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Is it normal to have brown discharge?

Although it may look daunting, brown vaginal discharge is usually nothing to worry about. Sometimes your period can leave some traces of blood behind in your vagina that later get carried out by your daily 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. As long as your discharge isn’t carrying a strong, bad odour, you most likely have nothing to worry about.

When am I most likely to experience brown discharge?

You can experience brown discharge at any age, and at any time in your cycle. It’s more commonly experienced when you’re on a form of hormonal birth control, pregnant or sexually active. Even if any of these things aren’t relevant for you, you will probably still experience brown discharge at least once in your life, so don’t be alarmed when the time comes!

Is thick brown discharge after your period common?

Brown discharge, or brown spotting, can quite often occur after your period. It’ll usually last for roughly two days, but may come at any point throughout your cycle, for any duration of time. The consistency of your discharge could range from being thick and dark, to light and slightly discoloured, which can be a bit shocking to find! All of this is completely normal though and is just the remaining old blood that never completely left your uterus from a previous period. For more information, you can check out our article on spotting between periods to further put your mind at ease.

Brown discharge, no period?

The colour of your discharge can be linked to several factors. 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 just some of the types and causes of brown discharge you may experience every now and then:
 

1. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Discharge:

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.
 

2. Hormonal birth control discharge:

When on birth control 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. For more information, be sure to read out guide on how contraception can impact your period.
 

3. Perimenopause discharge:

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 [1]. 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.
 

4. Brown discharge during pregnancy:

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 more information on brown spotting during early pregnancy.
 

5. STI Discharge:

If you are experiencing visible brown discharge before your period, along with other symptoms, it 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.

Brown discharge: in summary

While brown discharge can come at unexpected times and you may not understand why, 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 can help you to feel more comfortable and supported, so brown discharge doesn’t get in the way of your day.

Medical disclaimer

The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, it 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.

References

[1] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/

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