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Brown discharge ahead of a period is typically normal, yet there are several other reasons. It may occasionally be a sign of perimenopause or pregnancy. Less frequently, it might be a symptom of a hidden medical issue.
Brown vaginal discharge before menstruation is frequently bloody. You should be concerned if it appears when a period is not due.
This article goes over what causes it during the different stages of a woman’s life, when to visit a doctor, and other, more serious reasons for brown discharge.
What is Brown Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy?
Vaginal discharge is often thin, transparent, or white. Sometimes, it might be in different colors. Brown vaginal discharge indicates a possible presence of trace levels of old blood. This old blood indicates that it has taken longer to leave the uterus.
14 Causes of Brown Vaginal Discharge
1. Beginning or End of Menstrual Cycle
Generally, your menstrual flow is slower when your period begins and ends. Blood that leaves the body fast is typically crimson in color. Blood turns brown as the flow slows because it has time to oxidize. If your period is especially heavy, you can even observe black discharge.
2. Hormonal Imbalance
Brown discharge might also indicate an imbalance in hormones. Estrogen aids in the endometrial (uterine) lining’s stabilization. The lining may disintegrate at various times during your cycle if there is insufficient estrogen in the blood. You might consequently suffer strange bleeding or brown spots.
In addition, low estrogen may cause
- A hot flash
- Depression or erratic moods
- Urinary tract infections
- Difficulty concentrating
- Weight gain
A medical specialist can offer guidance on the best course of treatment, which usually involves hormone medication.
3. Hormonal Contraception
As your body adapts to the hormonal changes brought on by hormonal contraception, such as birth control tablets and IUDs, spotting may occur during the first few months of treatment. You may experience breakthrough bleeding if your contraception has less than 35 micrograms of estrogen or none at all. The uterine wall will begin shedding its lining in between periods if your body has very low levels of estrogen.
This lining may seem brown if it takes a while for it to leave the body. If your spotting lasts for more than three months, talk to a doctor about altering your birth control technique. The spotting might be reduced with estrogen-rich contraception.
4. Ovulation Spotting
At the midway of their menstrual cycles, a small percentage of people — about 3% of participants in a 2012 study— report experiencing ovulation spotting. An egg is then expelled from the ovaries at this time.
The estrogen levels become high and then begin to decline, which leads to spots. The color could be red, pink, or brown, and it could even be combined with clear discharge. Here are additional signs of ovulation include
- Discharge that has the consistency of egg white
- A change in basal body temperature
- Low belly ache (Mittelschmerz)
5. Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs or pockets that form in the ovary. When an egg fails to release or when the follicle from which the egg was released does not contract following ovulation, it leads to the formation of a functional cyst. After a few months, it might not produce any symptoms and disappear on its own.
The cyst may occasionally persist and even enlarge. If this occurs, it could result in anything from brown spotting to pelvic pain or heaviness.
Endometriomas, commonly referred to as “chocolate cysts,” are other cysts that contain blood and old tissue. Ovarian cells and eggs produce dermoid cysts, which can contain materials like fat, hair, teeth, or skin.
Any form of cyst that keeps expanding runs the risk of rupturing or twisting the ovary and in this case you must consult a medical expert. If they do discover a cyst, they might ask to check on it again in a few months to see if it has shrunk.
To stop ovulation and the development of more cysts, they may occasionally advise taking birth control pills. In some circumstances, you could require surgery, especially if the cyst keeps expanding, causes ongoing discomfort, or seems to be malignant.
6. PID or BV
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or bacterial vaginosis (BV) leads to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that may cause bleeding or spotting. Infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhea do not show any symptoms in their early stages.
Its symptoms could include
- Vaginal discharge
- Pelvic pressure
- Pain during urination
- Spotting between periods
- Smelly discharge
Bacterial vaginosis is not an STI but can be triggered by sex which means you are at risk of an STI. BV is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria that changes the smell, color, and/or texture of your discharge. Some might even see a gray and thin fishy smell with zero symptoms.
Talk to a healthcare provider if you suspect any STI, infections, or symptoms mentioned above. Untreated STIs may lead to PIDs (pelvic inflammatory disease) which lead to chronic pain and affect fertility levels.
Sometimes women experience the growth of tissue similar to the uterus lining outside the uterus (may be in the fallopian tubes or ovaries). This condition is called endometriosis and this trapped tissue cause
- Brown discharge
- Fertility issues
- Severe pain
- Painful penetrative sex
- Painful urination
- Constipation fatigue
- Spotting between cycles
- Heavy and painful periods
Unfortunately, endometriosis is an incurable chronic condition whose symptoms can be managed with
- Hormonal therapy
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal condition where there is a high level of androgen secretion in a woman’s body. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate that PCOS affects 4% to 20 % of women globally who are of reproductive age. It leads to infrequent periods with more than 35 days in between each period. So when you have your periods after 35 days, the blood may be brown in color.
Here are other symptoms of PCOS
- Fertility issues
- Weight gain
- Mood changes
- Unwanted hair growth or thin hair
- Skin darkening
Note: You may also experience brown discharge and ovarian cysts in between your periods if you miss your ovulation. PCOS can be managed by regulating your menstrual cycle with the help of medication (like birth control pills).
This term refers to the embedding of a fertilized egg onto the uterine walls around 1 to 2 weeks after conception. Implantation might cause bleeding of different shades, from light to brown. Here are other symptoms of implantation and early pregnancy:
- Aching breasts
- Uterine cramping
If you are unusually late for your periods, take a pregnancy test.
10. Ectopic Pregnancy
This is a type of pregnancy where the fertilized egg implants itself outside the uterus in the cervix, abdomen, ovaries, or fallopian tubes. How do you know you have an ectopic or cryptic pregnancy? Check out for these signs:
- Brown discharge
- Sharp pain in the shoulders, neck, pelvis, or abdomen
- Rectal pressure
- One-sided pelvic pain
This requires medical attention wherein they will remove the embryo with either other surgery or medication. Without proper treatment, your fallopian tubes may burst and lead to life-threatening complications with excessive bleeding. Unfortunately, ectopic pregnancies cannot be brought to term.
Lochia is the vaginal discharge after childbirth that lasts up to 6 weeks. These uterine contents such as blood, lining, and others. It begins with a heavy red flow and ends up in a creamy yellow color before trailing off completely. This strong-smelling discharge may also be brownish in color and accompanied by fever or stomach ache.
Perimenopause refers to the months and years preceding menopause that usually begins in a person’s 40s. During this time, fluctuating estrogen levels can lead to spotting or irregular bleeding, which can be brown, red, or pink in hue. Watch out for these signs:
- Libido changes
- Vaginal dryness
- Modd changes
- Hot flashes
The most typical indication of endometrial cancer after menopause is spotting or bleeding of any color or consistency between cycles or after intercourse. Another potential indicator of cervical cancer is a vaginal discharge which differs from your typical discharge.
Generally, symptoms past discharge don’t appear until cancer has advanced. Advanced cervical cancer shows these signs:
- Swelling in the legs
- Troubling defecating or urinating
- Persistent fatigue
- Weight loss
- Feeling a mass
- Pelvic pain
For early identification and timely treatment, maintaining annual pelvic exams and having regular conversations with a healthcare provider are essential.
A Final Word: When Should You See a Doctor for Brown Discharge?
Brown discharge is frequently just old blood that is taking longer than usual to leave the uterus. This is particularly valid if you experience it at the start or end of your monthly period. Brown discharge that occurs at other times during your cycle could still not be a cause for concern, but it’s important to note the timing, appearance, and any additional symptoms. This can help a doctor identify any underlying issue with the help of a swab test or pelvic exam.
The bottom line is to see a doctor as soon as you can
- If your discharge changes while you’re pregnant
- If you have symptoms of an infection
- If you encounter irregular bleeding or spotting after menopause
Stay healthy and safe with Parenthoodbliss!