Brown Vaginal Discharge: 10 Causes & Questions Explained

Help! I have brown stuff coming out of my vag! Is this normal?

We often get questions like this from alarmed readers. Of all the things women experience throughout their reproductive years, brown discharge always seems to be the most concerning.

While brown discharge can be a sign that something’s wrong, it’s perfectly normal in most cases.

The first and most important thing is not to panic. The second is to educate yourself to better understand what this discharge is and what’s causing it. We’ll cover some of the most common questions about brown vaginal discharge, so you know what’s going on with your body and whether a visit with the doctor is warranted.

Q1: What Does Brown Discharge Mean?

Why are you seeing brown discharge in the first place? Dark vaginal discharge occurs when a little bit of old blood mixes in with your normal discharge. The reason why the blood is brown is because of its age. As blood moves through the body, it ages and begins to dry. Old blood is brown, whereas red or pink blood is fresh.

Q2: Why is My Discharge Brown?

What causes brown discharge? A number of things, including:

  • Ovulation: Sometimes, when an egg is released during ovulation, a little bleeding occurs. This blood mixes in with your normal vaginal mucus, so your discharge might be a little or even a dark brown.
  • Endometrial tissue: In some cases, this discharge is just old tissue that did not pass during your last period. This tissue may remain in the uterus for quite a while before it passes, which is why the discharge is brown in color.
  • Perimenopause: Just before menopause, your body’s hormone levels are rapidly changing. It’s not uncommon for women to see brown, pink or even yellow discharge during this time.
  • Birth control: Birth control can cause irregular periods and spotting or brown discharge.
  • Pregnancy: Implantation can cause your discharge to look brown. It may also signal a problem with the placenta.
  • Miscarriage: Some women will see dark brown blood or discharge during the early stages of a miscarriage.
  • Disease: Certain diseases can cause your discharge to turn brown, such as bacterial vaginosis, PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), cervical cancer and certain sexually transmitted diseases.

If the discharge carries a foul-smelling odor, there is cause for concern and you should see your doctor right away.

In most cases, brown-colored discharge is nothing to worry about, but if you’re pregnant and seeing a lot of fluid, it may be time to see your doctor to make sure that you and your baby are healthy.

Q3: Why is My Period Brown?

Brown blood during period is also perfectly normal. It may be alarming to see dark brown or even black blood, but this is nothing more than old endometrial tissue being passed.

While your body does its best to shed its uterine lining as efficiently as possible, sometimes tissue gets left behind. Brown period blood is simply old blood from old endometrial tissue that took a while for your body to pass.

Q4: What Does Brown Blood at Beginning of Period Mean?

Brown discharge before a period is not as common, but it can happen. If you’re seeing this, a number of things may be occurring.

  • Your body may be passing old tissue in an attempt to clean out your uterus before your period.
  • You may be pregnant.

In some cases, dark brown discharge is one of the first signs of pregnancy that women notice. If you’re expecting your period, but all you’re passing is dark discharge, you might be pregnant. Consider taking an at-home pregnancy test or seeing your doctor.

If you know for certain that you are not pregnant, there’s likely nothing to worry about. The discharge should pass. If it does not, see your doctor to check for infection or an STD.

Q5: Is Brown Discharge After Period Normal?

Yes, for the most part. Brown menstrual blood or discharge is very common after a period. It’s just the body passing old tissue that may have been left in the uterus for a few days. As mentioned previously, the blood or discharge looks brown because the blood has aged. Old blood is brown.

Of course, brown vaginal fluid can also be a sign of something else, such as:

  • Implantation bleeding (learn more here)
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Severe yeast infection
  • Disease, such as cervical cancer or bacterial vaginosis

Because of the timing, it’s highly unlikely that the brown-colored discharge you’re seeing is implantation bleeding. If it’s occurring right at the end of your period, your body has yet to ovulate, so implantation (or fertilization for that matter) could not have occurred yet.

If you’re seeing this discharge shortly after you’re expected to be ovulating, then it may very well have been caused by implantation. But you’ll have to wait until your expected next period to take a pregnancy test.

Q6: Why Do I Have Brown Discharge Instead Of Period Blood?

If you’re expecting your period but are only seeing brown discharge, it’s perfectly natural to be concerned. There are several things that could be causing this:

  • PCOS: Women with PCOS may have what’s called anovulation, which occurs when the body fails to release ova for three months or more. Many women with PCOS simply have brown-colored discharge instead of their period as a result.
  • Pregnancy: Implantation can also cause light bleeding, which may manifest as dark or light brown discharge.
  • Spotting: Sometimes, this discharge is just a sign that your period will start soon. If your cycle is irregular, you may assume that your period should have started when menstruation is really a few days away. In this case, it’s normal to see light spotting or blood-tinged discharge.

If the discharge continues and your period does not start, take a pregnancy test. If the test is negative, see your doctor right away to make sure you don’t have an infection or a sexually transmitted disease.

Q7: Is it Normal to Have Brown Discharge on Birth Control?

It can be. Birth control alters hormone levels in your body. Because hormones are responsible for the onset of menstruation – and ovulation – it’s no surprise that many women experience spotting or brownish-colored discharge when they’re on birth control.

Talk to your doctor about what you’re experiencing. You may need to alter your birth control, or there may be another underlying issue.

Q8: Why Do I Have Brown Discharge After Sex?

It’s perfectly normal to see discharge after having sex, and sometimes, a little bit of blood mixed in with this fluid.

When you’re aroused, the body produces more fluid to keep the vagina lubricated and to assist in the sperm making its way up to the egg. You might see more discharge around the time of ovulation, and if bleeding occurs when the egg is released, it may appear brown.

You might also have slight bleeding from rough intercourse, which can cause your discharge to turn brown.

Q9: What Causes Brown Gooey Discharge?

Brown mucus discharge can occur for a number of reasons. It might be a sign of ovulation, or if you’re in the third trimester of your pregnancy, an early sign of labor.

During the third trimester of a pregnancy, many women have brown mucus or discharge. A placenta that is lying low in the uterus or a placenta that separates from the uterus (partially or completely) may cause you to pass brown, gooey mucus. Dilation can also cause you to pass brown cervical mucus.

Brown, gooey discharge may also be a sign of a hormonal imbalance. This might be caused by your diet, birth control or even stress.

Gooey mucus might also be a sign of ovulation or an STD.

The bottom line? See your doctor if you’re passing gooey or stringy brown discharge.

Q10: Is Brown Spotting a Sign of Pregnancy?

Dark brown vaginal discharge or spotting can be a sign of pregnancy. When a fertilized egg implants itself into the uterine wall, some bleeding might occur. When this happens, women may have brown spotting or dark vaginal discharge.