Brown Discharge: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment (2023)

Experiencing brown discharge on your underwear or when you wipe can be concerning and you may feel scared or worried when you see it for the first time. However, brown discharge happens more often than you may think. Most of the time, brown discharge doesn’t indicate any problem.

Brown Discharge: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment (1)

There are many possible causes for brown vaginal discharge, such as infections, period, vigorous sex, menopause, infection, or ectopic pregnancy. In this post, we will look at 11 potential causes as well as the symptoms you can expect from each.

What is brown discharge?

Brown discharge results from normal cervical mucus mixed with blood. The texture and amount of cervical mucus changes throughout the menstrual cycle due to fluctuating hormone levels. Brown discharge indicates that a few drops of blood may be present in your cervical mucus.

While fresh blood has a bright color, it starts to turn brown as it ages or comes in contact with air. In other words, brown discharge is simply oxidized blood mixed with your normal cervical mucus.

What does normal discharge look like

Vaginal discharge is normally clear, white, or off-white. These different shades can actually tell you a lot about when you are the most and least fertile. Normal discharge contains cervical mucus, among other fluids, and is one of the key biological indicators of ovulation. Discharge is heavily influenced by the hormones in your reproductive system which is why it changes in color and consistency throughout your menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

Brown Discharge: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment (2)

What it can look like

Brown discharge doesn’t always look the same, especially when it comes to color. The color of brown discharge may vary from very dark brown to light brown to pink-brown. Different shades of brown discharge can indicate different things (read about other types of vaginal discharge here).

What it can look like

Brown discharge doesn’t always look the same, especially when it comes to color. The color of brown discharge may vary from very dark brown to light brown to pink-brown. Different shades of brown discharge can indicate different things (read about other types of vaginal discharge here).


Brown discharge results from oxidized blood mixed with normal cervical mucus. It’s common to see a brown flow at the beginning or end of your menstrual period. Brown discharge around the date of your expected period may indicate that menstruation has begun.

Sometimes, brown discharge is also an early sign of pregnancy resulting from implantation bleeding, especially if it happens 6-12 days past ovulation (DPO). Implantation bleeding occurs when a fertilized egg implants itself in the uterine lining, resulting in pregnancy.

Take a pregnancy test on the day of your next menstrual period if you suspect you might be experiencing implantation bleeding.

Dark Brown

The darker your brown discharge, the more oxidized blood is present in your cervical mucus. Extremely dark, or almost black, discharge most often occurs at the very beginning or very end of your menstrual period.

Rarely, dark brown or blackish-brown discharge may indicate a vaginal blockage. Blockages can result from foreign objects lodged in the vagina or cervix (such as a “lost” tampon or condom), or from vaginal tissue blocking menstrual blood from completely exiting the cervix. See your doctor if you suspect a vaginal blockage may be responsible for your dark brown discharge.

Tan/Light Brown

Light brown discharge means that there is less blood present in your cervical mucus — perhaps only a few drops. This can indicate an extremely light menstrual flow, especially if it occurs toward the beginning or end of your period.

Light brown discharge can also be a sign of implantation bleeding (if it occurs after ovulation) or spotting (if it occurs at any time outside of your menstrual period). If you think you may be pregnant, take a pregnancy test on t

Light spotting between menstrual periods is normal for many women, especially if you are using hormonal birth control. Occasionally, however, spotting may be a sign of a medical issues, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, sexually transmitted infection (STI), or cervical cancer. Visit your OB/GYN if you find that you are frequently spotting between periods.

Pink Brown

Pink-brown discharge most often occurs during menstruation, especially if you are using a birth control method that lowers estrogen. Period blood can turn light red or pink when you have low estrogen. When this blood oxidizes, it may appear pink-brown instead.

Pink-brown discharge is also a common sign of pregnancy. It may indicate implantation bleeding, especially if it is very light. It may also occur during the first two trimesters of pregnancy after a speculum exam or sexual intercourse, due to collision with the cervix.

As long as it lasts fewer than three days, pink-brown discharge during pregnancy is not anything to worry about.

(Video) What causes brown discharge instead of periods? - Dr. Teena S Thomas

Watery brown discharge

Although cervical mucus makes up the largest component of vaginal discharge, it also includes any fluid that leaves the vagina. This means vaginal fluid, cervical mucus, arousal fluid (the discharge produced when you are sexually aroused), day-old sperm from unprotected sexual activity, and dead cells from the cervix and vagina can all be included in your discharge. Watery brown discharge usually indicates that blood has mixed with other fluids, like those mentioned above.

Brown discharge before period

Brown discharge before your period is typically vaginal discharge that contains blood. It is not typically something to worry about and can happen for many reasons. Serious causes of brown discharge are usually accompanied by other symptoms. You may be wondering if brown discharge before your period means you could be pregnant. In some cases it may be an early sign of pregnancy or the result of implantation bleeding.

Brown discharge after period

Brown discharge after your period is usually caused by the leftover menstrual blood leaving the vagina. It’s quite common and not usually a sign for concern.

Brown discharge during pregnancy

Brownish discharge during pregnancy is usually a sign of old blood leaving the body. It’s not generally a cause for concern and is quite common. Brown discharge can even be an early sign of pregnancy, although not all pregnant people experience this. If you experience dark brown discharge during pregnancy you should speak to your doctor. It may be nothing but could also be an indicator of an underlying issue like miscarriage or extrauterine pregnancy.

What Causes Brown Discharge?

Many things can cause brown vaginal discharge. Luckily, most of them aren’t cause for concern. Here are some common causes of brown discharge:

Menstrual Cycle and Brown Discharge

Early Period

Brown discharge at the beginning of your period is usually a result of old blood exiting the uterus. It could mean your period has arrived early and the flow is very light. It could also be a reaction to a vaginal exam or vigorous sexual activity, although these can occur at any time during your cycle.

Late Period

It’s quite common to have brown discharge later in your period. At this point it is due to leftover menstrual blood leaving the vagina. “Old” blood often appears brown as your body undergoes the final shedding.

Mid-Cycle Spotting

Brown discharge mid-cycle may be a sign that you’ve ovulated as some people experience light spotting during this time. Irregular bleeding or spotting is usually nothing to worry about, especially if you are on hormonal birth control. Spotting is a common side effect of some pills.

If spotting lasts more than 2 days and intensifies in volume, you should talk to your doctor to rule out any serious conditions.

Pregnancy-Related Causes

Implantation Bleeding

Brown discharge can be a sign of pregnancy and implantation. When the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine lining, you might notice brown spotting called implantation bleeding. Some women say this is the only symptom of early pregnancy they notice. If you experience brown spotting and may be pregnant, you should do a pregnancy test on the first day of your missed period to confirm pregnancy.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy is an early pregnancy outside of the uterus that occurs in 1 in 50 pregnancies. Almost all ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tube and are thus sometimes called tubal pregnancies. The fallopian tube is not designed to host fetal development, so ectopic pregnancies are not viable. Ectopic pregnancy should be treated immediately, as it can cause life-threatening bleeding if your fallopian tube ruptures.


Brown discharge can sometimes (but not always) be a sign of miscarriage. It is often very dark in color and looks like “coffee grounds” as old blood left in the uterus slowly makes its way out. Vaginal bleeding is one of the most common signs of miscarriage but is not a definite sign. If you have any concerns always contact your healthcare provider to be sure.

Infections and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Some infections and sexually transmitted diseases can cause brown discharge or spotting. Although, it is usually accompanied by other symptoms like a foul odor, pain, or burning.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection of the vagina, caused by the overgrowth of bacteria naturally found in the vagina. It occurs primarily in women of reproductive age. The reason for the infection is unclear. But the risk of BV is associated with unprotected sex or frequent douching.

Yeast Infections

Brown vaginal discharge alone doesn’t necessarily mean a yeast infection, but it can accompany them. Brown discharge with other tell tale symptoms like itching, burning, and intense irritation may mean something is off though and should be checked out.


Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a live parasite in your vagina or urethra. It’s a common infection and curable condition that is easily treated by antibiotics. Irritation in the area can lead to flecks of blood that show up as brown discharge.


This sexually transmitted bacteria, mainly affecting the cervical area, may be the cause of brown discharge. It is often accompanied by other symptoms such as painful urination, bleeding with intercourse and between periods, and pelvic and abdominal pain.


Another common bacterial sexually transmitted infection, chlamydia can cause minor spotting. This spotting is sometimes experienced as brown discharge although it is often accompanied by other painful symptoms similar to gonorrhea.

(Video) Brown Period Blood | PCOS, STDs, Ovulation | Is Brown Discharge Normal?

Hormonal Imbalances

An imbalance between the key reproductive hormones may cause spotting or unusual bleeding at different points in your menstrual cycle.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a common reproductive health problem that affects ~10% of women globally. PCOS is caused by imbalances in estrogen, progesterone, and male sex hormones (called androgens). Tracking your fertility hormones can help you better understand how PCOS affects your body.

Thyroid Disorders

Your thyroid directly affects your ovaries and helps control your menstrual cycle. An underactive or overactive thyroid gland can result in menstrual irregularities, including brown discharge.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

An infection of the cervix and uterus, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease can cause brown discharge. This is usually accompanied with other symptoms such as pain, fever, smelly discharge, and a burning sensation when urinating.

Brown Discharge: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment (3)

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Cervical Causes

Cervical Ectropion

This condition is when cervical canal cells grow on the outside of the cervix. The condition isn’t concerning but may cause blood to mix with your discharge resulting in light brown discharge.

Cervical Polyps

Cervical polyps are common growths that occur on the cervix. They can have no symptoms at all or be accompanied by heavy periods, bleeding, and spotting. Because they are quite fragile, they may be prone to bleeding, resulting in brown discharge.

Cervical Cancer

The symptoms of cervical cancer may not be obvious, but one of the signs is vaginal discharge or bleeding that is unusual for you. Unusual repeated bleeding like brown vaginal discharge may be a sign to get checked out.

Trauma or Injury

Sexual Intercourse

Irritation to the cervix from sexual intercourse can lead to brown discharge especially if the vaginal canal has bled even slightly.

Vaginal Insertions

Inserting an object inside the vagina can also cause irritation and slight bleeding that could lead to light brown discharge.

Vaginal Injuries

Given that this area is so sensitive, any injury to the vaginal canal or cervix can cause bleeding. When that blood mixes with vaginal discharge you may experience brown discharge.

When should I talk to my doctor about treating brown discharge?

You probably don’t need to talk to a doctor if you have occasional and light brown discharge with no other symptoms. If you experience any concerning symptoms along with brown discharge, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor to make sure everything is fine.

Concerning symptoms, along with brown discharge, that warrant a trip to the doctor’s office include:

(Video) What causes brown vaginal discharge after 3 days of menses? - Dr. Shailaja N

  • Heavy or prolonged discharge or bleeding
  • Foul vaginal odor
  • Vaginal itching or burning
  • Pelvic pain
  • Painful intercourse
  • Painful urination
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Fever or chills

Visit a medical professional ASAP if you notice any of these symptoms alongside brown discharge. These symptoms could indicate the presence of an infection — or, rarely, something more serious, like cervical cancer. While usually, brown discharge is nothing to worry about, it never hurts to seek your doctor’s advice.

Treatment Options

The care and treatment of brown vaginal discharge depends on the cause. Listed below are some common treatments for causes of brown discharge.

Treatment for Infections and STIs

Depending on the infection, treatment for many STDs and STIs include antibiotics or antifungals. Since these infections are usually caused by a yeast this is the most common form of treatment.

Hormonal Balancing and Management

If your brown discharge is a result of hormonal imbalances (like low estrogen), addressing the root of the problem can often solve the issue. The menstrual cycle is a key driver of hormonal changes so tracking your cycle can be a great place to start. See our Lifestyle Guide on balancing hormones naturally.

Surgical Interventions

If the cause of your brown discharge is linked to a condition like endometriosis or being caused by an ectopic pregnancy, surgical intervention may be necessary. See a medical specialist for more information on surgical interventions for brown discharge.

Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies

Lifestyle factors can play a big role with hormones. There are things you can do each day to keep your hormones in check.

Prevention Strategies

When it comes to preventing brown discharge there are many things that you can do. Strategies for prevention include:

  • Maintaining good hygiene practices
  • Safe sexual practices
  • Regular healthcare and gynecological check-ups
  • Eating a balanced diet and getting enough exercise


Still have questions? Below we answer some of the most common questions when it comes to brown vaginal discharge.

Is brown vaginal discharge normal?

Brown discharge is extremely normal and should not cause you any alarm in most cases.

If the bleeding is confined to the beginning or end of your period, it’s most likely due to the slowing of your menstrual flow; the blood takes more time to get from the cervix to your pad or tampon, so it may oxidize in the meantime.

If you experience brown spotting between periods while using hormonal birth control, it’s most likely a side effect. Talk to your doctor if you become concerned, but know that it is probably nothing to worry about.

If you are trying to conceive and have brown discharge after ovulation, it may be a good sign! Brown discharge could be due to implantation bleeding. Take a pregnancy test on the first day of your expected period to make sure.

Rarely, brown discharge may signify a problem with the reproductive tract. Visit your doctor if you have concerns about brown discharge. It never hurts to be safe.

What is the normal color of vaginal discharge?

Throughout the month, vaginal discharge is usually clear, white, or off-white. Different shades of this discharge can help you tell when you are the most and least fertile. Other times, vaginal discharge can have an unusual color, such as yellow, green, red, or brown. Sometimes this can indicate health issues like pregnancy or an infection.

Can brown discharge be a sign of pregnancy?

Light brown discharge or spotting can be an early sign of pregnancy, usually caused by implantation bleeding. Although no unusual, not everyone will experience this symptom.

Can stress cause brown discharge?

Stress is linked to a variety of fertility outcomes and anything that affects your menstrual cycle can lead to brown discharge. This post outlines how stress and fertility are connected and what you can do to manage it.

Can birth control methods cause brown discharge?

Birth control methods can affect the body’s natural hormone levels. Depending on the type of method used, you may experience breakthrough bleeding and brown discharge.

Is brown discharge during pregnancy normal?

Brown discharge during pregnancy is completely normal, especially in early pregnancy. Dark brown discharge is more cause for concern and you should see a doctor.

(Video) Causes of spotting and brown discharge with back pain in early 20s - Dr. Sangeeta Gomes

Does brown discharge indicate an STIs?

Brown discharge can be an early sign of an infection, but it is usually accompanied by other symptoms.

How long does brown discharge last?

The length of discharge and how long it lasts depends on what is causing your brown discharge.

Can brown discharge be a sign of cancer?

In rare cases, brown discharge may be a sign of cancer but is often accompanied by symptoms like pain, bleeding after sex, and prolonged bleeding among others.

What should I do if I experience persistent brown discharge?

If you experience persistent brown discharge speak to your healthcare provider. It may be perfectly normal for you but they will be able to perform any tests necessary to rule out other causes.

Can I have brown discharge after menopause?

Although there may be a number of reasons for brown discharge after menopause, you should always seek medical care to determine the cause of postmenopausal bleeding.

How can I differentiate between normal and abnormal brown discharge?

Brown discharge isn’t usually something to worry about, but it helps to get to know your menstrual cycle. If your discharge is abnormal for you, and accompanied by other symptoms, it could signal a health condition. Speak to your healthcare provider to put your mind at ease.

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Brown Discharge: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment (6)

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(Video) What are the reasons for Brown Discharge during Periods?-Treatment for Brown Discharge #AsktheDoctor


Brown Discharge: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment? ›

PID is an infection of the cervix and uterus that can sometimes result in brown discharge. It's usually caused by an untreated STI like gonorrhea or chlamydia. Other PID symptoms include pain in the lower abdomen and pelvis, pain during sex, fever, painful urination, and heavy discharge with a bad smell.

Why is my discharge brown and how do I fix it? ›

Thick brown discharge is often a sign that your body is cleaning itself by flushing out residual blood from your period. Bits may come out with your discharge in the days after you think your period has ended. Older blood tends to turn more brownish.

How do you treat brown discharge naturally? ›

The sitz bath along with a healthy diet can help in the treatment of vaginal discharge. You should avoid processed foods as much as possible and eat foods such as fruits, vegetables, natural yogurt, chicory, cabbage, lemon, melon or pomegranate, for example.

What are some reasons for brown discharge? ›

A bacterial infection such as bacterial vaginosis, a yeast infection, or anything else that causes irritation of the vagina can cause some brown discharge. Infections would also be accompanied by itching or pain, a change in discharge amount or consistency, or a change in odor.

Is brown discharge a bacterial infection? ›

Brown Discharge Could Be a symptom of Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is an infection caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina, which in turn upsets the natural pH balance. Symptoms of BV include burning during urination, itching, and a gray to brown vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor.

How long does it take to get rid of brown discharge? ›

Some women experience brown discharge for a day or two after their period ends. Others have brown discharge that comes and goes for a week or two. It really just depends on how well your uterus sheds its lining and the speed at which it exits your body. Everyone is different.

Is brown discharge alarming? ›

Most of the time, brown discharge is just blood from your last period taking a little longer to be expelled. Although for many, the sight of unexpected discharge in our underwear or when we wipe can be a cause for alarm. While it may be a sign of a health problem, in the majority of cases, it's nothing to worry about!

Why is it brown when I wipe after peeing? ›

Infections such as bacterial vaginosis (BV) or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may lead to brown spotting or bleeding. Some infections, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, may not cause symptoms in the early stages.

Do ovarian cysts cause brown discharge? ›

A cyst may cause a sense of fullness with or without swelling in the lower abdomen. There can be a steady, dull pelvic pain or pain with intercourse. Sometimes a cyst will rupture, causing a sudden, sharp pain. A brownish vaginal discharge may occur.

How do you get bacterial vaginosis? ›

Douching, not using condoms, and having new or multiple sex partners can upset the normal balance of vaginal bacteria, increasing your risk for getting BV.

Why is my discharge brown but no infection? ›

Reasons can range from light menstruation to an infection or an ectopic pregnancy. Pinkish-brown discharge or spotting is common around the time of a person's period, but it can also happen at other times because of ovulation, pregnancy, or health problems.

When is brown discharge a cause for concern? ›

Bottom line? If you're not pregnant and you notice brown discharge right before or after your period, around ovulation or occasionally after sex, it's more than likely very normal. If you notice any other symptoms, like itching, odors or pelvic pain, check in with your doctor.

Can stress cause brown discharge? ›

Stress can cause your cortisol levels to spike, disrupting your body's production of sex hormones. This can result in spotting and other menstrual changes. Spotting generally takes the form of small droplets of blood in your underwear or a pink, red, or brown tinge to your discharge.

Can a UTI cause brown spotting? ›

Some people develop chronic UTI, which is an ongoing infection or frequently recurring infections. Along with the symptoms of acute UTI, chronic UTIs can cause spotting or blood in your urine.

What are signs of chlamydia in a woman? ›

What are signs of chlamydia in women?
  • Increased or unusual vaginal discharge.
  • Burning with urination.
  • Pain in the back or abdomen.
  • Nausea.
  • Fever.
  • Discomfort during sex.
  • Bleeding between periods.
  • Rectal pain, bleeding, or discharge.

What does a bad bacterial infection look like? ›

MRSA may look like a bump on the skin that may be red, swollen, warm to the touch, painful, filled with pus, or draining. The pus or drainage contains the infectious bacteria that can be spread to others.

What to do after brown discharge? ›

Brown discharge at other points in your cycle may still be nothing to worry about — but note when it happens, what it looks like, and any other symptoms you experience so a doctor can help pinpoint the underlying cause. These other symptoms may include smell, irritation, pain, and changes to your menstrual cycle.

How can I stop discharge everyday? ›

However, abnormal vaginal discharge may be prevented by following these tips.
  1. After using the toilet, always wipe from front to back. ...
  2. Wear cotton underpants during the day. ...
  3. Avoid wearing tight pants, pantyhose, swimming suits, biking shorts, or leotards for long periods.
Jun 8, 2023

How do you stop brown discharge from pills? ›

If you're on the pill, the best way to stop breakthrough bleeding is to take your pill at the same time every day. For most people, breakthrough bleeding stops 3 to 6 months after starting hormonal birth control.


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