Is Brown Discharge Normal?
Although it may look daunting, brown vaginal discharge usually isn’t anything to worry about.
Brown discharge can come mid cycle, right before a period – even during a period! You might get light or thick brown discharge, and it can last any number of days.
‘Why is this?’, you ask. Well, brown discharge simply means any remaining blood from your previous period is leaving your uterus and being carried out by your regular discharge. So, it can happen at any stage of your cycle:
Brown discharge after period: the last remnants of your period are leaving your body, usually for about two days after you’ve bled.
Brown discharge between periods residual blood from the previous period can causing brown discharge and spotting between periods, especially if you had a late or delayed period. For this reason, it’s possible to see brown discharge 2 weeks after your period.
Brown discharge before period: (as above) before the start of a new period, any residual blood from the previous cycle must be shed, resulting in brown discharge when you’re due on your period.
Read on to find out what brown discharge consists of and some reasons you might have it, including what brown discharge means in pregnancy and when (along with other symptoms) brown discharge could signal concern.
Almost always, it’s normal to see discharge in your underwear – brown or otherwise! And it’s your choice whether you feel more comfortable using products to absorb discharge (or letting it flow!).
What is brown discharge?
It can be worrying if you are unsure what it is, but brown discharge is just vaginal mucus that is saturated in old blood. Since the blood may have stayed there for some time, it turns a darker colour, which explains the brown tinge to your discharge. If your discharge isn’t carrying a strong, bad odour, you most likely have nothing to worry about.
Like regular discharge, the brown kind varies in consistency and colour. But even brown discharge with ‘tissue-like’ pieces is just old blood that’s taken a while to come out. It might contain clots that contain tissue from the uterus lining. And again, no need to panic.
Brown discharge ‘instead of’ period?
As mentioned above, old blood and mucus is what brown discharge is made of. So, you might see brown blood and mucus leaving the uterus and coming out during your time of the month (when expecting red period blood) creating the impression of brown discharge but no period or brown period blood. You also have more tissue to shed some months than others, meaning all periods can look different.
While still getting used to discharge, or if you know you don’t love the feel of wetness in your knickers it can cause, you might like our period pants for all intimate fluids. From brown discharge to sweat and light drops of pee, these absorb the lot!
What does brown discharge mean for you?
The colour of your discharge can be linked to several factors. Although being completely normal, brown discharge (unless accompanied by other symptoms or lasting more than 3 days) is rarely linked to anything alarming or worth worrying about.
If you are worried, please talk to your doctor, or even just mention it to your mum, another female relative or a friend you trust. You’ll soon realise that everyone experiences brown discharge from time to time!
Here are some instances where brown discharge might be a sign of a medical condition or change in your body:
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS):
PCOS is an extremely common syndrome that affects the function of the ovaries. PCOS has multiple visual symptoms, one of which is brown discharge. Brown vaginal discharge, accompanied by other symptoms like unpredictable or irregular periods, excessive body hair or acne, may mean you should get checked by a medical professional for PCOS.
Hormonal birth control:
When on contraception that uses hormones such as the pill, the implant or IUD (intrauterine device such as the coil), your body goes through a process of becoming accustomed to the change in levels of hormones being produced. When changing or starting birth control, you may notice spotting or brown discharge for a brief period of time. Experiencing brown discharge through this hormonal change is completely normal as your body gets used to it, so try not to feel too concerned.
Perimenopause refers to the natural process of your body transitioning to menopause. The symptoms of perimenopause typically start a few months or even years before your periods stop and can continue for around four years afterwards . During this time, there may be changes within the consistency, colour and texture of your discharge as your menstrual cycle becomes more irregular, and eventually stops. If you think you may be going through it, we’ve got a good quick read on the perimenopause which may help you understand your symptoms.
During pregnancy, there are multiple reasons for brown vaginal discharge – one of those being implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding within the first 4 weeks isn’t unheard of, nor is it anything to worry about. It happens when an embryo attaches itself into the side of the uterus, causing little blood vessels to burst. Women usually notice this around 7 to 10 days after conception, and it’s often one of the first signs of pregnancy.
Although it may seem alarming, most of the time there is no reason to worry about bleeding or discharge during pregnancy. However, if you are concerned about any of your symptoms, please do get in contact with your doctor for further information.
Sexually Transmitted Infection:
Visible brown discharge before you start your period, along with other symptoms, could potentially be an indicator of an STI such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea. If you experience a burning sensation when peeing, strong smelling or discoloured discharge or pain during sex, please visit your local sexual health clinic. Please remember to discuss protection, as well as safe sex, with your partner.
While brown discharge after a period or at an unexpected time isn’t always the nicest, try not to worry too much. It’s natural for discharge to change colour and consistency throughout our cycles, and no two days will be the same! If you are concerned your discharge may be linked to any of the conditions above, always get in contact with your doctor to discuss further.
In the meantime, wearing a light liner or period pants that absorb fluids can help you to feel more comfortable and supported, so brown discharge doesn’t get in the way of your day.
The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.