, or you may notice it more often.

What Is Normal Discharge Like?

The vagina and cervix make mucus to clear bacteria, old cells, and other debris.

This helps to prevent infection.

Normal hormonal fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle can affect the volume, appearance, and texture of vaginal discharge.

What is “normal” varies from person to person.

However, vaginal discharge should appear clear, white, or slightly yellow. 

If your vaginal discharge ever looks yellow, gray, or chunky like cottage cheese, has an unusual odor, or is accompanied by itching or discomfort, it may be a sign of an infection or vaginitis.

See your healthcare provider.

How Is Pink Discharge Treated?

Pink discharge is treated based on the cause.

Your healthcare provider will likely not be concerned if your pink discharge occurs under the following circumstances and you have maintained routine Pap smears and gynecological exams:

  • You recently started new hormonal contraception
  • You recently used emergency contraception
  • You recently started hormone replacement therapy
  • You have a known ovarian cyst or fibroid that is not causing other symptoms
  • You are having other symptoms associated with perimenopause

If your pink discharge occurs for other reasons, your healthcare provider will address the individual cause.

Some common treatments for pink discharge include:

  • Miscarriage: Most miscarriages resolve on their own, especially if they occur very early in the first trimester. In some cases, miscarriage may require medication or a surgical procedure.
  • Fibroids or cysts: Fibroids or cysts that are causing other symptoms may be surgically removed.
  • Ectopic pregnancy: Treatment for an ectopic pregnancy may include medication or a surgical procedure to remove the tissue.
  • STIs or PID: Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and other STIs or causes of pelvic inflammatory disease require medication to clear the infection and prevent complications.
  • Cervical cancer: Treatment for cervical cancer depends on when it is diagnosed. It may include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation, or a combination of one or more treatments.

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When to See a Doctor

Pink vaginal discharge is not always cause for concern.

However, see a doctor if you experience pink discharge and: 

  • You have other symptoms
  • Your vaginal discharge increases
  • You frequently notice pink discharge

How K Health Can Help

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does pink discharge mean?
Pink discharge that occurs before or right after a period may be a normal part of menstruation. It can also be normal if it occurs around the time of ovulation, if you change birth control, or if you are in perimenopause. However, if you notice other symptoms or suddenly have an increase in discharge, see your doctor. It may be a sign of a more serious health condition.
Is it normal to have pink discharge?
Depending on your circumstances, it can be normal to notice occasional pink discharge. The causes can range from perimenopause to early period flow or other hormone changes. In some cases, pink discharge may be a cause for concern if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as pelvic pain or pressure. Discuss any changes to normal vaginal discharge with a healthcare provider.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Terez Malka, MD

Dr. Terez Malka is a board-certified pediatrician and emergency medicine physician.

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