An Introduction to Brown Vaginal Discharge
Vaginal discharge is a very normal thing (in small amounts), and not usually a cause for concern. The quantity and colour of it can vary throughout your menstrual cycle.
The most common time for brown discharge is at the end, or right after your period. It’s basically old blood that has been exposed to air, which is why it no longer looks bright red.
According to Dr. Christine Greves from Winner Palmer Hospital, it’s usually just the result of a little bit of bleeding. Or, as Dr. Jessica Shepherd puts it, brown discharge around your period may just be that your period isn’t flowing heavily and it has lots of time to mix with oxygen.
That said, there are other reasons why a woman may have brown discharge, including between periods, and it can signal a menstrual disorder. Keep on reading to learn more about these reasons why you may experience this and to understand some of the treatments for them.
Reasons for Brown Vaginal Discharge After Period
- Old blood
- Spotting around ovulation
- Reaction to a Pap Smear or sex
- Pregnancy (implantation bleeding)
- Vaginal dryness
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
- Sexually transmitted infection
- Foreign object in vagina
- Cervical Cancer
- Uterine fibroids or polyps
- Hormonal birth control
- Blood thinners
- Problem with thyroid
- Bacterial Vaginosis
- Delayed, or Partial Period
Keep on reading for more details about each of these reasons why you may have unusual discharge throughout your menstrual cycle.
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Causes of Brown Discharge after Period has Finished
There are various reasons why you may have brown discharge. Many of them are not so serious, but some are. Remember to check with your doctor if you notice any changes in your cycle, or something just seems not quite right.
Read more about them below:
#1: Old Menstrual Fluid
As already mentioned, the most common cause of brown discharge after period is old blood that is still leaving your body when the cells of the uterine lining are shed. Perhaps your period was just slower than normal this month for some reason?
Rest assured, this is quite a normal thing and not really a reason to see your healthcare provider. This is of course if this is your normal state of affairs! It doesn’t mean that anything is up with your health if this is what you always have.
However, if you usually just have bright red blood at the beginning, and darker red at the end of your period, but you suddenly start having brown discharge? Something might be up and you should check in with your doctor.
It’s always a good idea to check in with a medical professional for any changes to your cycle.
#2: Ovulation Spotting
Some women experience spotting in the middle of their cycle when they’re ovulating. If often appears pinkish-brown.
The cause of this is mostly unknown, but one theory is that it’s due to the surface of the ovary stretching. Another is that the follicle rupturing in the ovary can irritate the abdominal lining.
Along with this, you may experience slight cramping or pain on one side of your lower abdomen, on whatever side the egg is being released from.
#3: Reaction to a Pap Test
Sometimes a vaginal exam can irritate the vagina or cervix and cause some brown discharge.
#4: A Reaction to Vigorous Sex
Sex can cause some irritation to the cervix or vagina. When this occurs, it can lead to discharge.
“I have brown discharge instead of period, could I be pregnant?” It may be wishful thinking if you’re trying to have a baby!
Some women have pink or brown discharge before a normal period time during the early stages of pregnancy. It happens because of the implantation of the fertilized egg into the uterus, and is commonly known as implantation spotting or implantation bleeding. This doesn’t happen to everyone, but it is possible.
Although pinkish-brown discharge does sometimes occur in the early stages of pregnancy because of the fertilized egg attaching to the walls of your uterus, it’s not really a sign that you are pregnant. Take a pregnancy test to be certain.
If you suspect that you might be pregnant and have brown spotting, you should see a medical doctor. It can also be a sign of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
- Hot flashes or night sweats
- Weight gain
- Trouble sleeping
- Increased PMS or cramps
- Irregular periods
- Longer periods
- Missed periods
- Heavy periods
Because the reproductive hormones are fluctuating, just about anything can happen to your period. This can include bleeding at abnormal times, spotting at unusual times of your cycle, brown discharge, etc.
However, as you get closer to menopause, periods will become further apart, until they eventually stop.
#7: A Dry Vagina
If you’re heading into menopause, you may find that you have increased dryness. This is due to a change in hormonal levels, especially a reduction in estrogen.
This can cause the vagina (or the uterine lining) to become itchy, dry and irritated, which can lead to some discharge.
#8: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
This is an infection of the cervix that can cause brown spotting. It is also accompanied by pain in the pelvis or vagina, fever, and smelly discharge. PID is most often cause by untreated STI’s.
It can be treated easily with antibiotics, so please see a medical professional.
One symptom of Gonorrhea and Chlamydia is brown discharge, although it’s more likely to be green/yellow. Some other things you may notice are pain during urinating, and sex, as well as discharge that smells bad.
#10: A Foreign Object in the Vagina
Discharge can result from things being left in the vagina. Some examples include:
- vaginal contraceptive sponges
- contraceptive rings
#11: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
This syndrome is characterized by irregular, light bleeding which may at times seem more like brown discharge. You’ll also see other symptoms such as excessive facial hair, acne, or weight gain. In addition, your fertility may be affected by PCOS.
Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue that normally grows in the uterus is found outside of it. It’s often painful, and related to the menstrual cycle.
There are a number of symptoms including abdominal pain, but one of them can be brown discharge before, or after your period.
Although there is no real cure, this condition is manageable to please consult wiht
Learn more here: Everything you Need to Know about Endometriosis.
#13: Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is rare, so your brown discharge likely isn’t related to this. However, it is one possible symptom.
#14: Ovarian Cancer
Bloody, heavy, or bad discharge can be a sign of an infection. However, it can also be a sign of some cancers, including ovarian.
#15: Uterine Fibroids or Polyps
Another possible cause for brown spotting is uterine fibroids. This condition is relatively common, and many people will develop them at some point during their reproductive years.
They’re basically non-cancerous growths in the uterus that can range in size from microscopic to ones weighing several kilograms.
Causes of uterine fibroids are unknown, but it is related to estrogen. This means that people who get them will probably continue to do so until they reach menopause.
Some of the symptoms of this condition include heavy menstrual bleeding, spotting (may resemble brown discharge mid-cycle), pelvic pressure or pain, and back or leg pain.
#16: Hormonal Birth Control
Have you recently changed your birth control (pills, IUD, etc), or taken something like the morning after pill? If you have, you may notice some brown discharge, or spotting between periods.
High amounts of stress, for a prolonged period of time can do all sorts of things to your cycle. Your body goes into crisis mode, and things like production of reproductive hormones may not happen as they should.
#18: Blood Thinners
If you’re on blood thinners such as Warfarin, you may experience spotting that resembles brown discharge between periods. It’s probably not related to your monthly flow, but bleeding that is happening due to this medication.
#19: A Problem with your Thyroid
The most common reason for spotting between periods is a hormonal imbalance. One thing that can cause this is a problem with the thyroid, namely hypothyroidism.
#20: Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Another possible cause of brown discharge after a period is because you have bacterial vaginosis. This type of discharge from BV is usually greyish-white, but it can be brown at the end of your period when it’s mixed with menstrual fluid.
The #1 sign of BV is discharge that has a fishy odour to it. Please see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
#21: Delayed or Partial Period
If you notice brown discharge around the time you’d normally have your period, you may have a delayed, or partial period.
One possible reason why you may have brown discharge when not on period is because of Vulvovaginitis. It’s an infection of the vulva and vagina, and you may also hear it referred to as vulvitis or vaginitis.
This happens when the urethra (the tube that carries urine) becomes irritated or infected. In women, it can be accompanied by abnormal discharge.
This happens when the cervix becomes inflamed, as a result of an STI, allergy, or chemicals found in tampons. It can lead to unusual discharge.
Brown Discharge Before Period
Okay, so you have brown discharge before your period. What’s the deal with that?
Brown discharge between periods is usually not a cause for concern, and is often just some old menstrual fluid. Here are some of the most common causes of brown discharge before menstruation:
- It may be the start of your period, but the flow is very light and may resemble spotting.
- It could be a reaction to a pap test.
- You may have some discharge when ovulating.
- It could be a reaction to sex.
However, it’s more common to have white discharge before your period due to a spike in the hormone progesterone during the luteal phase of your cycle.
That said, brown discharge right before your period isn’t so uncommon, and it’s not usually anything to worry about.
Discharge, but No Period
So you have some brown discharge going on, but it’s not time for your period. Many of the causes and treatments are the same as brown discharge before, or after your period.
Please refer to the previous section for possible reasons why you may be experiencing brown discharge but no period. And of course, check in with your doctor for the best possible diagnosis and treatment available to you.
Why do I have this Instead of My Period
Okay, so it’s the regular time when you should have your period, but instead, you just have some brown discharge. What’s going on, and is this a cause for concern? Let’s find out.
Are you Pregnant?
If you notice some brown discharge but no period around the time you might expect it, you could be pregnant. Some spotting is often a sign of implantation. So, if you were spotting, and happened to have some discharge at the same time, you could think of it as brown discharge.
Are you Approaching Menopause?
If you’re a woman in your late 30’s or 40’s, then you might be in perimenopause (the years before menopause). Periods can be quite irregular during this time, and one thing that can happen is that you have spotting, instead of full-blown periods.
It may appear brown and be mixed with normal discharge.
Is your Period Late?
One of the possible reasons why you may have brown discharge instead of your period is that it may just be late. This can happen for various reasons, including stress, or changes to the type of birth control you use.
At your regular period time, your body may begin expelling the uterine tissue that was leftover from the previous month, hence the brown discharge.
Have you Changed Birth Control Methods?
The reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone are responsible for your cycle. Hormonal birth control alters these things.
So, if you’re started a new one, it may take your body some time to adjust, and you may not have regular periods at first. The same thing can happen if you stop taking birth control as well.
Check in With your Doctor about Brown Discharge Instead of Period
If you have brown fluid that is more like spotting instead of your regular period, check in with your doctor.
What about During my Period?
If you have some brown discharge during your period, it’s most likely going to be at the end of it. This is because the blood has oxidized and old, in which case it can appear to be brown.
Is it normal for your period to be brown? Yes! The color typically changes from bright red at the beginning to darker red or brown at the end.
It can vary considerably from person to person, and what your friend of family member experiences may be different from you.
Another thing to consider is if you’re on birth control. In particular, Nexplanon can cause brown discharge during your period, or even between periods.
Should I see My Doctor?
Brown discharge after period doesn’t necessarily require a visit to your doctor, particularly if it’s just at the end of your period. That said, you should visit your doctor if it:
- Has continued for several weeks
- Happens after sex quite often
- Has a bad smell
- Is accompanied by itching, pain or cramping
- You have a heavy period along with it
- There’s also a rash
- You have bleeding or pain during or after sex
- There is bleeding between periods
- You notice any sort of unusual spotting that lasts for more than 1-2 cycles
- It’s an abnormal color
It can be helpful to track and note when it happens during your cycle, and what else is going on at that time. This information will help your doctor give you an accurate diagnosis, and they’ll be able to give you the best advice about what to do.
I Have Black Discharge
Does your discharge actually appear more black than brown? It’s not that common but it does indeed happen. You can learn more about it here:
Track your Menstrual Cycle
If you’re experiencing any sort of unusual or irregular bleeding during your cycle, it’s a good idea to keep track of it. Information like this will help your doctor diagnose any sort of irregularities that you have going on with your cycle.
A simple way is to use your phone calendar. You could write down:
- When you start your period
- How many days your period lasts
- How heavy your flow was
- Any spotting, or discharge
- When your next period starts
- Other things you notice, particularly things that are unusual for you
However, if something just isn’t quite right, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. We mean that you shouldn’t wait to track your period until visiting your doctor. They’ll be able to help you out even if you don’t have a clear record of timing.
Light Period Brown Blood: What Does this Mean?
Instead of a regular period, this month you have a light period with brown menstrual fluid. Is this okay? Or, is it a sign of a more serious problem?
Find out all the details here: Light Period with Brown Blood.
I have Discharge, but It’s Not Brown
Do you have some vaginal discharge going on, but it’s not brown? Not to worry, there are lots of other colours you might have! Here are some of the most common discharge colours, as well as reasons why you might experience that. What type do you have, and what does it mean?
Clear and Stretchy Discharge
It’s healthy and normal and nothing to worry about. It’s usually just a sign that you’ve ovulating. Learn more here:
This type of discharge can sometimes be normal. But, it’s not if it’s thick, chunky, or has a bad smell to it. See your doctor if this is the case.
You may also experience yellow discharge during pregnancy. Rest assured, this is also a normal thing and usually not a big deal.
This is usually a sign of an infection and you’ll need to see your doctor.
Thick, White and Cheesy
This usually indicates a yeast infection and you should see your doctor. You can find out all the details here: Yeast Infections 101.
White, Grey or Yellow and a Fishy Odour
Discharge of this variety usually indicates Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). Treatment is a simple course of pills, so please see your doctor.
Discharge that Happens Every Day
If you have discharge almost every day, it may be your bodies way of keeping your vagina clean and healthy. It could also be a sign of an infection, an STI or some other more serious problem. Check in with your doctor, or check out this information:
Learn More about Vaginal Discharge Colours
Brown, Clumpy Discharge and Itching or Burning
Do you have brown discharge that’s also clumpy and may be accompanied by itching or burning? You may have aa infection, and it could also be around your period.
The most common symptoms of a yeast infection include discharge has a cottage-cheese like consistency. It doesn’t smell bad, but you’ll also have some itching going on.
Learn more about it here:
Brown Smelly Discharge
Okay, so you’ve got some discharge going on and you’re wondering what’s up with that? There are a number of reasons why this might happen (learn more here: How to Get Rid of Smelly Discharge).
However, one of the most common reasons for a foul-smelling discharge is bacterial vaginosis, which is also known as BV. The discharge is usually grey-white and smells fishy. But, if it’s mixed with some menstrual fluid, it may appear to be brown, pink or red.
BV needs to be treated by a doctor, so please book an appointment.
How to Maintain Good Vaginal Health
If you want to prevent problems with infections or vaginal discharge, there are a number of things you can do to maintain optimal vaginal health. Some of them include the following:
#1: Let it Breathe
Your vagina loves air! Wear breathable cotton underwear instead of things like nylon or polyester which don’t breathe as well.
Also consider going commando at night under your PJs.
Avoid tight fitting leggings or pantyhose and be sure to change out of damp clothes after a workout.
#2: Good Sexual Practices
Use condoms to avoid STI’s with new, or casual partners. Also be sure to get regular STI checks, especially if you have multiple partners.
If you use lube, be sure to avoid any of them that are petroleum based (Vaseline for example). These are a breeding ground for bacteria.
Finally, if you’re being treated for an infection of some kind, refrain for sexual intercourse until your treatment is done. Check in with a medical professional for the best advice related to your specific situation though.
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#3: Avoid Douching
Douching is not recommended for a number of reasons but the main one is that it can throw off the pH balance of your vagina and lead to an increase in infections.
If you want to freshen up after sex, or during your period, then spray the area off with plain, old water and that’s it!
#4: Use Antibiotics Sparingly
Antibiotics do a great job at killing all the bad bacteria, but they also kill off the good bacteria as well, including the ones in your vagina.
Only use them when you absolutely have to.
And, if you are taking antibiotics (or other course of treatment) for a vaginal infection, be sure to finish the entire course of them. This is true even if it starts to clear up and appears better. There may be some of the bad bacteria still lurking around!
#5: Consider Switching to a Menstrual Cup
You may not know this but many of the leading brands of tampons contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals in them. Some people with sensitive skin may be allergic to them and can experience infections, or irritation as a result of this.
Consider making the switch to organic tampons, or a period cup to see if you notice a difference.
#6: Good Hygiene
Take regular showers to maintain optimal vaginal health. Be sure to NOT use soaps or body washes around your vaginal area though. Plain water will do the trick.
Towel dry the area gently when you’re done.
When you’re on your period, be sure to change your tampons and pads frequently enough. Or, if you use a menstrual cup, make sure to take it out, and clean it well every 12 hours (maximum).
#7: Wipe from Front to Back
After using the bathroom, be sure to wipe from front to back instead of the other way around. This will help to prevent fecal matter from getting into your vagina.
#8: Avoid Tight Fitting Clothes
Things like leggings, pantyhose and tight cycling shorts can trap the heat and moisture in, exactly what you want to avoid for optimum vaginal health. This is especially true if you have live in a hot, humid environment.
#9: Don’t Itch!
Vaginal infections can sometimes cause intense itching. Resist the urge to scratch because this will make it worse.
#10: Good Overall Health
Your body can fight off any sort of infection better when it’s healthy. Be sure to get adequate sleep, eat lots of fruits and veggies, as well as drink enough water.
#11: Consider Switching to a Menstrual Cup
If you frequently experience unusual discharge, you may want to consider switching from tampons to a menstrual cup.
Many of the leading tampon brands contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals in them, which come from the pesticides used on the cotton, as well as from the bleaching process. This can cause some serious irritation for some people with sensitive skin or allergies.
Consider making the switch to a menstrual cup like the Lena Cup. There are a number of advantages to them:
- They don’t contain toxic chemicals in them
- Menstrual cups are much better for the environment (a handful of them over a lifetime vs thousands of tampons)
- 10x cheaper than tampons
- They can hold 3-4x the amount of menstrual fluid
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#12: Consider Taking Probiotics
Many people consider probiotics to be kind of the miracle cure to all things yeast infections (and good overall health as well). For example, yogurt contains Lactobacillus acidophilus which is known to foster the growth of good bacteria in your vagina.
#13: Avoid Hot Tubs and Extra Hot Baths
Remember that all sorts of bad bacteria love hot tubs and extra hot baths. If you’re prone to vaginal infections, be sure to avoid these things. Instead, just take a quick shower.
How to Deal with Vaginal Discharge?
If you have some discharge going on, there are a couple of options for dealing with it. The first is disposable pantyliners, and the second is reusable cloth pantyliners.
We’ll give you the rundown on each of them.
Here’s something you may not know. It’s that many of the leading brands of disposables contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals in them. They mostly come from the bleaching process, as well as the pesticides used on the cotton.
Exposure to this stuff can add up over time and possibly lead to some unwanted health effects. You may also find that it can cause some irritation if you have allergies or sensitive skin.
It’s for these reasons that we recommend organic pantyliners. You’ll have a toxin free experience, plus they’re not made from plastic. Reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals while saving the Earth at the same time!
Here are a few of our favourite options:
Reusable Cloth Pantyliners
The next option you may want to consider for dealing with vaginal discharge are reusable pantyliners. There are a few reasons why you may want to consider this:
- Better for the environment—reduce your plastic waste, these things can be used for 5-10 years
- Better for your health—reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals
- Save money—hundreds of dollars over a lifetime
- Can work well for people with sensitive skin or allergies when compared to disposable panty liners.
Here are some of the top picks for reusable cloth panty liners:
The final option you may want to consider to deal with discharge issues is menstrual underwear. They’re quite similar to regular underwear, but they have a leak proof layer to prevent leaking. Some of them also contain absorbent padding if you have a large amount of fluid to deal with.
Many people with sensitive skin or allergies may find them more comfortable than disposable pantyliners to deal with vaginal discharge.
Have your Say about Brown Discharge After Period has Finished!
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Reference: Medical News Today
Last update on 2019-02-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API