Help! I have brown stuff coming out of my vag! Is this normal?
We often get questions like this from alarmed readers. Of all the things women experience throughout their reproductive years, brown discharge always seems to be the most concerning.
While brown discharge, brown spotting, can be a sign that something’s wrong, it’s perfectly normal in most cases.
The first and most important thing is not to panic. The second is to educate yourself to better understand what this discharge is and what’s causing it. We’ll cover some of the most common questions about brown vaginal discharge, so you know what’s going on with your body and whether a visit with the doctor is warranted.
Table of Contents
- 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?
- Brown Discharge During Pregnancy
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.
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.
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