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You love your little black dress and your favorite pair of black heels, but when it comes to bodily fluids, black is the last color you want to see. What happens if your normally-clear discharge suddenly shows up black? Should you head straight for the emergency room?
Why Do I Have Black Vaginal Discharge? 9 Causes
For most women, discharge is typically clear or a creamy color. Black or reddish brown vaginal discharge can be especially concerning to see because it’s usually an indication that bleeding has occurred at some point. The darker the color, the older the blood.
What can turn your discharge black?
Implantation occurs between 6 and 12 days after an egg is fertilized, and for some women, is one of the first signs of pregnancy.
During this time, the egg attaches itself to the uterine wall. As the egg burrows, it can cause some bleeding. In most cases, only small amounts of blood are released, but even a tiny amount of blood can turn discharge black or red.
Spotting is most common after implantation, and the blood is typically pink. But if the blood takes a while to get through the body, it may mix with your discharge and appear black or very dark brown in color.
2. A Foreign Body
Sometimes, a foreign body is the cause of black discharge – and it’s usually accompanied by a pretty distinct smell.
The most common foreign body doctors find in vaginas is a forgotten tampon. When a tampon has been left in for too long, it can cause black or dark brown discharge. You will also notice a foul odor.
If a tampon has been left in long enough to cause black discharge, it will likely need to be removed by a doctor.
Along with dark discharge, you may also experience fever or toxic shock syndrome, a rare but serious complication.
3. Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is slow spreading, but if left undetected, it can metastasize to other organs in the body. Early on, this type of cancer rarely presents any symptoms, but when symptoms do appear, black discharge and a foul smell are possible.
4. End of Period
Towards the end of your period, you may notice some brown blood. Brown blood is old blood that has taken a while to move through the body.
Occasionally, old period blood may linger in the body long enough to mix with your normal discharge and turn it black in color.
If the discharge is appearing shortly after your period, then old menstrual blood may be the cause. But if the dark-colored discharge sticks around for more than a few days, something else is likely the cause.
5. Retained Menses
Although retained menses is not a common condition, it may be the cause of black discharge. Retained menses occurs when menstrual blood is trapped in the uterus and cannot exit the body.
The most common cause of retained menses is a hymen that fully (rather than partially) covers the vagina. When menstruation occurs, the blood cannot exit through the vagina.
6. Cervical Stenosis
In older women, cervical stenosis can cause black discharge. Cervical stenosis is the narrowing of the cervix, which can obstruct or drastically slow the flow of menstrual blood.
Other anatomical abnormalities can cause similar results. Most of these abnormalities are present at birth, and may not be treatable.
Blackish discharge may also be the result of a miscarriage, particularly if you’re seeing chunky vaginal discharge.
Miscarriage is a concern for every pregnant woman, but many women don’t even know they’re having a miscarriage because it occurs so early on in the pregnancy. In some cases, the loss of the pregnancy occurs around the same time the next period is expected.
Heavy, clotted bleeding may occur during a miscarriage. If everything goes smoothly, all of the products of conception are ejected from the body. But sometimes, they are retained. When this occurs, it is considered a missed abortion.
Missed abortions occur when dilation does not occur to allow all products of conception to be ejected. Eventually, they are released through a black bleed with a foul odor.
8. PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)
If the discharge has a foul odor, PID may be to blame. PID can cause black discharge or bleeding as well as painful urination, painful sex and in some cases, a fever.
PID is most commonly caused by a sexually transmitted infection, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia.
The condition is only classified as PID if it moves up into the fallopian tubes, uterus or ovaries.
When to See a Doctor
While black discharge may just be old blood being expelled from the body, there are times when it may be a sign of something more serious.
Any time you experience sudden changes to your discharge or period, you should discuss those changes with your doctor right away.
But if you experience any of the following, you should seek medical attention immediately:
- The black discharge is excessive
- The discharge lasts more than a few days
- Abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Itching or burning in the vaginal area
- The black discharge occurs after menopause
Typically, if the discharge occurs just before or after your period, it’s simply old blood that is being expelled from the body. But if the discharge appears between periods, it may be a sign of something more serious.
What to Do About Black Discharge
Is there anything you can do about the dark-colored discharge you’re seeing?
Black or very dark-colored discharge is a sign of bleeding. If it doesn’t coincide with your period, it is often a sign that something is wrong.
A doctor will be able to determine what is causing the dark discharge and what you can do about it.
There is no way to “treat” discharge, as this is a normal function of the vagina. But you can take steps to ensure that your reproductive system is healthy.
A healthy diet and lifestyle can help keep your reproductive system in tip top shape. Speak to your doctor or a nutritionist about finding a diet that will work for you.
Experts also recommend increasing your magnesium and calcium intake and adding the following foods to your diet:
- Sesame seeds
- Leafy green vegetables
Along with a healthy diet, you also want to make sure that you stay active. Exercise at least three times per week to keep your body in good shape. Also, make sure you’re spending time outdoors to get enough vitamin D.
2. Get Busy
No, we’re not talking about exercise here. We’re talking about sex. Having regular orgasms causes the release of healthy hormones, and causes uterine contractions. These contractions not only help the body relax, but also help detoxify the body.
It’s also a great way to relieve stress, and help you get better sleep at night.
Black discharge can be concerning, but in many cases, it is simply the body releasing old blood trapped in the uterus. Talk to your doctor if the discharge is concerning, is excessive or lasts for more than a few days.