Pink discharge at the beginning or end of your menstrual cycle is expected. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most common is spotting or having periods that may last fewer than two days.

Is this cause for concern?

You may see pink vaginal discharge as part of your period or at other times throughout your menstrual cycle. It’s not necessarily a reason for concern.

Blood may mix with clear cervical fluid on its way out of the uterus, turning it pink. This color may also be a sign of a number of different conditions, like a hormonal imbalance or infection.

The timing of the discharge — as well as any other symptoms you may be experiencing — can help you identify the underlying cause. Keep reading to learn more.

Pink discharge at the beginning and end of bleeding with your menstrual cycle is normal. At this time, the blood is just beginning to flow or is slowing down. It may mix with other vaginal secretions on its way out of the vagina, diluting its red hue.

Another possibility is irregular menstruation. Light periods, for example, may last fewer than two days and be pink, more like spotting than a full flow. Anything from weight fluctuations to age to stress may make your menstrual cycles irregular.

Low estrogen levels may lead to pink discharge at different points on your cycle, not necessarily when you would expect a period. The hormone estrogen helps to stabilize the uterine lining. Without enough of it, the uterine lining may break down and shed irregularly, leading to spotting of a range of colors.

Other signs of low estrogen include:

Starting new hormonal birth control or switching what you’re already using may create an artificial estrogen imbalance. You may experience light pink discharge or spotting as a result. This side effect, also called breakthrough bleeding, is more likely with contraception that contains little or no estrogen.

In some cases, your hormones may adjust to the medication within a few months and the spotting will stop. Others may see pink discharge for three months or longer.

An egg is released from the fallopian tube approximately 14 days before your next period starts. Around three percent of women experience ovulation, or mid-cycle, spotting. Since more wet, clear cervical fluid is produced at this time, ovulation spotting may appear pink instead of red.

Other symptoms around ovulation include Mittelschmerz, or pain in your lower abdomen. Women who chart their cycles may also see a change in basal body temperature.

Your chances for getting pregnant are highest in the days leading up to and including ovulation.

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled pocket or sack that develops on one of the ovaries. Some cysts are part of your menstrual cycle. A follicular cyst, for example, is created if an egg doesn’t burst from the ovary at ovulation and continues to grow. It may cause no symptoms and go away on its own within a few months.

Others, like dermoid cysts and cystadenomas, may grow large and cause spotting or pink discharge. They may be caused by hormone imbalances or conditions like endometriosis. You may also notice pain or heaviness in your pelvis or bloating.

Cysts that are left untreated can rupture or twist the ovary, cutting off its blood supply.

Implantation is the process of the fertilized egg embedding itself in the uterine lining. It happens between 10 to 14 days after conception and may cause light bleeding of various shades, including pink. Not all women experience implantation bleeding.

Other early pregnancy symptoms:

  • frequent urination
  • morning sickness
  • sore breasts
  • fatigue

If your period is late or you have pink spotting in its place, consider taking a home pregnancy test.

Rarely, an embryo may implant in the fallopian tube. This is called an ectopic or tubal pregnancy, and it may cause spotting or bleeding. If discharge is light and mixed with other vaginal secretions, it may appear pink.

Other symptoms include:

  • sharp pain in the abdomen, pelvic, neck, or shoulder
  • one-sided pelvic pain
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • rectal pressure

Fallopian tube rupture is a potentially life-threatening complication. If you experience spotting or bleeding and severe one-sided pain or any other symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible.

Anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, usually before the fetus reaches 10 weeks’ gestation. Symptoms may come on suddenly and include a gush of clear or pink fluid or heavy red bleeding.

Other symptoms include:

  • pain or cramping in the lower abdomen
  • passing tissue or clots from the vagina
  • brown discharge
  • dizziness
  • fainting

Bleeding in early pregnancy can be normal, but it’s important to report pink discharge or other miscarriage symptoms to a doctor.

There is a four to six week period of bleeding after childbirth. This discharge is called lochia and has a stale, musty odor.

Lochia begins as heavy red bleeding and small clots. Then from around day four onward, the bleeding becomes lighter and turns pink or brown. After day 10, it eventually lightens up even more and shifts to a creamy or yellowish color before stopping.

Let your doctor know if you see large clots or experience foul-smelling discharge. These may be signs of infection.

Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may cause unusual discharge, including pink bleeding. These infections may not cause any symptoms at first.

When symptoms are present, they can include:

  • bleeding with sexual intercourse
  • painful urination
  • pelvic pain or pressure
  • vaginal itching
  • spotting between periods

Without treatment, STIs can spread to the reproductive organs, causing an infection called PID. You may experience fever with this infection, as well as other STI symptoms.

If left untreated, PID can result in chronic pelvic pain and infertility.

A fibroid is a noncancerous tissue growth in or around the uterus. Fibroids don’t always cause symptoms.

When they do, abnormal vaginal bleeding is considered an early sign. Light bleeding or spotting mixed with other cervical fluid may appear pink.

Other symptoms may include:

  • pelvic pain or low back pain
  • pain during sex
  • difficulty urinating or pain with urination

Perimenopause is the period of time when a woman’s body is transitioning to menopause, the stop of menstrual cycles. During this time, estrogen levels rise and fall unpredictably. As a result, you may see pink spotting or experience irregular periods.

Other symptoms include:

  • hot flashes
  • trouble sleeping
  • vaginal dryness
  • mood swings

Perimenopause symptoms typically begin in your mid-30s to early 40s.

In rare cases, pink discharge may be a sign of cervical cancer. The most common signs of invasive cancer are irregular bleeding after sex, between regular menstrual periods, or after menopause. Discharge with early cervical cancer is often white, clear, or watery. Any blood that mixes with it may look pink.

Symptoms of advanced cancer include:

  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • pelvic pain
  • swelling in legs
  • difficulty urinating or defecating

Some women experience no symptoms of cancer in its early stages. Keeping up with regular Pap tests is key for early detection and prompt treatment.

Pink discharge may be part of your menstrual cycle or a temporary side effect as your body adjusts to perimenopause or hormonal contraception.

For other cases, the treatment will depend on the cause. For example:

  • Estrogen imbalances are treated with hormone replacement therapy or serotonin-boosting antidepressants.
  • Breakthrough bleeding related to hormonal contraception should stop within a few months. If it doesn’t, you can explore other birth control options with a doctor.
  • Ovarian cysts may go away on their own. Surgery may be necessary if the cyst grows very large or twists.
  • Ectopic pregnancy can be treated with medications like methotrexate and surgery to remove the pregnancy from the fallopian tube. A rupture requires immediate surgery to prevent major internal bleeding.
  • Miscarriage may resolve on its own. If the fetus doesn’t totally clear from the uterus, you may need a dilation and curettage (D&C). In this procedure, your doctor uses medication to dilate your cervix while you’re under anesthesia. Curettes cut or suction any remaining tissue.
  • Infections like STIs and PID require antibiotics. Be sure to protect yourself from re-infection during and after treatment by practicing safe sex.
  • Uterine fibroids are treated with surgery to remove the growths from the uterus.
  • Perimenopause symptoms can be treated with short-term hormonal replacement therapy or antidepressants. Others may manage the symptoms without medication.
  • Treatment for cervical cancer may include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Some women use a combination of these treatments.

Pink discharge isn’t necessarily a reason for concern, especially if it occurs around the time of your expected period.

A normal menstrual cycle — from the start of one period to the start of the next — ranges from 21 to 35 days in length. The period itself typically lasts between two to seven days. Bleeding or spotting outside this timeframe accompanied by other symptoms, like pain, fever, or dizziness, is a reason to see a doctor.

Talk to a doctor about any bleeding you experience during pregnancy. Pink discharge may be normal, especially around the time of implantation or in early pregnancy. Any pain, dizziness, tissue, or clots could be a sign of ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.

Pink discharge after menopause isn’t normal and is a reason to make an appointment. Irregular discharge during this time could be a sign of fibroids, cervical cancer, or other conditions that require medical attention.