Whether you just started your period or are approaching perimenopause, you know that discharge is just a normal part of your cycle. Think of it as your body’s way of cleaning up. But what happens if your discharge is bloody? Should you be worried?
The good news? Bloody discharge is usually nothing to worry about, but there are times when it’s a sign that something is wrong.
Table of Contents
- What Does Normal Discharge Look Like?
- 9 Causes of Bloody Discharge
- 3 Ways to Treat Bloody Discharge
What Does Normal Discharge Look Like?
It’s perfectly normal to get some discharge throughout your monthly cycle. But what constitutes as normal? Every woman is different, but the texture and color of normal discharge is typically the same from woman to woman.
Generally, normal discharge will have the following properties:
- Color: Clear or white in color, and may look yellow when dried.
- Odor: Mild, or none at all.
- Volume: Can vary from a little to a lot. You may see more discharge when you’re sexually aroused or during ovulation.
- Texture: Varies from paste-like consistency to sticky and stretchy.
It’s perfectly normal to get some heavier discharge from time to time, especially if you’ve just started hormonal birth control pills or become pregnant.
As you can see, red vaginal discharge isn’t exactly normal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is something seriously wrong (although there might be).
9 Causes of Bloody Discharge
There are many reasons you might be getting blood tinged vaginal discharge – some harmless, and others serious.
If you’ve recently had unprotected sex, implantation may be the reason for your bloody discharge.
During ovulation, an egg is released from the ovaries. If you have sex around this time, sperm from your partner may fertilize the egg.
About 9 days after fertilization, the egg will reach the uterus, and implant itself into its walls. Implantation can sometimes cause bleeding, which can mix with your normal discharge to make it appear bloody.
If you’re seeing watery bloody discharge, implantation may be the cause.
If you’re seeing red or bloody discharge just before your period is expected to start, it may just be some menstrual blood mixing in with your normal discharge.
You may also see blood-tinged discharge at the end of your period. Typically, the blood is brown or very dark red in color. There’s little cause for concern if the discharge is showing up just before your period.
3. Rough Sex
In the heat of passion, it’s easy to get a little overzealous and have rougher sex than usual. All that heated action can cause minor bleeding, which may exit the body through your normal discharge and turn it red or pink in color.
If rough sex is the cause for your bloody discharge, there’s little to worry about. But you may want to take it easy to prevent it from happening again – or causing a more serious injury.
4. Birth Control
If you’ve recently started taking birth control pills, this may be the cause of your bloody discharge.
Birth control alters hormone levels in the body, particularly estrogen levels, so you may see some abnormal discharge or even spotting in between periods for the first few months.
You may also experience blood in your discharge if you:
- Switch birth controls
- Stop using birth control after using for an extended period of time
- Forget to take your pill, take the pill incorrectly, or fail to take them at the same time every day
Bloody discharge or spotting can also occur when using Depo-Provera injections, implants and IUDs.
A common sexually transmitted infection (STI), gonorrhea can sometimes cause bloody discharge. If you’ve been sexually active with multiple partners or your partner has been unfaithful, you may have contracted this infection.
If caught early on, gonorrhea can easily be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, it can progress to pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, which can cause some serious reproductive issues. PID is one of the most common causes of infertility in women.
Some women experience no symptoms, but those that do may experience:
- Heavy bleeding during menstruation
- Burning during urination
- Painful sex
- Spotting in between periods
- Yellow, or bloody discharge with a foul odor
6. Hormonal Imbalance
Even if you’re not on birth control, a hormonal imbalance may still be to blame for your symptoms. Thyroid issues, hormone replacement therapy and menopause can all cause an imbalance.
Your doctor will be able to determine whether your hormones are to blame for your bloody discharge.
While rare, endometrial and cervical cancers can also cause bloody discharge. These cancers are typically caused by the Human Papilloma Virus, better known as HPV.
Other symptoms of endometrial cancer include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (occurs in 90% of patients)
- Pelvic pain
- Unexplained weight loss
Other symptoms of cervical cancer include:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Pelvic pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Swelling or pain in the legs
- Back pain
- Bone fractures
Because bloody discharge can be an early sign of these cancers, it’s important to see a doctor to have your discharge investigated.
8. Irritation or Infection
If you’re sexually active, infection or irritation may be to blame for your symptoms. If you have an infection, you may also experience:
- Burning when urinating
Infections are cause for concern and warrant a visit with your doctor.
Irritation can be caused by a variety of things, including:
- Deodorant sprays
- Perfumed soaps
- Fluctuating hormone levels
If irritation is causing the bloody discharge, your symptoms should be short-lived. If they persist for more than a few days, schedule a visit with your doctor.
9. Foreign Objects
Sometimes, foreign objects in the vagina can cause abnormal bleeding or bloody discharge. In most cases, a forgotten tampon is to blame. Depending on how long the object has been in the vagina, a doctor may be required for removal.
3 Ways to Treat Bloody Discharge
If you’re seeing bloody discharge, it’s important to schedule a visit with your doctor to make sure an underlying medical issue isn’t to blame. If your doctor rules out anything serious, there are some things you can do at home to help stop the discharge or prevent it from returning in the future.
1. Change Your Hygiene Routine
A bloody vagina can sometimes be caused by perfumed or harsh hygiene products, like soaps or lotions. A simple change to your personal care products may stop the discharge and prevent it from coming back in the future.
The vagina is an especially sensitive part of the body, and any disruptions to the normal pH or bacterial balance can lead to infections, irritation and other serious issues.
Opt for unscented, gentle soaps and lotions. Many experts recommend avoiding using soap altogether on the vaginal area. Rinsing with water is often more than enough to keep the area clean without disrupting the pH and bacterial balances.
2. Change Your Birth Control
If your birth control pills are to blame for the blood in your discharge, consult with your doctor. Switching to a different birth control may help stop the issue and prevent it in the future.
Birth control implants, rings and injections may also cause bloody discharge or spotting. If your symptoms do not disappear in a few months, your doctor may recommend a different type of birth control to prevent abnormal bleeding.
3. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Hormonal imbalances can be caused by thyroid issues (which requires medical attention), or it may be caused by your lifestyle. Unhealthy diets, lack of exercise and stress can lead to hormonal imbalances that can throw your period out of whack.
Here are some tips to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of healthy fats
- Get enough sleep
- Meditate or practice yoga to de-stress
A nutritionist can help you create a meal plan that works for you, and helps you maintain your body’s natural hormonal balance.
Nutrition plays a key role in keeping your hormones in check. Healthy fats, a balanced intake of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and probiotics can help keep your gut and body healthy.
Adaptogen herbs can also help, such as ashwagandha, maca, rhodiola and holy basil. Adaptogen herbs can:
- Maintain hormonal balance
- Reduce depression and anxiety
- Boost thyroid function
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Support your adrenal gland
- Stabilize insulin and blood sugar levels
- Minimize brain cell degeneration
Most of these herbs can be purchased online or in health food stores.
Bloody discharge isn’t always a cause for concern, but if it’s abnormal for you, it’s best to consult with your doctor to see what’s causing the issue. If there are no serious underlying medical conditions, the tips above can help you stop or prevent the discharge in the future.