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Brown Discharge Instead of Period (Why is My Beriod Brown?)

 Most women get trapped in confusion when a brown discharge instead of a period occurs. Your period changes color and consistency often, which is very normal. 

Your period can be brown, light or even stringy accompanied with cramps. It might also vary in length; you might also experience light periods at one time and heavy the next.

Meaning of a brown discharge instead of a period

Most women get worried as soon as they notice a brown discharge instead of their period. In instances where symptoms of infections are not present, this is considered normal.

Yes, a brown period is ok. The discharge might be remains of the uterine lining which in most cases are not expelled during your last period.

  • A brown discharge is also one of the earliest signs of pregnancy, if you are expecting a period and a brown discharge which may appear dark occurs, you might be pregnant, consider seeing your doctor or taking a pregnancy test.
  • Another cause of such discharge could be trauma during sex. If your cervix is grazed during sex, bleeding occurs. Blood takes time to reach the vaginal canal hence the color change.
    In most cases, this discharge occurs before or even during your period.
  • Some birth control methods can suddenly alter the color of your usual period from red to either brown or dark brown. Pills control the effects of your hormones.
    Besides, any hormonal contraceptive by the same mechanism can disturb the whole menstrual cycle.
  • A brown discharge can also be as a result of ovulation. Ovulation alters the normal functioning of hormones in the body. Women approaching menopause are highly subjected to this.
    During such time, estrogen which is the main hormone of ovulation tends to decrease rapidly, signaling end reproduction in a woman.

A brown discharge towards the end of your period is nothing to worry about. As your period starts the blood is usually red, the color changes from red to brown because of discoloration as a result of the longer time it stays in your uterus.

Dark brown discharge

A dark brown discharge instead of a period is a significant concern for women. Unless a case of dark brown discharge is accompanied by other symptoms of infections, it should never be alarming. In most instances, this discharge is related to the shedding of an old endometrial tissue.

  • The old brown discharge is mostly expelled out right before your period; the blood is brown or black instead of red because it is simply old.

Black brown discharge occurs when a little of the old blood mixes with new blood. As blood moves from the cervix to the vaginal canal it becomes old and a bit stringy, hence the reason for a dry brown discharge. Here are five common causes of dark brown discharge in the absence of an infection;

1. Stress

Stress is part of daily life.  However, in extreme cases, the body produces a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol acts directly on the sex hormones that are in control of the development of the endometrium for a regular menstrual cycle.

The endometrium becomes thin and delays in shedding of blood which makes the blood discolored due to oxidation. Apart from a dark brown discharge during a stress episode, a woman is also likely to experience irregular cycles.

  2. Pregnancy

Days after conception, a woman may experience a dark brown discharge. The discharge in such a case is as a result of egg attachment to the uterine wall.

Women with cervical sensitivity also experience such discharge before miscarriages or even in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. (Pregnancy occurring elsewhere in the pelvic organs apart from the uterus).

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3. Uterine and cervical polyps

Both uterine and cervical polyps could be a primary symptom of dark brown discharge. Polyps are small growths that grow in the mucus lining of the cervix or uterus. Cervical polyps are fragile and usually bleed during sexual intercourse.

Some women with uterine polyps experience a dark brown discharge between and during their periods or even after sex. Cervical polyps are painless and can be easily removed as a minor surgical procedure.

4. Contraceptives

Birth control pills can also be a cause of a dark brown discharge. The main reason is that birth control pills alter your hormones. Estrogen which is responsible for the endometrium development is decreased in levels during contraceptive use causing a slight shedding which is brown in color. The discharge can also be part of an old endometrium tissue.

5. Hysterectomy

Once the uterus is removed, (hysterectomy) a woman ceases to have their period. A dark brown discharge is however expected for at least two weeks after the surgery. The amount of the discharge varies depending on the kind of activities the woman engages in.

  • The hormones are usually misplaced after hysterectomy. A dark brown discharge signals cleaning of the old blood before ovulation finally stops.
  • Bloating, pain, chills, and nausea are part of the symptoms of hormonal withdrawal. In other cases, a dark brownish discharge is a sign of a Human Papilloma Virus infection when discharge lasts more than two weeks.

Light brown discharge

Light brown discharge is normal. It is usually a sign of implantation bleeding or menopause. It is only abnormal if accompanied with a strange smell, irritations, and itchiness. In such an event you need to visit your doctor for further examinations and tests

Heard of ovulation in the middle of a period? Well, hormonal imbalance can sometimes trigger sudden shedding of the uterine lining. A fresh shedding, when combined with old tissues of your uterine lining in most instances, is the cause a red-brown discharge.

Early in pregnancy, hormones tend to stay imbalanced, a brief shedding of the uterus might occur. A positive pregnancy test and a continued dark brown discharge is a sign that you need to visit your doctor. Your doctor will then carry out examinations and tests to rule out a miscarriage.

  • A red brownish discharge could be a sign of internal bleeding as a result of an injury to the pelvic organs or merely a symptom of an underlying medical problem.
  • Sexually transmitted infections when ascended, damage the uterine lining, leading to a reddish-brownish discharge. In case of an STI, the brownish discharge disappears following treatment.

Hormonal contraceptives alter the menstrual cycle and trigger shedding of the uterine wall at the unusual time of your menstrual cycle.

A light brown discharge, in this case, might be a side effect of the contraceptive in the first few months of use. This kind of bleeding disappears soon as hormonal balance occurs.

Cervical cancer is another cause of a light brownish discharge. Early stages of cancers are usually asymptomatic meaning that you will not notice any changes in the body.  Cervical cancer leads to bleeding during its advanced stages.

Brown stringy discharge

Blood turns brown when it becomes old, a sign of retained blood in your uterus. Most cases of brown discharges are normal unless the flow is heavy.

A stringy discharge is often a sign of completed ovulation. During the release of an egg, the body secretes extra cervical mucus creating a favorable environment for fertilization to take place.

  • A brown stringy discharge can also be as a result of long-term use of lubes. Lubes can irritate the cervix changing the color of your discharge.
    A good sign of lube allergy could be itchiness around the vagina immediately after use. You should always keep track of the brown stringy discharge in your cycle so that you inform your doctor immediately you detect any changes.
  • Cervical mucus production is fueled by estrogen (hormone high in levels during ovulation).During ovulation estrogen causes the cervix to increase levels of mucus production.
    Mucus is a good medium for protection of the sperm regarding pH. Women with high levels of cervical mucus during their fertile days have high chances of conceiving.
    If you notice a thick stringy discharge you need not worry, you are simply ovulating.
  • Fertility drugs such as Clomid, which are taken by women trying to conceive, can also be another reason behind a brown stringy discharge at any time of the menstrual cycle.
    As long as the mucus-like discharge is free of odor and is there is no irritation, it is normal.
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What causes a brown discharge instead of period?

brown discharge instead of a period

Why is my period brown? Why is my period brown at the beginning?  A normal vaginal discharge is odorless and in most cases white in color. Here are five top causes of brown discharge instead of a period, and you are likely to find out that most of them are natural and harmless;

1. Birth control IUD

An intrauterine contraceptive such as Mirena releases small amounts of hormones into the bloodstream each day. The IUD causes disturbances in the hormonal cycle, a brown discharge is normal months after insertion.

Any brownish discharge beyond three months could be a sign of an infection, and you should seek professional help as soon as possible. It is not advisable that you pull down the IUD by yourself. If your symptoms persist, talk to your doctor about an alternative birth control method.

2. Perimenopause

This is a period when a woman’s reproductive system slows down. Ovulation seizes so is pregnancy. Each woman is different; some will go into menopause earlier than others.

An average woman will give birth up to the age of 47 years.  In some rare cases, a woman may be productive until the age of 60 years.

  • During perimenopause estrogen, a hormone that sustains ovulation decreases in levels causing a significant alteration in the body. This period lasts for three years before the onset of menopause.
  • Menopause is marked by lack of periods for twelve consecutive months.   But before menopause, a woman gets a brown discharge during their period marking estrogen withdrawal.

3. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

PID is an infection of the female reproductive organs in most cases is as a result of an ascending infection in the vagina. The organs most affected include;

  • Uterus
  • Ovaries
  • Fallopian tubes
  • Bleeding from the above organs and retention of blood especially in the uterus is usually a cause of brownish discharge in PID.
  • Bacterial entry into the cervix is the primary cause of infection in the pelvis. Unsterile childbirth procedures and abortions are also factors that largely contribute to PID.

4. Implantation bleeding

This is bleeding as a result of an egg attachment to the walls of the uterus after fertilization. Implantation bleeding may occur during your period, which has many women confused.

During implantation expect brownish blood, which should not last more than two days. Cramps may also occur during such a time.

A negative pregnancy result does not necessarily imply that you are not pregnant.  Always test again after two weeks. Your body takes about two weeks to produce enough pregnancy hormones which are usually secreted into urine.

5. Retained Endometrial tissue

Your discharge could be as a result of an old clot that remained trapped in your uterus during your last period. Your vaginal discharge turns brown as a result of contact with the old blood.

This is most cases happens to women who have delayed period. Your vagina is a self-cleaning organ which means that the clots are likely to be expelled during your next period.

Could I be pregnant?

Yes, chances are you might be pregnant, Spotting occurs when an egg attaches itself to the inner lining of the uterus after fertilization has occurred.

It is only a possibility that a discharge accompanied by symptoms of pregnancy such as nausea and breast enlargement could be a sign of pregnancy.

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The best way to confirm pregnancy is to talk to your doctor for a pregnancy test and other tests if need be.

Brown discharge instead of a period but not pregnant

Implantation bleeding is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. Implantation bleeding occurs as a result of injury to the tiny blood vessels by an implanting egg.

The burrowing of the egg into the uterine wall is the main cause of light brownish discharge. Expect a negative pregnancy test during your period, because the pregnancy hormone takes at least 11 to 14 days to be detected in urine.

  • In most cases, implantation bleeding is accompanied by other signs of pregnancy such as morning sickness, breast enlargement and bloating.
    In case you are not on any contraceptive but experiencing such a discharge with a negative pregnancy test, visit your doctor to rule out other causes of brown discharge.
  • If you have no signs of infection, but still experiencing a brown discharge chances are your last period was retained and is being expelled.
    A brown discharge instead of a period, in this case, is the old blood that was never expelled during your last period.

 Brown discharge instead of a period; could I be pregnant?

brown discharge

A brown discharge instead of a period and a positive pregnancy result is a great moment for any woman yearning for motherhood. Unless you have a confirmed pregnancy through a test, it is tricky to think that you are pregnant.

However other signs of pregnancy such as enlargement of breasts, morning sickness, and nausea could be sure signs of pregnancy before you carry out a pregnancy test.

  • You can get a brown discharge instead of your due period when implantation bleeding is taking place. After fertilization the egg moves into the uterine wall and burrows in for attachment, causing a slight bleeding which will appear as a discharge brown. Implantation bleeding is brief, usually, takes two to three days to clear, it may be accompanied by cramps or not.
  • Implantation bleeding occurs from the eleventh day of your ovulation, while a period occurs fourteen days after. Tracking your menstrual cycle is a sure way to immediately tell if your discharge is as a result of implantation or not.
    Testing for pregnancy should be done after 12 days post conception, this is when the pregnancy hormone is fully present in the urine. Most pregnancy tests before this period are usually negative even after pregnancy has occurred.

A brown discharge instead of your menstruation could be a sign that you are approaching menopause, when above 45 years of age. The reproductive system collapses as a result estrogen withdrawal.

When levels of estrogen decline a brownish discharge might occur instead of a period.  A discharge during the perimenopause may occur during some or all of your cycles.

Most contraceptives alter the hormonal cycle and could trigger shedding of the uterine wall at the unusual time of your menstrual cycle. This discharge could only be a side effect of the contraceptive in the first few months of usage, which is not fatal.

Cervical cancer is another cause of reddish brownish discharge. Early stages of cancers are usually asymptomatic meaning that you will not notice any changes in the body, until their late stage. Cervical cancer bleeds as it grows large and advances in stage.

When to see a doctor

Unless your discharge is abnormal, then it is nothing to be concerned about. Here is what to look for before you can inform your doctor:

  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain during urination
  • A foul-smelling –discharge
  • Irritation
  • Inflammation
  • Abdominal pain accompanied by cramps.
  • Bleeding or spotting unrelated to your period

Your doctor can make a proper diagnosis from your detailed history of the symptoms, together with various examinations and tests.

Sources:

  1. Vaginal discharge (June 2015): http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/vaginal-discharge/basics/causes/sym-20050825
  2. What is a normal period (April 2015): http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/normal-period
  3. Am I pregnant? (July 2017): https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/am-i-pregnant
  4. Brown discharge from the vagina; causes and treatments: http://www.md-health.com/Brown-Vaginal-Discharge.html
  5. Mayo clinic; When to see a doctor (March 2013): http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/vaginal-discharge/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050825

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