7 causes of brown discharge

Brown vaginal discharge does not always point to worrisome changes, but you should be aware of the context in which it manifests itself. We show you its main causes.

Last update: December 17, 2021

The vaginal discharge or discharge is a mixture of fluids that guarantees a healthy environment inside the vagina. It is usually light off-white, sticky, and odorless. However, it is not uncommon for these properties to vary according to certain alterations.. Today we explain what the causes of brown discharge are and how much you should worry about it.

Changes in color, texture and odor are a matter of concern for millions of women. In practice, these changes are not uncommon. Most cases refer to benign processes, so they are not usually a cause for concern. When they are very frequent or are accompanied by other symptoms, it should be a reason for alert.

Main causes of brown discharge

It is very likely that the first thought when observing alterations in vaginal discharge corresponds to alterations in health. We already warn you that most of these alterations are benign, especially when they are not accompanied by signs that alert a problem. We leave you with 7 causes of brown vaginal discharge.

1. Remains of the last period

The combination of blood debris from menstruation along with normal vaginal discharge can lead to the brown color of the fluids.

One of the most frequent causes of brown discharge is that it is part of the remains of the last period. The menstrual flow travels from the uterus, passes through the vagina and finally reaches the outside. The first part of this flow is usually deep red, especially when this transit has been done quickly.

In contrast, the last emissions in the stream tend to be more opaque in color. This is due to the natural oxidation of the blood, which causes it to acquire a brown or even black hue (think of blood from a healed wound).

If the brown discharge appears at the beginning or days after your menstrual cycle, it is a completely natural symptom. They are nothing more than traces of the vaginal discharge that has oxidized during the transit to the outside. It is blood that has taken longer than normal to expel, so its color, texture and even smell are different.

2. Hormonal imbalances

Another possible cause of brown discharge is found in hormonal imbalances. Hormones are chemical messengers that alter or modify the functioning of cells and organs. For example, estrogen helps stabilize the lining of the endometrium..

If you have an estrogen imbalance, the endometrium can shed in different parts throughout the cycle; or on the contrary, delay its detachment for a couple of days. In any case, this causes alterations in its color, texture and smell. You may experience brownish spotting or abnormal bleeding. We highlight the following symptoms of these alterations:

  • Increased weight and appetite.
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Irregular menstrual cycles.
  • Sleep disorders (insomnia, mainly).
  • Acne.
  • Dry Skin.
  • Night sweats.
  • Moderate or severe fatigue.
  • Changes in mood.
  • Changes in hair thickness.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Loss of libido
  • Headaches.

These are just some symptoms that can alert you to any hormonal alteration process. As you can see, its consequences are not felt only in vaginal discharge, in a way that interrupts different aspects of your life. If you suspect any alteration, do not hesitate to consult a specialist.

3. Infectious processes

Various infectious processes can cause changes in the color of vaginal discharge. Bacterial vaginosis, vaginal yeast infection, and trichomoniasis are the most common. Some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause disorders of this type, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. It is worth noting that in most of these cases the color of the flow is different and not necessarily brown.

It is very important to control these infectious processes, since failure to do so may lead to complications of a greater caliber. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) usually develops as a consequence of infections of this type, leading in certain cases to infertility and chronic pelvic pain.

4. Use of contraceptives

Hormonal contraceptives cause a series of changes that are often overlooked or simply unknown. During the first months of use they cause, among many other things, alterations in vaginal discharge. It can change color and smell, so it is not uncommon for it to turn brown.

Breakthrough bleeding is also common, which can lead to further doubts and uncertainties. If you have recently started a contraceptive regimen, have resumed it or have chosen to use another brand, it is likely that these are responsible for this alteration.

5. Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a disorder that occurs when the lining of the uterus (endometrium) grows away from it. For example, in the ovaries, in the fallopian tubes (most common) or in the tissue that lines the pelvis. According to studies, up to 10% of women have this disorder.

Among its most characteristic symptoms are severe pain and alterations in menstrual cycles. If it is not treated in time, it can cause infertility, and taking into account its prevalence it is not an uncommon condition. Fortunately, there are several treatments that are effective in counteracting these episodes.

6. Polycystic ovary syndrome

The hormonal changes of PCOS don’t just cause changes in vaginal discharge. The skin, menstrual cycles and even metabolism can be affected.

Polycystic ovary syndrome is counted among the causes of brown vaginal discharge. It is a condition that causes the appearance of small cysts on the outside of the ovaries. According to the evidence, between 15% and 20% of women worldwide suffer from this heterogeneous disorder.

The hormonal changes of this condition cause irregular menstruation, changes in vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, excess hair, weight gain, acne, brown spots on the skin and infertility.

7. Implantation bleeding

Implantation bleeding occurs when a fertilized egg implants itself in the wall of the uterus to begin the gestation process. Not all women experience it, but in general we can say that it is relatively common. It happens between 10 and 15 days after conception and is characterized by slight bleeding that is usually brown or other shades.

If you suspect a possible pregnancy, you can opt for a test as a discard. Also, you can consult our guide to the first symptoms of pregnancy. It can be a false alarm, so this type of flow alteration should never be considered as an unequivocal sign of pregnancy.

There are other causes of brown vaginal discharge apart from the ones we mentioned. Here is a list of other conditions that can generate this alteration:

  • Perimenopause
  • Spontaneous abortions and ectopic pregnancies.
  • Retained foreign bodies in the vagina (tampons, contraceptive rings, and so on).
  • Cervical cancer.
  • Cysts in the ovaries.

Note that the most reasonable explanations are leftovers from last period, hormonal imbalances, and infections. In case it is a repetitive experience and is accompanied by other symptoms, do not hesitate to seek professional assistance to rule out any underlying conditions.

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