For women, vaginal discharge is part of a normal monthly cycle. It changes in amount, color and texture at different times in the month. But when that color changes to pink, it could be a sign of a bigger problem brewing. Keep reading to learn more.
Mid-Cycle Spotting or Menstruation?
If you notice mid-cycle vaginal discharge, it’s hard to tell what’s going on. Is it your period coming early? Or is it discharge? Here’s where paying attention to color can help you get a better picture of your health.
You see, period blood is usually dark-red. In contrast, spotting shows up more like pink vaginal discharge. If you’re spotting, the discharge will also be less heavy. And it should come and go, instead of lasting for a few days.
When does spotting usually occur? There are several times in your cycle when you could expect to spot. Typically, spotting will occur when you release an egg, because your estrogen levels drop at that moment. You also may spot just before ovulation, or right after ovulation. If spotting develops after your ovulation, it could also mean you’re pregnant (this is called implant bleeding.)
Now, these are all times when spotting is a normal part of your menstrual cycle. But, sometimes, pink discharge is a sign of an underlying health condition. And if that’s the case, it’s best to see your doctor right away.
Pink Vaginal Discharge and Your Health
Pink vaginal discharge usually contains trace amounts of blood. And bleeding outside of your period could be a sign of a problem.
If you are experiencing pink discharge, you should see your doctor right away. The color and spotting could mean that you have:
- Uterine Fibroids. Pink discharge could indicate that you are spotting (bleeding outside of your period), and fibroids (non-cancerous tumors) are known to cause abnormal bleeding. So if you are regularly seeing pink outside of your period, it is worth discussing a fibroid screening with your OBGYN.
- Uterine Polyps. Like fibroids, polyps are non-cancerous growths. But while fibroids develop in or on your uterus, polyps develop in endometrial tissue before extending into the uterus. If pink discharge comes after sex, it could be a sign you have polyps, since intercourse can bump these growths, causing some blood to mingle with your discharge.
- Ovarian cysts. These are fluid-filled sacs that develop on the ovaries. When they resolve on their own, cysts don’t typically cause symptoms. But when they keep growing and become large, they may cause abnormal bleeding–and pink discharge!
- Infections. Pink discharge could also be a sign of an infection in your vagina. Potential causes could be an STI (sexually transmitted infection) or vaginitis.
- Pregnancy, including ectopic. When a fertilized egg implants itself in your uterine wall, you may bleed a little, causing pink discharge. (See above, where we discuss implant bleeding.) But when that egg implants outside your uterus, in your fallopian tubes, pink discharge will also likely appear, along with other symptoms like sharp pain, dizziness, weakness and even fainting.
- Cervical Cancer. With this issue, the color of your discharge matters less than the change in its nature. Abnormal discharge is a warning sign of cervical cancer. Especially if it’s watery or smells like fish. Or accompanied by other cancer warning signs like edema (leg swelling), abdominal bloating, painful urination and overall fatigue.
Because pink discharge could indicate so many different conditions, it’s important to bring up this change with your doctor. The only way to know the cause is to investigate with your medical care provider.
What about Pink Menstrual Blood?
Sometimes, pink discharge isn’t a between-periods problem. At certain points during your period, your flow may become thin, light and pale pink instead of red in color. Often, this is a normal development. Your flow tends to be lighter at the end of your period. And many women experience a light, pale flow in the first day of their periods, too.
Other times, however, this change in color could mean you have a health problem. If you have low estrogen levels, your period flow may appear more pink than red. Or, if it’s just a lighter red, almost diluted, it could be a sign of anemia. And, since anemia is a common side effect of fibroids, this should be a sign it’s time to see your gynecologist.
Now, we know that some of these changes in your discharge or flow may be subtle. So we don’t want you to spend your time analyzing your personal rainbow of colors. Instead, try this advice as a guideline. Pay attention to your body’s personal ‘normal.’ Then, if you notice a change that seems out of the ordinary, bring it up with your doctor at your next check up, just to rule out problems. Just remember: if any of these changes cause you severe pain, or interfere with your daily life, don’t wait around for your next annual visit. Instead, schedule an appointment with your Houston fibroid specialists right away: you should never wait around for help!