Imagine you are trying to conceive. You’ve started eating a little healthier, tracking your cycle and timing sex for the most fertile time of the month. Everything seems to be going alright until you notice a light pink discharge staining your panties half way through your cycle.
What does this mean? Does this mean that something is wrong with me? Will I be able to get pregnant?
In a little bit of a panic you decide to research it online. However, you mightn’t be sure exactly what to call it. Is it vaginal discharge? Is it pink period blood? Is it pink mucus? Or is it cervical fluid?
You end up on medical websites saying that abnormal spotting in between your periods is caused by cancer, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and lots of other terrible sounding conditions you can barely pronounce. Here’s where I’m going to tell you the most important piece of advice you should take from this post…
Yes, abnormal pink discharge and spotting during your cycle can be an indication of a lot of scary conditions but in the vast amount of cases it is nothing to worry about. In fact in some cases it can be an indication that you are having a healthy ovulation or that you are even pregnant!
Yes, I know pregnant! Imagine that. This scary pink discharge you saw in your panties could in fact be telling you that you are pregnant!
What if you aren’t trying to get pregnant?
You can rest easy as well! As there are number of reasons that you might experience some pinkish brown discharge that are completely normal, that might just require you to change your hormonal birth control for example.
In this article we are going to go through all the different scenarios that you might encounter pink blood outside your period and what could that mean. However, first things first we are going to start from the start and answer the question…
Pink Discharge – What does that mean?
You might have noticed that the colour and texture of your vaginal discharge changes throughout your cycle. Your discharge (or cervical fluid) should be odourless and changes from thick and creamy the week after your period to thin, sticky and watery just before you ovulate (it resembles very closely raw egg-whites. So if you normal discharge ranges from thick and white to clear and sticky why would you have pink discharge in between periods?
This was the question I found myself asking myself when I first noticed some pinkish discharge in my panties about 10 days after my period ended. At first I didn’t know what to think or feel.
Should I be concerned? Or is pink discharge completely normal?
Most of the Time Pink Discharge Is Nothing to Worry About
After a bit of online research I found out that having some pinkish discharge is completely normal, in the same way as having brown vaginal discharge can be normal. It can be caused by a lot of things and the best way to diagnosis what has caused it is to look at when it is happening in your cycle and what other symptoms you are experiencing.
Pink Discharge When Using a Hormonal Contraceptive
A common cause of pink discharge or spotting in between periods is the use of hormonal contraceptives. These birth control methods work by interfering with a woman’s normal hormonal fluctuations throughout her cycle, which can cause side effects such as spotting. Common causes of spotting associated with using a hormonal contraceptive are:
- Changes in Contraceptive: If you recently started using a new hormonal birth control method then you might experience some spotting or bleeding as your body gets used to the artificial hormones. If the spotting persists or if it is accompanied with other symptoms you should consult your doctor about using a different form of birth control.
- Forgot to Take Birth Control: If you forgot to take your hormonal birth control pill for 1-3 days this sudden change in hormone levels could cause some abnormal bleeding or spotting between periods.
Abnormal blood or spotting before a period is one of those side effects and can be common when using oral contraceptives 1, so don’t be alarmed if you experience any once off spotting.
Pink Discharge Two Weeks Before Your Period
If you notice some pinkish brown discharge about two weeks before your expected next period for example – day 14 of a 28 day cycle) then it could be a sign that you are just after ovulating!
Some women experience pink spotting around the time of ovulation 2 as a result of the egg leaving the follicle or because of the changing hormone levels around the time of ovulation. This is often called “ovulation spotting” and is a sign that you are fertile and are ovulating normally. It typically occurs around the 2-3 days around the day of ovulation, and consists of a small amount of blood or spotting that is either pink or a light brown in color.
The light bleeding around this time will often mix with the clear and stretchy egg-white cervical fluid which is present around the time of ovulation, giving you the light pink steak of blood when you wipe.
If you are tracking your period or your fertility you should also see:
- Cervical Fluid: Your cervical fluid should be at its peak around the time of ovulation. It should be clear and stretchy resembling raw egg-whites.
- Basal Body Temperature: If you have been tracking your basal body temperature you should see a rise in your basal body temperature of about 0.5°F on the day you notice the pink spotting. Or over the 2-3 days afterwards.
- Ovulation Predictor Kit: If you have been using an ovulation predictor kit to measure your LH surge in the lead up to ovulation you should have noticed some positive results on the days leading up to you noticing the pink discharge and the day of the pink spotting.
If you noticed one or more of this signs there is a strong likelihood that your pink spotting was the result of your recent ovulation.
Pink Discharge A Couple Days Before Your Period
If you notice some pink discharge or spotting 2-3 days before the start of your period then that could indicate:
- Implantation Bleeding: If you are after having unprotected sex about 2 weeks ago around the time of ovulation then this pink discharge could be a sign you are pregnant! When an egg is fertilized by sperm it will normally then travels down your fallopian tubes into your uterus and attach itself to the uterine lining of your uterus. Some women might experience a small amount of bleeding as the fertilized egg attaches itself to her uterine lining. This is called “Implantation Bleeding”. Implantation bleeding is usually short, only lasting one to two days, and much lighter than a normal period and does not require any treatment.
- Hormonal Imbalance: If you didn’t have unprotected sex about 2 weeks ago, if you normally have PMS symptoms around the time of your period or if you have regular spotting then this could be an indication that you might have a hormonal imbalance. Hormonal imbalances such as estrogen dominance or low progesterone can cause pink discharge or spotting as your low progesterone levels mightn’t be able to support your endometrial lining which could begin to shed and cause spotting before your period. If spotting before your period becomes a regular occurrence or if you have PMS symptoms and a heavy period you should talk to your doctor about getting a hormone test. Having estrogen dominance or low progesterone can make it harder to conceive and could put you at a higher risk of developing fibroids, cysts and cancer.
To determine if you pink discharge is the caused by either implantation bleeding or a hormonal imbalance you should check your symptoms against the following signs:
- Unprotected Sex: If you had unprotected sex during your last fertile window which is the 3 days leading up to your last ovulation (typically occurs 2 weeks before your expected period – for example day 14 of a 28 day cylce). Then your pink discharge could be caused by implantation bleeding and that you are pregnant. You should use a home pregnancy test kit to confirm whether you are pregnant or not 3.
- PMS: If you regularly experience PMS symptoms (stomach cramps, bloating, sleep disturbances, mood swings, etc.) then you could be suffering from a hormonal imbalance.
- Heavy or Irregular Period: If your period is very heavy and/or irregular then this could also indicate that you might have a hormonal imbalance.
If you think you might have estrogen dominance or low progesterone levels you can read our article on “10 Signs and Symptoms That You Might Have Low Progesterone” which outlines all the signs that indicate estrogen dominance or low progesterone.
Pink Discharge After Your Period
You might also experience some pink discharge after the end of your period for a number of reasons. However, this is heavily dependent on when you notice the bleeding.
- Delayed or Partial Periods: If you notice pink discharge or spotting after your normal expected period this could be caused by a delayed or partial period. A menstrual period is caused when a pregnancy fails to occur and the uterus expels the lining meant to nurture a growing foetus. Sometimes, this monthly flushing is not complete, leaving behind a small amount of lining, which can remain in the uterus for up to a month. Eventually, the body expels this lining. Since the endometrial cells being expelled are older, they may appear pinkish or brown in color instead of the red color most women are used to during an average period. A partial or a delayed period can appear at any time during a woman’s cycle. While it may appear troublesome, in most cases it is normal.
- Hormonal Imbalance: Pink discharge or spotting after your period could also be caused by a hormonal imbalance such as estrogen dominance or low progesterone. If you suffer for irregular and heavy periods along with symptoms similar to PMS then you could have a hormonal imbalance. If you suspect this you should consult your doctor as you it might be a sign that you suffer from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome which can make it harder for you to conceive.
- Ovulation Spotting: If you notice pink discharge about half way through your cycle or 14 days from the end of your expected period then this could indicate that the pink discharge is in fact ovulation spotting. The other symptoms to look out for were outlined in the “Pink Discharge Two Weeks Before Your Period” section of this article.
- Implantation Bleeding: If you notice pink discharge 2-3 days before the start of your period this could be a sign that you are pregnant. This is called Implantation Bleeding. When the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine lining of your uterus, it can cause light bleeding or spotting. This is perfectly normal and merely is a sign that you are pregnant! The other symptoms to look out for were outlined in the “Pink Discharge A Couple Days Before Your Period” section of this article.
Pink Discharge If You Are Over 35
The start of perimenopause usually occurs around age of 35 or 40 for most women. During the subsequent couple years until about the age 50, there is a 35% drop in estrogen, but a 75% reduction in progesterone happening at the same time 4. This imbalanced reduction in hormones can cause estrogen dominance if left untreated.
As a consequence during these years it is very common for women to develop a hormonal imbalance where estrogen is dominant in comparison to your progesterone levels. These low progesterone and high estrogen levels can cause an increase in the severity of your PMS symptoms, the shorting of your cycle 5, weight gain, night sweats, vaginal dryness, sleep disruption, hot flashes, mood swings and pink or brown spotting between periods. This pink or brown spotting will usually occur in the second half of your cycle in the lead up to your period.
Pink Discharge After Sex
If you notice some pink discharge or spotting after sex it could be because of sex or it could just be a coincidence that the spotting occurred after sex. If it is a coincidence then it is likely that the pink discharge was caused by one of the causes mentioned already such as ovulation spotting, implantation bleeding, hormonal imbalance, etc. However, it is possible for the pink discharge to be caused by sex:
- Perimenopause & Menopause: As a woman goes through menopause the amount of cervical fluid secreted during intercourse which provides lubrication is reduced and the cell regeneration process slows down. This can cause you to be more susceptible to light bleeding as a result of the trauma inflicted on blood vessels during intercourse. To avoid this trauma and the general discomfort and itching it can cause you should use lubricants during sex.
- Trauma: Especially rough sex can also cause trauma and lead to light bleeding and acute pain and discomfort. In this case medical observation is advised to help prevent any resulting infection.
- Oncological Pathologies: Certain conditions such as uterine cervix, endometrial or cervical cancer and cervical polyps can cause the reduction of cervical fluid making the rupture of blood vessels more likely. These conditions normally accompanied by symptoms such as pain during intercourse and abdominal cramps.
As a consequence the appearance of pink discharge after sex is an unfavourable sign, which can indicate that there is something more serious causing your pink discharge. If you notice any pink discharge after sex you should investigate it further with your doctor.
When Should I Get Concerned About Pink Discharge?
A one-time incident of pink vaginal discharge or spotting usually is not a sign of trouble, but regular occurrences should be checked out by a physician. In the vast amount of cases it isn’t any of the potentially more serious issues; it is simply the result of a hormonal imbalance that could be the cause of fluctuating hormones, ovulation, pregnancy or the birth control bill. However, if you do experience pink discharge that falls within any of the patterns or which is accompanied by any of the other signs listed below then you should seek advice from your doctor immediately.
- Any abnormal bleeding between your menstrual periods that lasts for more than three days;
- Any abnormal spotting continues for three or more consecutive menstrual cycles;
- Any unusual vaginal bleeding or spotting is noticed that is different when compared to the usual pattern;
- Any abnormal vaginal bleeding or spotting after completing menopause;
- Any heavy bleeding after sexual intercourse;
- If it accompanies any other abnormal symptoms such as pain or bleeding during/after intercourse, lower abdominal pain, excessively heavy periods, pain urinating, pelvic pain or foul smelling discharge;
- Or if you simply suspect a problem.
If you notice any of these patterns or symptoms along with your pink discharge you should seek advice from your doctor as pink discharge along with other symptoms can indicate cervical cancer, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory diseases and certain sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital warts.
The best way to know if a your pink discharge or spotting is abnormal or not is by becoming more in tune with your own body using some the methods to track your fertility. If you pay close attention to the signs your body is sending you, not only will you notice the slight changes that could indicate something is up, it will also allow you to get pregnant much quicker if you are trying to conceive.
- S. Schrager, “Abnormal Uterine Bleeding Associated with Hormonal Contraception, Am Fam Physician.” 2002 May 15;65(10):2073-2081 ↩
- J. R. Albers, S. K. Hull, R. M. Wesley, “Abnormal uterine bleeding. Am Fam Physician.” 2004;69(8):1915-26. ↩
- T. Rowe, “Abnormal uterine bleeding in pre-menopausal women. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada.” 2013 May; 35(5) ↩
- https://www.energeticnutrition.com/blog/2013/02/progesterone-almost-forgotten-hormone/ ↩
- T. Brodin, T. Bergh, L. Berglund, N. Hadziosmanovic, and J. Holte, “Menstrual cycle length is an age-independent marker of female fertility: results from 6271 treatment cycles of in vitro fertilization,” Fertility and Sterility, vol. 90, no. 5, pp. 1656–1661, Nov. 2008. ↩