Vaginal discharge is normal in a healthy reproductive system. During most of the month, vaginal discharge is normally clear or white in color. It generally has a thin consistency and is used by the body to cleanse the reproductive system. Discharge is also necessary for maintaining a healthy pH in the vagina. When your vaginal discharge changes, it could be a sign of something wrong like trauma or an infection.
Bloody vaginal discharge can happen for a variety of reasons. Some women spot slightly around ovulation, and most childbearing-aged women have menstruation each month. Other than these more common causes, bloody vaginal discharge could also occur due to a sexually transmitted disease, taking contraceptive pills or trauma.
What Are the Common Causes of Bloody Vaginal Discharge?
There are a number of reasons why you may experience bloody vaginal discharge. The most common reasons include:
1. An Irregular Menstrual Cycle
While you may have normal periods every month, this does not mean that lifestyle factors won’t randomly change your menstrual cycle. An irregular period is by far the most common reason to have bloody discharge. This type of bleeding will normally last for about four days. If you have an extremely long period or heavy bleeding, you could have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) that is causing the change.
2. Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea can cause bloody discharge. Gonorrhea, in particular, causes bloody or yellow-colored discharge. It is an extremely common infection among young adults and teenagers and is spread primarily through sexual intercourse. When gonorrhea is detected early, it can be treated with antibiotics and may not cause any lasting effects. Left untreated, it can cause infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease. If you have gonorrhea, you may experience pain during during intercourse, spotting between periods, burning during urination and heavy menstrual flows.
When you first become pregnant, you may experience bloody vaginal discharge. When the egg first implants on the uterine wall (about a week or two after conception), it can cause some of the uterine tissue to be shed. This very light bleeding is known as implantation bleeding and takes place only 6 to 12 days after conception. Other than implantation bleeding, you may have light spotting during your pregnancy. While this is quite normal, it is important that you get checked out by a doctor to make sure that you are not experiencing a miscarriage, pregnancy complications or an ectopic pregnancy.
4. Irregular Hormones
Normally, your hormones regulate your menstrual cycle. If birth control pills, hypothyroidism, hormone replacement therapy or other conditions change your hormones, you may experience abnormal vaginal discharge. Vaginal or cervical trauma can also cause light bleeding.
Unfortunately, endometrial and cervical cancer happen to many women. While the previous reasons are more common, it is possible that bloody discharge is a sign of cancer. For most women, one of the major cases of cervical cancer is HPV. Because of this, it is important to be checked for HPV at your annual gynecological exam. If you already have cervical cancer, you may also experience bleeding after sex. For endometrial cancer, bloody discharge can occur at any time.