What Is Brown Discharge? Causes, Signs and Brown Discharge During Pregnancy

Friday, May 12, 2023 - 14:01

The timing of the brown discharge is essential to track the reason behind it, as it can be indicative of other issues that should not be ignored. Let's try to understand what are its causes and when it is best to consult a doctor.

9 Causes of Brown Discharge?

Brown discharge can be a result of various factors such as age, sexual activity, use of birth control, menstruation, ovulation bleeding, infection or pregnancy. Paying attention to any discharge that you have and when you have it is essential to know the cause for it. Brown discharge is cervical mucus that contains "old" blood, which takes longer to leave your body. Here are 9 reasons why brown discharge occurs:

  1. Before and after your period: Sometimes, your period begins or ends with a few days of brownish discharge. It's perfectly normal and not disturbing at all. If you notice brown discharge before your period, then it can be either because you have low progesterone levels or because you started using a different method of birth control. Sometimes, in case you have got your period later than usual, you might observe a brown discharge rather than red.

    On the other hand, if you notice brown discharge after your period, it can be related to the fact that your vagina is evacuating remaining blood or old cells. It might also be due to an irritation that is causing bleeding, which turns brown before it gets out of the body.

  2. Brown discharge and ovulation: Pinkish or brown discharge may be a symptom of ovulation. At the beginning of your cycle, the level of oestrogen increases, leading to the development of your uterine wall. After ovulation, the level of progesterone increases, which results in the thickening of your uterine wall.

    Slight spotting at the time of ovulation may be due to your uterine wall, which has developed but not yet thickened; this is due to the increase in oestrogen levels, but not progesterone. Why does this happen - Stress, change in food or emotional unrest could be the probable reasons.

  3. Brown discharge during pregnancy: The increase of hormones in the body and blood flow to the cervix can lead to brown discharge during pregnancy. Brown discharge during pregnancy can be of concern to many women. You should know that about one in five women goes through this. Read more on the causes of brown discharge during pregnancy and how to deal with it below.

  4. Cervical irritation: Your cervix is ​​a small sensitive thing! Gynaecological examinations or even intense intercourse can lead to brown discharge.

  5. Hormonal changes and oral contraceptives: If your brown discharge is related to hormonal disturbances, you must find a balance. This may involve a change in your method of birth control or simply a change in your lifestyle or nutrition. Also, brown discharge can occur due to hormonal imbalance related to the use of oral contraceptives (pills). In certain cases, such as forgetting to take the pill, changing the pill or receiving an unsuitable hormonal dosage, the hormonal balance can get disturbed and lead to brown discharge.

  6. Ovarian cysts: An ovarian cyst is a small pocket of fluid that forms inside or on the ovary. Most of the time, it is mild; however, it can cause pain or a feeling of tightness, lower back pain, brown discharge and pain during intercourse or menstruation. Some ovarian cysts are asymptomatic. The only way to detect an ovarian cyst is to do an ultrasound.

  7. Perimenopause: If you are over the age of 45, brown discharge may be an early sign of menopause, especially if accompanied by mood swings or insomnia.

  8. Pelvic inflammatory disease: Pelvic inflammatory disease can cause brown discharge. PID disease is usually accompanied by abdominal pain, pain during intercourse, fever, odorous discharge and a burning sensation when you urinate.

  9. Cervical Cancer: Brown discharge due to cervical cancer is the most serious cause, but it is extremely rare. According to the National Cancer Institute in the United States, only 0.7% of women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. In this case, a brown discharge will not be the only symptom. It will often be accompanied by pain during intercourse and bleeding after intercourse, heavier and longer periods and bleeding between periods.

7 Alarming Signs of Brown Discharge

If you notice brown discharge, write the frequency down to check how often it occurs, and whether it occurs in a specific phase of your cycle or during/after a particular activity. Check if any of the following signs:

  1. Unpleasant odours

  2. Pain and itching in the area of the vagina and pelvis

  3. Abdominal pain

  4. High body temperature or fever

  5. Discharge during intercourse

  6. Dryness of the vagina

  7. Increased need for urination

The doctor will then perform a vaginal swab and will suggest a proper treatment depending on the results or will ask you to undergo more detailed check-ups.

Brown Discharge During Pregnancy

Pregnancy transforms your body in so many ways. From head to toe, the changes are amazing but also confusing. When it comes to brown vaginal discharge during pregnancy, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between what’s normal and what’s not. Let us clear your doubts about brown discharge and brownish spotting.

This flow of blood is usually during the first three months of pregnancy. While this brown discharge may occur early in pregnancy, it should not be interpreted as a sign that you are pregnant. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that nesting discharge exists. There are no universal symptoms of implantation, other than your menstrual symptoms. However, it is better to talk to your gynaecologist to rule out the possibility of a complication, especially if this brown discharge is accompanied by pain.

Causes of Brown Discharge During Pregnancy

Vaginal discharges increase as your baby belly increases, which is a sign that your pregnancy is going along smoothly, and your hormones are functioning properly. When you're pregnant, your body produces enormous quantities of a hormone called estrogen. As a matter of fact, you will produce more estrogen in one day than a non-pregnant woman does in 3 years.

This rise in estrogen levels is essential to increase the blood flow in your uterus and allow the transfer of nutrients to your baby. When more blood flows into your uterus, it stimulates your mucus membranes and causes the increased vaginal discharge. Here are different scenarios in which brown discharge can happen during pregnancy, some of which are alarming and require serious medical attention:

  • If you have reached the last month of pregnancy, having brown discharge can be a sign of approaching labour time.
  • If the brown discharge becomes persistent and is accompanied by severe pain in the lower abdomen, it can be a symptom of miscarriage, which is the loss of the fetus before the second trimester. If you are in doubt, it is advised to visit your doctor immediately.
  • Although unlikely, brown discharge can also result from an ectopic pregnancy. Be aware that this type of pregnancy is an urgent case; as it means the implantation did not happen in the right place and may cause severe bleeding.
  • Brown discharge may also be due to detachment of the egg. It is, therefore, crucial to exercise caution to avoid the risk of complications.

Dealing with Brown Vaginal Discharge

Brown discharge is, in most cases, normal and there is no treatment for it in particular. The best way of managing any vaginal discharge is by using panty liners daily.

Panty liners are designed to protect panties and make you feel clean and fresh down there every day. They come in different sizes and shapes and can help you feel more comfortable. Even during pregnancy, increased vaginal discharge is essential to keep you and your baby in perfect health. You can also wear panty liners to cope with pregnancy discharge.

Another recommendation is to shower daily using an intimate wash. The right intimate wash is pH balanced and specially designed for your intimate area, which helps keep you clean and fresh every day. Taking care of your intimate hygiene by using an intimate wash also helps prevent possible infections and some of the unpleasant odours that can be associated with vaginal discharge and pregnancy discharges.

When should you visit a doctor for brown discharge?

If brown discharge occurs for several weeks, regularly after intercourse or if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as vaginal irritation, strange odors or cramps, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor. Brown vaginal discharge in certain cases, however, might indicate health conditions that may require immediate medical attention. The doctor will then perform a vaginal swab and will suggest a proper treatment depending on the results or will ask you to undergo more detailed check-ups.