Have you ever noticed that you got brown discharge instead of your period? Is there any cause for concern? Is this normal? These are the questions we aim to answer in this article. For a start, let me tell you the good news. Don’t immediately begin to worry about brown discharge itself. The first thing you should do is to determine the right color of your discharge properly.
Table of Contents
- How Does Brown Discharge Look Like?
- 9 Most Common Questions about Brown Discharge
- Q1: Why Is My Period Bloody-Brown?
- Q2: Why Is My Discharge Brown?
- Q3: Brown Discharge Before Period – What Does It Mean?
- Q4: Brown Discharge After Period – Is It Normal?
- Q5: Why Do I Have Brown Discharge Instead of Period Blood?
- Q6: Is It Normal That Birth Control Causes Brown Discharge?
- Q7: Why Do I Have Brown Discharge After Sex?
- Q8: What Causes Brown Gooey Discharge?
- Q9: Is Brown Spotting a Sign of Pregnancy?
- 5 Causes of Brown Discharge
- Brown Discharge During Pregnancy
- When Is Time to See Your Gynecologist?
How Does Brown Discharge Look Like?
Except in color, there are no many differences between your regular and brown discharge. It can usually be watery, creamy, or an egg-white consistency (jelly like discharge).
Don’t expect a stream of brown liquid, but rather the mucus that exits your vagina. Brown discharge can be light brown or dark brown, but in rare circumstances, you also may notice a blackish secretion. It might be a result of the appearance of old blood left inside the woman’s uterus from her last period. In cases when some menstrual blood remains in the body, it dries and appears over time as brown discharge.
9 Most Common Questions about Brown Discharge
Here I will answer you the 9 most frequently asked questions about the appearance of brown discharge (brown period blood) you can be interested in. Let’s see.
Q1: Why Is My Period Bloody-Brown?
What is the reason to notice brown discharge in the first place? Your period blood is usually red, but brown color can occur when a little amount of blood from old endometrial tissue mixes in with your normal discharge. The brown color is connected with that old blood. Fresh blood is red or pink, but when it begins to dry it gets brown.
Q2: Why Is My Discharge Brown?
There are 7 possible reasons why your discharge can turn brown:
- Ovulation: Sometimes, when an egg is released during ovulation, a little bleeding can occur. This blood will mix in with your normal vaginal mucus, and you can notice a light or even a dark brown discharge.
- Endometrial tissue:In some cases, brown discharge is just old tissue that didn’t pass during your last period. Sometimes this tissue has remained in the uterus for a while and get dry which leads to a color change.
- Perimenopause: Just before menopause, your hormone levels rapidly change. There is no reason for you to worry because during this period it’s not uncommon for women to see brown, pink or even yellow discharge.
- Birth control: It can cause irregular periods and brown spotting or discharge from time to time, especially when you begin to use pills.
- Pregnancy: For some women, it is possible that implantation causes brown discharge. But, be careful. It can also be a signal that you have a problem with the placenta.
- Miscarriage:During the early stages of a miscarriage some women can see dark brown discharge. In any case, if you are pregnant, you should visit your doctor when you see such a change.
- Disease: Certain diseases such as bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), cervical cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases (STD), can cause your discharge to turn brown.
As you can see, in most cases, brown-colored discharge is nothing to worry about. It is different if you are pregnant and notice a foul-smelling brown discharge or a higher amount of fluid. It is always a reason for concern, and you should talk to your doctor immediately to make sure that you and your baby are well and healthy.
Q3: Brown Discharge Before Period – What Does It Mean?
Brown discharge before a period is not common, but it is possible to happen. There are few reasons for this including:
- In some cases, it is possible that your uterus tries to get rid of old tissue a week or two before your period.
- You may be pregnant. Sometimes dark brown discharge can be one of the first signs of pregnancy that women notice. If you expect your period, but all you can see is dark brown discharge, you are probably pregnant. Consider taking an at-home pregnancy test or seeing your doctor.
- If you know for sure that you are not pregnant and discharge passes in a day or two, there is likely nothing to worry about. If it doesn’t, visit your doctor to do tests on a bacterial infection or an STD.
Q4: Brown Discharge After Period – Is It Normal?
It can be pretty normal if you notice brown menstrual blood or discharge right after your period. It’s just the old tissue that may have been left in the uterus for a few days. As I have already mentioned, the discharge looks brown because the blood has aged.
Unfortunately, brown vaginal fluid can also be a sign of something serious such as:
- Implantation bleeding
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Severe yeast infection
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Cervical cancer
Because of the timing, it’s highly unlikely that the brown-colored discharge you can see is implantation bleeding. If it occurs right at the end of your period, your body has yet to ovulate, so implantation (or fertilization) could not have happened yet.
If you see this discharge shortly after you expect to be ovulating, then it may very well have been caused by implantation. But, you have to wait until your next period to take a pregnancy test.
Q5: Why Do I Have Brown Discharge Instead of Period Blood?
If you expect your period, but only brown discharge occurs, it’s perfectly natural to be concerned. Several things could cause this:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Women with this hormonal disorder may have prolonged or infrequent menstrual periods or so-called anovulation when the ovaries fail to release eggs because they develop small follicles instead regularly ones. As a result, they have brown-colored discharge instead of the usual period.
- Pregnancy: Implantation can cause light bleeding which sometimes 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 begin even though it’s 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 doesn’t start, you should take a pregnancy test. If the test is negative, talk to your doctor right away to make sure you don’t have an infection or a sexually transmitted disease.
Q6: Is It Normal That Birth Control Causes Brown Discharge?
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 are on birth control. Although it’s entirely usual, you should talk to your doctor. You may need to change your birth control or to check another possible underlying issue.
Q7: Why Do I Have Brown Discharge After Sex?
It’s not worrying to see discharge after having sex. Sometimes, a little bit of blood can mix in with the regular fluid. When you are aroused, the body produces more fluid to keep the vagina lubricated and to assist the sperm making its way up to the egg.
You might also see some discharge around the time of ovulation. If bleeding occurs when the egg is released, it may appear brown. There is also a possibility to experience slight bleeding after rough intercourse, which can cause your discharge to turn brown.
Q8: What Causes Brown Gooey Discharge?
Brown mucus discharge can occur for a numerous of reasons.
- It might be a sign of ovulation.
- If you are in the third trimester of your pregnancy, it can be an early sign of labor. In fact, many women experience brown mucus during the third trimester of pregnancy.
- A low-lying placenta and placenta that wholly or partially separate from the uterus may cause brown, gooey mucus.
- Brown gooey discharge may be a sign of a hormonal imbalance caused by your diet, birth control or stress.
- Gooey mucus might be a sign of an STD as well.
Every gooey or stringy brown discharge is a reason to see your doctor.
Q9: Is Brown Spotting a Sign of Pregnancy?
Dark brown vaginal spotting can be an early sign of pregnancy. When a fertilized egg implants itself into the uterine wall, some bleeding might occur, and you can notice brown spotting or dark vaginal discharge.
5 Causes of Brown Discharge
As you have already noticed, the appearance of brown discharge can mean a lot of things. Many reasons for this type of discharge are harmless. You are maybe pregnant but maybe not. You may just conceive, but you are not sure yet. If you are in your mid-40s, there is a chance you have been going through perimenopause.
If there is one of these explanations, you don’t need to worry. Otherwise, if you can’t detect the cause of brown discharge, contact your doctor. It is essential that he reveals the possible unpleasant reason for this discharge in time.
Perimenopause is a period when your body prepares for menopause while the level of estrogen gets lower. The reproductive cycle gradually slows down, and the average woman will reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55.
Many studies show that perimenopause usually starts at 33 years of age, but it’s possible that some women go into menopause as early as in their 30s. On the other hand, there are rare cases when women stave off menopause until they reach their 60s. Every woman is unique, and no one can tell you with 100% certainty when you will go through menopause.
In the beginning, the estrogen level tapers off slowly, but during the last two years of perimenopause, it will decrease faster. This period lasts four years on average, but some women will be at this stage for up to ten years. You can be sure that you are in menopause if you haven’t had a period for twelve months.
2. Late Period
There is a chance that you will still have your period even though you notice a brown discharge. Late periods are not unusual, and sometimes your body may use this time to begin to expel uterine tissue leftover from your last period. It can take a day or two before the regular period starts. If you believe you might be pregnant, consult your doctor, or take a pregnancy test to confirm.
3. Birth Control
If the brown discharge appears after you start to use birth control, there are chances that your body tries to adapt to the changes pills can cause. Be prepared that hormone levels will change and sometimes they can provoke symptoms similar to those in menopause. I should say here that condoms won’t cause brown discharge.
There is also a chance that you have some brown blood which has remained from the previous period. If hormone levels haven’t had enough time to adjust when you start taking the pills, the brown discharge will appear.
4. PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)
PID is an infection that affects the women’s reproductive organs, and it occurs when bacteria expands to your vagina, uterus, and finally through fallopian tubes to ovaries.
Symptoms usually miss, but you will detect the problem later when you have trouble getting pregnant. PID is the main reason for women being infertile, and over one million women in the U.S. suffer from this infection every year. One in ten of these women will become infertile.
The primary causes of this type of infection are Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (75-90% of all cases). They make women’s cervix weaker, and bacteria pass through it and lead to PID.
Apart from infertility, the consequences of PID are a miscarriage, permanent reproductive system damage, green or yellow discharge, pain when urinating, vomiting, and a dull ache in the lower abdomen. Sometimes brown discharge occurs, but it is less frequent.
5. Implantation Bleeding
Are you trying to get pregnant? Have you had unprotected sex recently? Do you have brown discharge instead of a period? If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, there is a real chance that you have just conceived, but may not know it yet.
Implantation bleeding occurs in one of three women when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining. It is very often a cause of the brown discharge. If it’s your case, congratulations! You are pregnant.
You should take a pregnancy test to confirm your pregnancy, but be prepared that sometimes the first test can be false. Your body needs to produce a certain level of hormones to make the test positive. Unfortunately, if you are in your mid-40s, the likelihood that this discharge is due to perimenopause is more likely.
Brown Discharge During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is an extraordinary period in every woman’s life, and here I would like to describe all the changes that could appear in each trimester. My primary intention is to give you answers to all the questions that will arise. Don’t let some possibly harmless discharging upset you in any possible way.
When a pregnant woman notices unusual brown vaginal mucus, the first question is if she should call the doctor, or it’s just one more symptom of pregnancy. Let’s take a look.
Brown Discharge in the First Trimester
Seeing bloody-brown discharge in the first trimester of pregnancy can be especially concerning because it can be a sign of a miscarriage. Fortunately, in most cases, this type of discharge is nothing to be worried about. Various things can cause it early in a pregnancy.
When a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall, it often causes light spotting because of the old blood which takes some time to leave the body. Well, the cervix is extra sensitive during pregnancy, and every slight irritation from intercourse or an examination can cause spotting. If it mixes with your normal discharge, the brown discharge will occur. In a case that the secretion continues or the flow of blood gets heavier, you should call your doctor or the healthcare advisor right away.
Brown Discharge in the Second Trimester
Spotting is pretty standard throughout pregnancy, and it’s harmless to both you and your baby. Very often in this period of your pregnancy, brown discharge appears as a result of irritation of the cervix. Every routine pregnancy examination and intercourse can irritate it, and consequently, you will notice light bleeding. That means that your blood mixes with your natural discharge, creating brown-colored secretion.
While usually harmless, brown discharge may also be the severe indication of an infection that requires prompt treatment.
Yeast Infection: This type of disease is widespread during pregnancy. It can cause changes in your normal discharge. Except for a thick discharge that looks like cottage cheese, symptoms include redness, itching, and burning. You will probably suffer painful urination and aching intercourse as well. If you experience any of the symptoms above, visit your doctor right away to find the best treatment options.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD): Unfortunately, pregnancy doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections. If you or your partner have had unprotected sex with different partners, you should get tested immediately and ask your doctor for the appropriate treatment as soon as possible.
I believe that, if you notice foul-smelling discharge which is green or yellow or, in the worse case, looks like pus, you already know that something is very wrong. If you suffer more symptoms such as burning during urination or inflamed labia, there is no doubt that this is STD. Given that STD severely affects the fetus’ health, and can be the cause of many problems, it is crucial to seek treatment as soon as possible.
Brown Discharge in the Third Trimester
Brown discharge in the third trimester of pregnancy is nothing unusual, but future moms are always worried when they see these kinds of changes. Just like in the first and second trimester, brown-colored discharge can be the result of cervix’s irritation. Examinations and intercourse still can cause light spotting in brown color. The difference is that this type of discharge can also be a sign that you are about to go into labor.
Well, a few days before labor, you will lose your mucus plug which seals your cervix during pregnancy to protect your baby. At the moment when you lose it, you may experience a brown, bright red or pink mucus-like secretion known as ‘the bloody show’. It is actually a slang term that describes bleeding before your delivery. It can be different colors depending on your body.
The fact that you lose your mucus plug means that your cervix begins to be softer and prepares for your recent delivery. Consequential ‘bloody show’ is a sign that the blood vessels in your uterus begin to rupture and dilate. Once you experience this phenomenon, you will likely go into labor within the next few days.
When Is Time to See Your Gynecologist?
Although experiencing brown discharge is usually not a reason for concern, there are cases when other symptoms in combination with this type of secretion indicate the existence of more serious problems. You should be worried about your discharge if:
- You are pregnant, and brown-colored bleeding occurs. It 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 seven days.
- You haven’t had a period for three to six months.
- You have a high fever, which can indicate that you have an infection, including PID.
- Brown discharge has just begun after the insertion of an intrauterine device.
- You have breast cancer and take tamoxifen.
- Abnormal hair growth can be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome. Except for brown discharge and hair growth, you may notice sudden obesity, acne, and irregular cycles.
- Cramps and abdominal pain are present. This combination is very often the sign of an STD.
- Burning sensation when urinating. Women that suffer from pain while they urinate may also have an STD. Usually harmless, brown discharge caused by PID is always a reason for concern. Seek medical treatment immediately and avoid possible permanent infertility.
In the worse case, you can see signs of complications such as ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, issues with the placenta, or uterine infection. All of them represent very severe medical problems, and you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for medical treatment. Please, pay attention to:
- Blood when it’s not your period, especially if it turns red or gray
- Cramping and back pain
- Uterine contractions
- Discomfort, itching, odor, and rash
- Vaginal burning while urinating
- Cottage cheese-like discharge
Take care of yourself. Always keep in mind that it is the only way to protect your baby too.