Most of us have been there — you go to the bathroom and notice some light pink discharge when you wipe. Understandably, you might start to freak out a bit since it's not exactly normal. Is it just period spotting? Could you be pregnant and not even realize it, and this light pink discharge is a sign something's wrong with the baby? A hundred questions flood your head at that moment, and 99 of them are probably purely panic-driven.
But before you start doom-scrolling on your phone, freaking out about what might be happening down there, stop and breathe. Scary Mommy asked Dr. Katerina Shkodzik, MD, OB-GYN, medical advisor at Mira, for insight on what's behind your pink discharge and when you need to seek medical attention.
Is something wrong with me?
Probably not! Seeing pink discharge is typically quite common. In fact, there are numerous causes of why it occurs, including your period or contraception use, and, thankfully, most of the reasons aren't serious. "If the discharge occurs once, is light, and lasts no longer than two to three days, there is no reason for panic," Dr. Shkodzik tells Scary Mommy.
What causes pink discharge?
Below are the most common causes of light pink discharge, according to Shkodzik.
1. Your Period
Perhaps the most common reason you're seeing pink discharge is your visit from Aunt Flo, which usually occurs at the beginning or end of menstruation. "The slow and not intensive flow at the beginning and the end of menstruation mixed with vaginal discharge may result in pink discharge," Shkodzik explains.
Think of it as your body giving you a heads-up about your fertility. Says Shkodzik: "Pink discharge results from a sudden surge in estrogen around ovulation that then rapidly drops, causing shedding of the endometrium."
3. Implantation Bleeding
When the fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall, Shkodzik says that process may destroy some small vessels and result in pink discharge.
4. Side Effects of Hormonal Contraception
For many women who use contraception — pills, mini-pills, the patch, the ring, or implants — you can experience hormonal fluctuations, which can result in pink discharge. The same goes for those using an intrauterine system or device, says Shkodzik, "due to hormonal fluctuations and mechanical effect on the uterine lining in first six months."
5. After Sex
If you've had vigorous sex or weren't properly lubricated, you may see a pink discharge. Why? Likely, the sex has caused small tears or irritation in the vagina or cervix, explains Shkodzik.
6. Hormonal Imbalances
You might see pink discharge if you have hormonal imbalances, like hyperprolactinemia, or thyroid issues. "Due to the imbalanced ratio of estrogen and progesterone and their unexpected falls and rises, uterine lining may break down and shed irregularly, leading to spotting of a range of colors," Shkodzik says.
If you’re prone to irregular uterine bleeding due to a condition like PCOS, that could be to blame for the unexpected pink discharge. Basically, PCOS may lead to some cycles where no egg gets released. However, the lining of the womb still thickens, which can lead to it randomly sloughing off at times. Hence, the light pink discharge.
8. Uterine Fibroids, and Ovarian Tumors
If you have any of the above, you might experience pink discharge due to hormonal disruptions, says Shkodzik.
STIs like chlamydia, HSV, and HPV all cause inflammation on the cervix due to infection, says Shkodizk, which may lead to pink discharge.
10. Cervical, Endometrial, or Ovarian Cancer
"Cervical cell destruction and inflammation from cancer may lead to bleeding," Shkodzik says.
What can you do?
In most cases — like ovulatory bleeding, contraception usage, or discharge after sex — Shkodzik says no treatment is needed: "But if the case is repeating over time, has some concerning signs, or is related to other reasons like fibroids, any type of hormonal imbalances, etc., then you'll want a medical evaluation." This would include an ultrasound and blood tests, and further prescription of hormonal or surgical treatment
When is there a cause for concern regarding light pink discharge?
If you're unsure whether or not to see a doctor, Shkodzik says to pay attention to whether the light pink discharge:
- Lasts more than two days.
- Intensifies in bleeding.
- Is associated with lower abdominal pain and/or fever.
- Repeats every cycle/month.
"In this case, it is better to seek medical assistance as soon as possible," she says.