Walking out of the bathroom, you glance back at your underwear and notice a surprising sight: blood in your vaginal discharge. It may cause a sudden jolt of worry or concern, especially if you’re not expecting your period. Sometimes, it could be a minor issue, but at other times, it might signal something more serious.
Dr. Anita Iroko, a general practitioner, sheds light on this issue. She explains that not all instances of blood in vaginal discharge should cause alarm. “Firstly, I want you to understand that it’s okay to see a bit of blood from time to time. It happens to many women. However, if it persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention,” Dr. Iroko says.
Here, she outlines five possible reasons why your vaginal discharge might have traces of blood.
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During your menstrual cycle, your body prepares for potential pregnancy by releasing an egg from your ovaries — a process called ovulation. “It’s quite common for some women to experience light spotting or a slight change in their discharge during this time,” says Dr. Iroko. This can result in a pink or brownish discharge, which could be mistaken for blood.
2. Implantation Bleeding
Implantation bleeding normally occurs when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of your uterus. This typically happens a week or two after conception and can sometimes cause light spotting. Dr. Iroko adds, “While the blood is usually light pink or brown, it can sometimes be mistaken for period blood, especially if it occurs around the same time as your expected menstruation.”
3. Hormonal Fluctuations
Hormonal imbalances can also be a reason behind spotting or bloody discharge. These imbalances can be caused by factors like stress, drastic weight loss or gain, or starting or stopping birth control pills. “Hormonal fluctuations can alter the regularity and consistency of your menstrual cycle, leading to unexpected bleeding,” says Dr. Iroko.
Infections, particularly sexually transmitted infections (STIs), can lead to bloody discharge. Common STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis often present with symptoms including abnormal vaginal discharge. Dr. Iroko notes, “If the discharge has a foul odor, is accompanied by itching or burning, or if you have pain during intercourse, these might be signs of an infection, and you should consult a healthcare professional.”
5. Certain Medical Conditions
Certain medical conditions, especially polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, and fibroids, can result in spotting or bloody discharge. “These conditions cause changes to the uterine lining or menstrual cycle, leading to abnormal bleeding. If your periods are also irregular or painful, or if the bloody discharge persists, it’s important to seek medical attention,” Dr. Iroko advises.
What Should You Do Next?
Blood in your vaginal discharge might be alarming, but remember, it’s not always indicative of a serious problem. “If you notice bloody discharge, first try to stay calm,” advises Dr. Iroko. “Take note of any other symptoms you’re experiencing and how long the spotting lasts.”
If the spotting persists, or if it’s accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, itching, burning, or foul odor, it’s important to seek medical attention. Your healthcare provider will be able to diagnose the cause and suggest appropriate treatment. If needed, they may refer you to a specialist, such as a gynecologist, for further examination.
Further Reading: Brown Discharge: What It Means And When To Seek Help