Here's What Doctors Want You To Know About Pink Discharge During Pregnancy
And why you should always call your OB/GYN if this happens.
Pregnancy brings on so many physical changes, and unsurprisingly, a lot of them involve bodily fluids. Vaginal discharge can change throughout your pregnancy, but is pink discharge during pregnancy normal? It can really feel panicky to see that tiny bit of pink on the toilet paper, so here's what you should know if you notice some.
First things first, don’t panic. Yes, the color likely means there is some blood present, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad. “Pink discharge is actually discharge tinged with blood and represents some spotting,” Kendra Gillespie, M.D., of River City OB/GYN and Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Florida, tells Romper. “So, pink discharge is spotting, but on the lower end of the spectrum, so to speak.”
In general, vaginal secretions can help signify what’s going on in pregnant bodies in terms of health. And pink discharge, specifically, during pregnancy can indicate a multitude of things — a lot of it depends on the timing. For all you need to know about what causes pink discharge during pregnancy and what it means, read on.
Is pink discharge in early pregnancy normal?
Sometimes when you go to the bathroom during early pregnancy, you’ll find some discharge that looks a little pink because it’s mixed with a small amount of blood. “Spotting can be related to the pregnancy, but is often related to something else entirely,” Christie Bryant, a certified nurse midwife and clinical coordinator at the Birth Center of Denver, tells Romper. “Some common causes for spotting include vaginal or cervical infection, postcoital spotting, or even a urinary tract infection. There are several other factors we need to know before we can call pink-tinged discharge ‘normal.’ That’s why your health care provider will likely ask you to let them know if you have spotting of any kind.”
While these causes for pink discharge may not seem all that serious, as they happen to people with vaginas often and are very treatable, you’ll still need to contact your doctor to deal with any potential infections.
Reasons why your discharge is pink during pregnancy
Pink discharge and spotting can be the result of everything from totally normal non pregnancy-related causes to more serious issues. “There are many reasons to have harmless pink discharge, but the very same discharge can also be a warning sign of something more dangerous,” Bryant says. “There are things your health care provider can look at that can reassure you that your spotting is normal.”
Spotting during the first trimester
The biggest factor in determining the cause is timing. As Gillespie says, “spotting is expected in the first and third trimesters,” and it typically isn’t dangerous — although it won’t occur for everyone. However, if the spotting or discharge appears alongside pain or cramping, it warrants a closer look. “Spotting can occur in the first trimester with, among other things, implantation, sex, and finding of a subchorionic hemorrhage,” says Gillespie.
Spotting during the second trimester
Second trimester pink discharge is more so what should be a point for concern. “Second trimester spotting is less common and may require further evaluation to see if there is a clot, an issue with your placenta and its location, or early thinning of the cervix,” Gillespie says. “As a rule of thumb, it should always be disclosed to the doctor and may warrant an immediate ER visit if there is heavy bleeding.”
Spotting during the third trimester
As for the end of pregnancy, when you are almost full-term, pink discharge alone likely just signals that you’re nearing labor. “Spotting most commonly occurs again toward the end of the third trimester, when the cervix is preparing for birth and starts to dilate and get thinner,” Gillespie explains. “At this point, pregnant women are likely seeing their doctor weekly and can address it at that appointment unless it becomes heavy bleeding.” In rare cases, it can be an early sign of a miscarriage, but that usually occurs with other symptoms such as cramping and pain.
What to do if you notice pink discharge during pregnancy
If you do have pink discharge, it’s best to visit a health care provider in person so that they can see what’s really going on. “It can be difficult to evaluate your spotting over the phone, and that’s why when you call your health care provider, you’ll likely get many questions,” says Bryant. “If you’re in your first trimester and have had an early ultrasound showing the pregnancy is in the uterus, we are not going to be concerned about an ectopic pregnancy, which can be a life-threatening event. On the other hand, if you’re near full-term — 37 weeks to 40 weeks — we might suspect the beginning of labor, but are not concerned about preterm labor. That leaves a lot of time in between when things might not be so clear.”
Also, be sure to pay attention to the hue of your pink discharge, as this distinction will be important to your doctor. “A pink tinge to your discharge indicates a very small amount of blood added to a larger amount of discharge,” Bryant explains. “This can happen as very small blood vessels rupture, as happens when you have sex. ... Spotting is more pronounced and is often bright red, dark red, or brownish. Any time you have bleeding during pregnancy, it should be treated as an emergency, at any gestational age.”
Ultimately, no matter what you’re experiencing, if what you notice about your body is abnormal or concerning, it’s worth a call to your doctor. They want to ensure you and your baby are healthy, or at least put your mind at ease if it’s no big deal.
“The bottom line is you’ll feel better if you have a conversation with your provider should you have pink discharge,” says Bryant. “It could be completely normal and you will breathe a sigh of relief, or it could be a complication that requires attention. We understand the fears associated with a change in your discharge and really would value a chance to help.”
All in all, as with most things related to pregnancy, there is no one straightforward answer. Factors such as timing, color, and other symptoms all play a role in determining what pink discharge means. The best thing you can do for yourself is to simply call your doctor.
Kendra Gillespie, M.D., OB-GYN at River City OB-GYN and Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Florida
Christie Bryant, MS, FACNM, certified nurse midwife and clinical coordinator at the Birth Center of Denver
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