You have brown discharge instead of your period. Is there cause for concern? Is this normal? These are the questions we aim to answer. The good news is that brown discharge by itself isn’t much of a concern.
Table of Contents
- What Brown Discharge Looks Like
- What Does Brown Discharge or Brown Period Blood Mean?
- Q1: Why Is My Period Blood Brown?
- Q2: Why Is My Discharge Brown?
- Q3: Why Is My Period Brown?
- Q4: Brown Discharge Before Period – What Does It Mean?
- Q5: Brown Discharge After Period – Is It Normal?
- Q6: Why Do I Have Brown Discharge Instead of Period Blood?
- Q7: Is It Normal to Have Brown Discharge on Birth Control?
- Q8: Why Do I Have Brown Discharge After Sex?
- Q9: What Causes Brown Gooey Discharge?
- Q10: Is Brown Spotting a Sign of Pregnancy?
- 5 Causes for Brown Discharge
- Brown Discharge During Pregnancy
- 9 Brown Discharge Concerns
- When to See a Doctor
What Brown Discharge Looks Like
Brown discharge is just like normal discharge, but it’s brown. The discharge can be anything from:
If a woman’s discharge is black, this might be a result of old blood left inside the woman from her last period. A woman’s body may fall to expel the blood, and if blood is left in the body, it dries and the discharge will expel it over time.
What Does Brown Discharge or Brown Period Blood Mean?
Basically, below are the most common 10 reasons or conditions.
Q1: Why Is My Period Blood Brown?
Why are you seeing brown discharge in the first place? Dark vaginal discharge occurs when a little bit of old blood mixes in with your normal discharge. The reason why the blood is brown is because of its age. As blood moves through the body, it ages and begins to dry. Old blood is brown, whereas red or pink blood is fresh.
Q2: Why Is My Discharge Brown?
What causes brown spotting? There are 7 possibilities including:
- Ovulation: Sometimes, when an egg is released during ovulation, a little bleeding occurs. This blood mixes in with your normal vaginal mucus, so your discharge might be a little or even a dark brown.
- Endometrial tissue: In some cases, this discharge is just old tissue that did not pass during your last period. This tissue may remain in the uterus for quite a while before it passes, which is why the discharge is brown in color.
- Perimenopause: Just before menopause, your body’s hormone levels are rapidly changing. It’s not uncommon for women to see brown, pink or even yellow discharge during this time.
- Birth control: Birth control can cause irregular periods and spotting or brown discharge.
- Pregnancy: Implantation can cause your discharge to look brown. It may also signal a problem with the placenta.
- Miscarriage: Some women will see dark brown blood or discharge during the early stages of a miscarriage.
- Disease: Certain diseases can cause your discharge to turn brown, such as bacterial vaginosis, PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), cervical cancer and certain sexually transmitted diseases.
If the discharge carries a foul-smelling odor, there is cause for concern and you should see your doctor right away.
In most cases, brown-colored discharge is nothing to worry about, but if you’re pregnant and seeing a lot of fluid, it may be time to see your doctor to make sure that you and your baby are healthy.
Q3: Why Is My Period Brown?
Brown blood during period is also perfectly normal. It may be alarming to see dark brown or even black blood, but this is nothing more than old endometrial tissue being passed.
While your body does its best to shed its uterine lining as efficiently as possible, sometimes tissue gets left behind. Brown period blood is simply old blood from old endometrial tissue that took a while for your body to pass.
Q4: Brown Discharge Before Period – What Does It Mean?
Brown discharge before a period is not as common, but it can happen. If you’re seeing this, a number of things may be occurring.
- Your body may be passing old tissue in an attempt to clean out your uterus, may be a week or two weeks, before your period.
- You may be pregnant.
In some cases, dark brown discharge is one of the first signs of pregnancy that women notice. If you’re expecting your period, but all you’re passing is dark discharge, you might be pregnant. Consider taking an at-home pregnancy test or seeing your doctor.
If you know for certain that you are not pregnant, there’s likely nothing to worry about. The discharge should pass. If it does not, see your doctor to check for infection or an STD.
Q5: Brown Discharge After Period – Is It Normal?
Yes, for the most part. Brown menstrual blood or discharge is very common after a period. It’s just the body passing old tissue that may have been left in the uterus for a few days. As mentioned previously, the blood or discharge looks brown because the blood has aged. Old blood is brown.
Of course, brown vaginal fluid can also be a sign of something else, such as:
- Implantation bleeding (learn more here)
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Severe yeast infection
- Disease, such as cervical cancer or bacterial vaginosis
Because of the timing, it’s highly unlikely that the brown-colored discharge you’re seeing is implantation bleeding. If it’s occurring right at the end of your period, your body has yet to ovulate, so implantation (or fertilization for that matter) could not have occurred yet.
If you’re seeing this discharge shortly after you’re expected to be ovulating, then it may very well have been caused by implantation. But you’ll have to wait until your expected next period to take a pregnancy test.
Q6: Why Do I Have Brown Discharge Instead of Period Blood?
If you’re expecting your period but are only seeing brown discharge, it’s perfectly natural to be concerned. There are several things that could be causing this:
- PCOS: Women with PCOS may have what’s called anovulation, which occurs when the body fails to release ova for three months or more. Many women with PCOS simply have brown-colored discharge instead of their period as a result.
- Pregnancy: Implantation can also cause light bleeding, which may manifest as dark or light brown spotting.
- Spotting: Sometimes, this discharge is just a sign that your period will start soon. If your cycle is irregular, you may assume that your period should have started when menstruation is really a few days away. In this case, it’s normal to see light spotting or blood-tinged discharge.
If the discharge continues and your period does not start, take a pregnancy test. If the test is negative, see your doctor right away to make sure you don’t have an infection or a sexually transmitted disease.
Q7: Is It Normal to Have Brown Discharge on Birth Control?
It can be. Birth control alters hormone levels in your body. Because hormones are responsible for the onset of menstruation – and ovulation – it’s no surprise that many women experience spotting or brownish-colored discharge when they’re on birth control.
Talk to your doctor about what you’re experiencing. You may need to alter your birth control, or there may be another underlying issue.
Q8: Why Do I Have Brown Discharge After Sex?
It’s perfectly normal to see discharge after having sex, and sometimes, a little bit of blood mixed in with this fluid.
When you’re aroused, the body produces more fluid to keep the vagina lubricated and to assist in the sperm making its way up to the egg. You might see more discharge around the time of ovulation, and if bleeding occurs when the egg is released, it may appear brown.
You might also have slight bleeding from rough intercourse, which can cause your discharge to turn brown.
Q9: What Causes Brown Gooey Discharge?
Brown mucus discharge can occur for a number of reasons. It might be a sign of ovulation, or if you’re in the third trimester of your pregnancy, an early sign of labor.
During the third trimester of a pregnancy, many women have brown mucus or discharge. A placenta that is lying low in the uterus or a placenta that separates from the uterus (partially or completely) may cause you to pass brown, gooey mucus. Dilation can also cause you to pass brown cervical mucus.
Brown, gooey discharge may also be a sign of a hormonal imbalance. This might be caused by your diet, birth control or even stress.
Gooey mucus might also be a sign of ovulation or an STD.
The bottom line? See your doctor if you’re passing gooey or stringy brown discharge.
Q10: Is Brown Spotting a Sign of Pregnancy?
Dark brown vaginal discharge or spotting can be a sign of pregnancy. When a fertilized egg implants itself into the uterine wall, some bleeding might occur. When this happens, women may have brown spotting or dark vaginal discharge.
5 Causes for Brown Discharge
You’re not pregnant, or if you are, you just conceived and don’t know it yet. This is where you should be if you’re reading through these causes. If you’re older, say in your mid-40s, there’s a chance you’re going through perimenopause.
Perimenopause is when your body is transitioning into menopause. This is the age when a woman’s body is slowing down the reproductive cycle, and pregnancy isn’t common after menopause.
The average woman will reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55.
Some women will go into menopause as early as in their 30s.
And again, there are some women that will stave off menopause until they reach their 60s. You’re unique, and no one can tell you with 100% certainty when you’ll go through menopause.
Perimenopause is a transition that occurs before a woman is in menopause. This is caused by the body’s transition to lower estrogen levels.
But estrogen levels taper off slowly.
This condition will last until menopause. During the last 2 years of perimenopause, estrogen levels will decrease faster. Perimenopause has an average duration of 4 years, but some women will be in this stage for up to 10+ years.
You’re confidently in menopause when you haven’t had a period for 12 months.
2. Late Period
There’s a chance that you’ll still have your period even though you notice brown discharge. Women have late periods, and if the period is late, your body may use this time to start expelling any uterine tissue that was leftover from your last period.
What often happens, is a woman will go through a day or two of no discharge or blood.
Then, the normal period begins, and everything is normal again.
If you were supposed to start your period on the 10th and it’s only the 11th, you may be suffering from a late period. But if you believe you might be pregnant, consult with a doctor, or take a pregnancy test to confirm.
3. Birth Control
If you have brown discharge instead of a period on birth control, chances are your body is adapting to the changes from birth control. Condoms or other forms of birth control won’t cause brown discharge.
But birth control pills change your body’s hormone levels, acting much like menopause.
Some women will take birth control pills to help with acne, and this results in a scary brown period that leaves numerous questions for the woman.
Your body’s hormones are suppressed due to the pill, and the pituitary gland is targeted.
But as you learned earlier in this article, your body may retain old blood which needs to be expelled. There’s also the chance that you just started taking the pill, and hormone levels haven’t had enough time to adjust and stop the period altogether.
So, you may have a short period, or some brown blood may be expelled from a past period.
4. PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)
PID is short for pelvic inflammatory disease. This is a serious infection of the female reproductive organs. And this is one of the most concerning results of a sexual transmitted disease.
You may suffer lifelong damage of the:
- Fallopian tubes
The main reason for women being infertile is PID.
Over one million women in the United States alone suffer from PID every year. And 1 in 10 of these women will become infertile.
Bacteria that enters the vagina is the cause of this disease. An STD, often gonorrhea or chlamydia, will weaken the cervix, causing it to become infected. The cervix protects your reproductive organs by expelling and making it difficult for bacteria to enter the organs.
When compromised, bacteria can pass through the cervix, and this results in PID.
This is a major concern for women, and you may suffer from:
- Permanent reproductive system damage
- Pain when urinating
- Dull pain over the lower abdomen
- Green or yellow discharge
Brown discharge is less common, but PID has caused women to have brown discharge, too.
Proper medical treatment is required to stop the infection. Most PID cases are caused by an STD, but childbirth and abortion may be the cause of PID, too.
Are you trying to get pregnant? Have you had unprotected sex recently? Do you havebrown discharge instead of a period? If you answered yes to any of these questions, there’s a chance that you’re pregnant.
And if you’ve just conceived, you may not know just yet.
Implantation bleeding may be the cause of your brown discharge, and this is a time of happiness. Congratulations, you’re pregnant.
Implantation bleeding occurs when the egg attaches to the uterine lining. This is your fertilized egg, and you’re going to have a baby.
Just one in three women have this bleeding.
You may also notice brown spotting. This is a good indication that it’s time to take a pregnancy test. Just remember that the first test may be false. The body needs to produce enough pregnancy hormone to be able to trigger a positive test.
But if you’re older (mid-40s), this may be a result of perimenopause.
Brown Discharge During Pregnancy
So, you are finally confirmed that you got a baby. Wow – congratulations! But lately, you’ve been getting this unusual brown vaginal mucus. Should you call your doctor, or is this just another symptom of pregnancy?
However, discharge is common throughout the menstrual cycle, and is typically no cause for concern (provided you have no other symptoms). But we’re going to focus on discharge during your pregnancy, which can sometimes be concerning.
Brown Discharge in the First Trimester
Seeing brown discharge in the first trimester of a pregnancy can be especially concerning. Most women are naturally concerned that this type of discharge, tinged with blood, is a sign of a miscarriage.
The good news is that in most cases, brown discharge is nothing to be concerned about – even in the first trimester.
There are many things that can cause this type of discharge early on in a pregnancy.
- When a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining, it can cause light spotting. If the blood takes some time to leave the body (which is common), it may appear as brown discharge because the blood is old.
- The cervix is extra sensitive during pregnancy, and slight irritation from sex or an exam can cause spotting. That spotting may mix with your normal discharge to make it appear brown in color.
Brown discharge is common in the first trimester, and is typically no reason to worry. But if the discharge continues or the flow of blood gets heavier, call your doctor or midwife right away.
Brown Discharge in the Second Trimester
What happens if the discharge appears in the second trimester of your pregnancy?
Spotting is common throughout pregnancy, and is typically harmless for both you and the baby.
In the second trimester, brown discharge is typically the result of irritation of the cervix. Routine pregnancy exams and sex can irritate the cervix, which can cause light bleeding. The blood then mixes with your usual discharge to create brown-colored discharge.
While usually harmless, brown discharge may also be an indication of an infection that requires prompt treatment, such as:
Yeast infections are extremely common during pregnancy, and can cause changes in discharge. Symptoms include:
- Thick discharge that looks like cottage cheese
- Redness, itching and burning
- Painful urination and intercourse
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, see your doctor right away to find the best treatment option for you.
Sexually Transmitted Infection
Pregnancy does not protect you from contracting an STI (sexually transmitted infection). If you or your partner have been having unprotected sex with different partners, it’s important to get tested and see your doctor right away.
Sexually transmitted infections can cause the following symptoms:
- Discharge that looks like pus
- Burning during urination
- Green or yellow, foul-smelling discharge
- Inflamed labia
STI can affect the health of the fetus, so it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible.
Brown Discharge in the Third Trimester
Discharge is also common in the third trimester of pregnancy, and can be tinged with old blood to make it appear brown in color.
Just like in the first and second trimester, brown-colored discharge can be the result of irritation in the cervix. Exams and sex can still cause light spotting even in the third trimester of your pregnancy.
But this type of discharge can also be a sign that you’re about to go into labor.
A few days or weeks before labor, you’ll lose your mucus plug. The mucus plug is a glob of mucus that plugs, or seals, the cervix to protect the baby during pregnancy.
Around the time you lose your mucus plug, you may experience “the bloody show,” which is mucus-like discharge that is brown or pink in color.
Losing the mucus plug means that your cervix is softening in preparation for labor and delivery. The bloody show is a sign that the blood vessels in your cervix are starting to rupture as it dilates.
Once you experience the bloody show, you’ll likely go into labor within the next few days.
If you’ve only experienced brown discharge once or twice, there’s “normally” no reason for concern. There are times when you’ll have other symptoms that accompany the brown discharge, and this is when you need to call your doctor.
You’ll want to be concerned about your discharge if:
- You’re pregnant and have brown-colored bleeding. This requires immediate medical attention, as something may be wrong with your pregnancy. For the safety of your child and your baby, visit your physician.
- Your period lasts longer than 7 days.
- You haven’t had a period for 3 – 6 months.
- You have a high fever. A fever is indicative of an infection, and you may have PID.
- Brown discharge just started following the insertion of an IUD, or intrauterine device.
- You’re suffering from breast cancer and you’re taking tamoxifen.
- You notice abnormal hair growth. PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, can cause brown discharge and hair growth. This condition may result in:
- Irregular cycles
- Cramps or abdominal pain is present. Any time you have abnormal discharge and pain, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor. Many STDs will cause cramping and pain.
- Burning sensation when urinating. Women that suffer from pain when they urinate may have an STD, or they may have an infection. Proper medical treatment is required to diagnose and get rid of the infection.
Brown discharge, if caused by PID, is a cause for concern. If this is the case, it may cause permanent infertility if you don’t seek medical treatment immediately.
When to See a Doctor
While brown discharge is often harmless, even in pregnancy, there are times when it’s a sign of complications, such as:
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Issues with the placenta
- Infection in the uterus or placenta
If you experience any of the following symptoms along with your discharge, see your doctor right away:
- Blood that turns red, or gets heavier in flow
- Blood that turns gray in color
- Cramping or tenderness
- Uterine contractions
- Back pain