What Is Brown Discharge and Why Am I Getting It?
Many women experience a brown discharge at some point during their menstrual cycle. The color is usually attributed to an increase in blood flow, which can signal ovulation. When blood takes extra time to exit the body of the uterus, it comes in contact with oxygen which causes oxidation. This can cause it to appear light or dark brown in color.
But what does it mean if you experience brown discharge before period?
We will explore the causes and symptoms of this common occurrence and how it may be affecting your overall health.
Causes of Brown Discharge
At the most basic level, brown vaginal discharge is caused by increased blood flow to the vagina. There are several common causes:
Brown discharge is a common characteristic of the impending menstruation. The color is the result of blood that comes in contact with oxygen.
During the process of ovulation, old blood is pushed out to make room for fresh blood that carries nutrients to a developing egg cell. The dark blood may mix with cervical mucus, explaining the brown color. “Old” blood can also explain why so much of it comes out at once and in such a large quantity.
Many types of hormonal birth control, including the pill, IUDs, and Depo-Provera, can result in brown blood and breakthrough bleeding. This is a result of your body’s adaptation to the synthetic hormones that are present in these medications.
Brown vaginal discharge is a common symptom of pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. It can indicate that the embryo has been implanted in the uterine lining, which is necessary for pregnancy to occur.
Brown discharge is often experienced during perimenopause—the transitional period before menopause. This is due to hormonal fluctuations that are common in this stage of life and it is a sign of low estrogen..
Brown discharge can be a sign of implantation bleeding—the process in which the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining.
An infection in the vagina can result in brown vaginal discharge. This is often due to STDs or yeast infections, but it may also indicate bacterial vaginosis.
Sex is another common cause of the light brown discharge. Semen and precum contain prostaglandins, which can induce menstruation-like cramps and light bleeding in your uterus. It could also be a sign of cervical pathology.
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that typically affect women during their childbearing years. Fibroids can cause heavy menstrual periods and brown discharge.
Cases Where Brown Discharge Needs Treatment
Even though it is often harmless, brown discharge can sometimes indicate an underlying medical condition. This includes the following:
Early pregnancy loss
Brown discharge can be a sign of an early pregnancy loss or miscarriage, or ectopic pregnancy.. This is especially true if the discharge is accompanied by light brown spotting or cramping.
Sexually transmitted disease
If you are sexually active, brown vaginal discharge may result from an STD, especially if you also experience other symptoms. It is essential to get tested if exposed to an STD, especially chlamydia or gonorrhea.
Although rare, brown discharge can indicate uterine cancer. If you are over the age of 50 and have experienced heavy vaginal bleeding or pain with your periods for more than one year, you should see your doctor to get tested.
Potentially Serious Causes
1. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) refers to a bacterial infection that affects the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. PID is often the result of STDs or untreated infections in the vagina.
- Abdominal pain
- Brownish discharge
- Lower back pain
- Pain during intercourse
If you suspect that you may have Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, you must seek medical attention immediately.
2. Cervical Cancer
Although rare, a very dark brown discharge can indicate cervical cancer. Cervical cancer typically produces pinkish or very bloody vaginal discharge.
- Vaginal bleeding,
- Pain during intercourse and
- Unusual discharge that is brown or bloody
You must see your doctor if you think you may have cervical cancer because it can often be cured if detected early.
3. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
It’s a condition that affects the reproductive system.
- Irregular bleeding,
- Obesity, acne
- Excess hair on the face, chest, or stomach
- Fertility problems
If you think you may have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), it is essential to see your doctor for treatment options.
4. Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)
Brownish discharge can sometimes be the result of an STD, especially if other symptoms accompany it. Some STDs that are known to cause brown discharge include chlamydia and gonorrhea.
- Vaginal pain
- Burning or itching sensation in the vaginal area
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Pain during intercourse
All sexually active individuals should get tested regularly for STDs, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
Endometriosis is a very common condition that results from the uterine lining growing outside of the uterus.
- Pelvic pain
- Pain during intercourse
- Heavy or abnormal bleeding
If you think you may have endometriosis, it is essential to see your doctor for treatment options.
When to See a Doctor
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible:
- Vaginal pain
- Severe cramping during periods
- Heavier than normal bleeding during periods or between menstrual cycles
- Light brown spotting discharge after sex
- Excessive vaginal discharge that is accompanied by a foul odor.
- Bleeding after menopause
- Pain during sex or urination
Treatments for Brown Discharge
If you are experiencing brown discharge, your doctor may suggest one of the following treatments.
If you have a mild vaginal infection, your doctor may prescribe an over-the-counter medication to clear it up.
If you think you may have a more severe condition such as PID or cervical cancer, your doctor will likely perform tests to determine the underlying cause of the brown discharge.
In some cases, brown discharge can indicate a more serious condition. So, it’s essential to see your doctor immediately for treatment options.
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills are effective in treating vaginal conditions that result in brown discharge. However, you must consult with your doctor for personalized treatment options.
Is It Normal to Have Brown Discharge Mid Cycle?
Yes, it’s normal to have brown discharge mid-cycle. Sometimes you may notice brown discharge that’s heavier or lighter than usual. It is not always because of pregnancy. If the color of your period is very dark, you must see a doctor as an early diagnosis can save your life.
Can Stress Cause Brown Discharge?
Stress does not cause brown discharge. However, hormonal changes are often caused by stress. Some women develop irregular periods after experiencing some kind of stress.
Is Brown Discharge a Symptom of PCOS?
Yes, brown discharge can be a sign of PCOS. However, it is not the only sign of PCOS. Dark or thick menstrual blood, weight gain, and acne are also common symptoms of PCOS.