What does pink discharge mean? Causes, symptoms and treatments

Published: 11 October 2022|Last updated: 11 October 2022|About Assisted Reproduction.|

It is common for many women who come to Eugin to ask at some point during their gynaecological consultation about the characteristics of normal vaginal discharge, and any change, such as the presence of pink bleeding, may raise doubts. For this reason, we will discuss this subject in this article.

What is pink discharge?

Vaginal discharge results from a mixture of fluid and cells that are continuously released through the vagina. It helps keep vaginal tissue healthy, providing lubrication and protecting against infection and irritation.

Women are used to having a clear, translucent or transparent and odourless discharge. Changes in discharge are always a cause for concern, especially pink spotting, and so it is common to interpret pink bleeding as a problem when wiping outside of your menstrual period.

In order to know whether you should be concerned, we need to consider the context in which this change in your vaginal discharge occurs and whether or not there are other associated symptoms. Although a precise diagnosis can only be made by a professional, here are some possible causes of pink discharge.

What are the causes and symptoms of a pink discharge?

If you are a woman of childbearing age, the presence of a pink discharge when you wipe (a reddish, pink or brown appearance with no smell), in the first few days before your period starts or after it ends, is normal and should not cause alarm.

Less frequently (about 8%), some women may experience a pink discharge in the middle of their cycle, which may also be due to another physiological process in your body: ovulation.

If you are taking birth control pills, you may have slight pink spotting, especially if you forget to take them, or if the pill has not been absorbed well (because of vomiting, diarrhoea, or because you are taking other medication).

That’s why it’s important to know that birth control pills themselves, especially those containing less oestrogen, can cause small inter-menstrual hormonal releases that alter the colour, texture and odour of vaginal discharge.

Finally, this kind of discharge can be observed after penetrative sexual intercourse. With tissue friction, if the vaginal mucosa is not well lubricated, a small wound may occur during penetration, resulting in a pink discharge.

What does pink discharge during pregnancy mean?

If you are trying to get pregnant, a small amount of bleeding may occur when the fertilised egg implants in the uterine lining, as discussed in our article on the implantation bleeding symptoms.

It usually appears 10 to 15 days after conception and may be accompanied by severe cramping pain in the lower abdomen. This light bleeding, which often goes unnoticed, can be the first visible sign that you have become pregnant.

However, if light bleeding occurs during pregnancy, the context changes and you should be aware of the possibility of miscarriage. It can occur in 1 in 10 women who have previously had children and is more common in elderly pregnant women.

In this case, this pink bleeding is likely to be accompanied by other symptoms such as:

  • Severe cramps in the lower abdomen.
  • Severe colicky pain.
  • Lower back discomfort (lumbar region).
  • Dizziness

If you have noticed pink discharge when wiping alongside any of these associated symptoms, we recommend that you contact a medical specialist as soon as possible.

When should you worry if you have pink discharge or bleeding?

In most situations where a pink discharge appears when you wipe you should not be concerned about your health, especially if there are no associated symptoms or risk of miscarriage. However, there are a couple of exceptions: infections and ovarian cysts.

Infections may occur when:

  • You don’t take proper care of your hygiene.
  • You wear tight-fitting underwear.
  • You lead an active sex life without using contraception (or with multiple partners).
  • You take antibiotics that alter your vagina’s natural flora.

These are all factors that can predispose people to developing infections, which may be bacterial, parasitic, viral or mycotic (fungal).

Infections tend to be obvious, as not only the colour of the vaginal discharge changes, but also the smell and viscosity and may even be accompanied by itching and irritation in the genital area.

Also, if your doctor diagnoses an infection, he or she will probably tell you that your sexual partner should also be tested and treated, as these infections are often transmitted through the exchange of fluids during sex.

On the other hand, ovarian cysts (these are like small pockets of fluid) can appear in women of reproductive age and disappear between menstrual cycles, and do not require medical attention. However, when these cysts remain in the ovary and are large in size, they may pose a serious health problem.

If the cyst is not reabsorbed, it is usually accompanied by certain signs and symptoms:

  • Pink vaginal discharge between periods.
  • Feeling of pressure in the lower abdomen and a bloating sensation.
  • Pain during urination or intercourse.

If this situation is not attended to in time, it may lead to ovarian torsion (or adnexal torsion) in which the ovary twists around its own ligaments. When this happens, the blood flow to the affected ovary is cut off and if it is not untwisted, the ovary may be lost. This represents a serious medical emergency.

What to do if you see pink discharge when you wipe?

Keep calm and avoid any kind of home remedies or self-medication, as these will be of little use without a professional diagnosis. Sometimes self-medicating can worsen your situation by masking symptoms that would allow for a proper medical diagnosis.

The vast majority of the time, pink discharge when wiping is nothing to worry about and disappears within a few days, but it is important to be aware of the context in which it appears, whether or not you have other associated symptoms and always ask your medical specialist if in doubt.

At Eugin we take care of the overall health of our patients, which is why we recommend you request an appointment at our assisted reproduction clinics, where the first medical consultation with a specialist is free of charge and comes with personalised advice.

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