One of the most concerning questions from women in reproductive years is seeking information about a brown vaginal discharge. While it can be a signal that something is wrong, in most cases it’s normal.
Before you call your physician, don’t panic. Educate yourself to learn what the discharge is, and what causes it. Once you read the information in this article, you’ll know what is happening to your body when you experience a brown vaginal discharge, and when you’ll want to give your physician a call.
Vaginal Discharge is Normal
Most vaginal discharge, light brown or otherwise, is normal and natural, and will go away on its own after a few days. Dark brown discharge, on the other hand, may be something more serious, and you should have it checked out.
Vaginal discharge itself is actually healthy for the body. It is made up of the excess fluid and mucus produced by the cervix and vaginal walls. Vaginal discharge is your body’s way of cleaning the area, and keeping a healthy environment in the vagina. This discharge will remove bacteria and dead skin cells from the area, and prevent infection.
Why the Brown Discharge?
Why would your body produce a brown discharge? Dark colors of vaginal discharge occur when old blood mixes in with normal discharge. Blood becomes brown as it ages, and becomes less oxygenated. Fresh blood is pink or red.
Some other reasons for brown vaginal discharge include:
• Endometrial Bleeding: This bleeding occurs when some uterine wall tissue was not dispelled in the menstrual cycle. It can occur before a cycle or after one ends. The blood is dark brown because it is old.
• Ovulation: At times, when the egg is released in the process of ovulation, some bleeding takes place. This mixes with your normal mucus from the vagina, and colors it light or even dark shades of brown.
• Pregnancy: When the egg implants in the uterine wall, this can cause a brown discharge. It may also be a signal that there is a problem with your placenta.
• Birth control: This can cause brown discharge or spotting, especially if your periods become irregular.
• Miscarriages: Some women see dark brown discharge in the earliest stages of miscarriage.
• Disease: Some diseases cause the normal discharge to become brown. They include cervical cancer, bacterial vaginosis and some other diseases that are transmitted sexually.
• Perimenopause: Prior to menopause, the hormone levels of your body change rapidly. It’s somewhat common to see yellow, brown or pink discharge in this time.
Why do you have a Dark Brown Discharge?
There are numerous reasons why you may have dark brown vaginal discharge. Most are not serious, as in pregnancy and ovulation. Some are serious, however, so if you have any doubts, have your physician reassure you.
• Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): This disease is serious, and will require a visit to your OB-Gyn specialist. It occurs due to infection in the vagina, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes or uterine lining. It can cause pain, and painful intercourse. In addition, if untreated, it can leave you infertile.
• Cervical Cancer: This is the most serious of diseases that are associated with dark brown vaginal discharge. It is spread through the human papilloma virus (HPV). Other symptoms of this disease may include fatigue, pelvic pain, leg pain, weight loss and loss of appetite.
Complications of a Brown Vaginal Discharge
A brown discharge may be accompanied by other symptoms. These are helpful in your physician’s diagnosis of what is causing the discharge. They include:
• Painful intercourse
• Vaginal area swelling
• Vaginal area pain
• A foul odor
If your brown discharge is accompanied by a foul-smelling odor, this is a reason for concern. Contact your physician right away.
If you are pregnant and notice a lot more fluid than usual, have your physician check you over, to ensure that your baby – and you – are healthy.
Why would you have a brown vaginal discharge instead of regular menstruation blood?
If it’s close to time for your period, but you only have a brown discharge, it could be normal, or it may be something you’ll want to speak with your physician about.
• Pregnancy: Implantation may cause lighter bleeding, which may be a light or dark brown discharge.
• Spotting: The spotting may be a sign that your period is about to start. You may see spotting or a blood-tinged brown discharge.
• Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): This is a common endocrine hormone condition in women. If you have this disease, you may also have anovulation, which means that your body does not release ova for three periods or longer. You may have just a brown discharge instead of a period.
If this discharge continues and you don’t have a period, take a home pregnancy test. If that is negative, consult with your physician to be sure that you have not gotten an infection or sexually transmitted disease.
Can you have a brown discharge after you have sex?
This is actually quite normal. A discharge after sex is common, and a bit of blood may be mixed in, giving it a brownish appearance.
When you become aroused, your body naturally produces more vaginal fluid, to keep it lubricated. It also assists the sperm in making its way to the egg. You may see more discharge at ovulation, and if it happens to occur when your egg has just been released, it can appear brown.
Dealing with a Brown Vaginal Discharge
The way you deal with a brown vaginal discharge depends largely on its cause. Some conditions like menopause and pregnancy don’t need treatment. They are natural body processes. Some causes of this discharge can be treated, in order that the discharge can be eliminated.
Give it Time
If your brown discharge is from a lingering or late period, the blood has oxidized, and you’ll just have to wait it out until it’s done.
Take Antibiotics if Prescribed
If your physician determines that your brown discharge is brought about by a bacterial infection or STD, he or she will give you a prescription for antibiotics. Take them until they are gone, even if you feel better sooner.
Maintain Good Hygiene
You may use good hygiene as relief from brown vaginal discharge. Wear loose-fitting clothing and cotton underwear. Change your pads or tampons frequently during your menstrual cycle. Avoid using douches to help in the prevention of infections. Practice safe sex, always.
Eat Healthy Foods
Drinking lots of water and eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet will be helpful in keeping your hormone levels steady and balanced. This can prevent the occurrence of brown vaginal discharge.
Preventing Brown Vaginal Discharge
You can help in preventing a brown discharge. Ask your physician for the proper medications if you have cervical cancer, uterine polyps, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) or STD’s.
Having the discharge diagnosed is as simple as a visit to your gynecologist. He or she can determine what is causing the issue, based on your answers to specific questions, or the use of a pelvic exam and other tests you may need.
When should you see a physician?
You should always seek out medical attention for brown vaginal discharge if:
• It lasts for over 3-4 days after the end of your period
• The brown flow does not stop between periods after a couple days
• You have irritation or itching as well
• You have abdominal pain