Vaginal discharge is the excess fluid and mucus that is produced by the cervix and vaginal walls. It is a healthy and normal occurrence which is the body’s way of keeping the vaginal environment clean and healthy. The discharge can range from thin and whitish in color to a slightly thicker consistency. It can appear slightly brownish, which is usually fine, but if it worries you, or if it lasts for a period of time, then you should consult with your physician because there can be some serious health issues associated with it.
What Causes Brown Vaginal Discharge?
Menstrual Causes of Brown Vaginal Discharge
Menophania: This is the first signs of menses at puberty. Sometimes there will be months of brown vaginal discharge before you actually see the first period. Many female still will experience brown vaginal discharge after their period comes regularly. If you experience brown vaginal discharge, don't let it bother you too much.
Ovulation: During ovulation, an egg is released from the ovary causing a bit of bleeding. This blood mixes with normal vaginal fluids, creating a light brown vaginal discharge. There may also be a small amount of bleeding from the uterus between periods causing this change in color of the normal discharge.
Old endometrial tissue: Brown vaginal discharge can be the result of old tissue that did not leave the body during the last period. This tissue can remain in the uterus for some time and when it finally exits, creates a brown discharge.
Perimenopause: Due to changes in the body hormone levels leading to menopause, women may experience brown, yellow or pink discharge. For some women, this discharge can be heavy and uncomfortable.
Hormone-Related Causes of Brown Vaginal Discharge
Birth control: Artificial hormones in birth control pills can cause irregular periods upon initial usage and lead to spotting and brown vaginal discharge. Contraception tool intrauterine devices (IUD) can also cause spotting and brown discharge between periods.
Stress: Hormone levels can be altered by stress, creating spotting and a brown vaginal discharge between periods. Physical stress due to a sudden change in activity level may also cause a brown vaginal discharge.
Sudden weight loss: Hormone levels can also be altered due to sudden weight loss. This change in hormones can cause spotting between periods and a brown vaginal discharge.
Exercise changes: Women who begin a new exercise regime can also see a brown vaginal discharge. This change can alter hormone levels, causing spotting between periods.
Pregnancy-Related Causes of Brown Vaginal Discharge
Implantation: When the fertilized egg implants itself into the uterine wall, bleeding can happen, leading to a brown discharge which usually occurs in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Placenta issues: Brown vaginal discharge during pregnancy can signal a problem with the placenta and should be immediately checked by your doctor.
Miscarriage: After a miscarriage, bleeding in the uterus can lead to brown vaginal discharge. This discharge will slowly subside as the bleeding stops.
Disease-Related Causes of Brown Vaginal Discharge
While many causes of this discharge are harmless, there are some serious medical conditions that can cause brown vaginal discharge. Some of these conditions include:
Bacterial vaginosis: There is normally a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina, but sometimes the bad bacteria can grow out of control, usually after taking antibiotics, causing an infection. This can cause an abundant dark brown vaginal discharge accompanied by itching and irritation.
Pelvic inflammatory disease: This is a condition where the uterus becomes infected due to bacteria and can be caused by an IUD, an incomplete miscarriage, or sexually transmitted diseases. It is treatable when caught early, but if left untreated it can cause permanent damage to the reproductive organs.
Sexually transmitted disease: STDs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause brown vaginal discharge, though it is rare. It is usually caused by irritation or bleeding within the reproductive tract.
Cervical cancer: Though rare, cervical cancer in its more advanced stages can cause brown vaginal discharge, along with fatigue, digestive irritation and abdominal pain.
How to Deal With Brown Vaginal Discharge
Let It Pass
If the brown vaginal discharge is due to a late or lingering period, this is because the blood has oxidized. There’s not much you can do but wait for it to end.
Keep Good Hygiene
Keep good hygiene: In the event you experience brown vaginal discharge, you can get relief from practicing good hygiene, wearing cotton underwear, loose-fitting clothing, changing tampons or pads frequently during the menstrual cycle and avoid douching to prevent infections. And always practice safe sex.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet and drinking plenty of water can help keep hormone levels balanced and steady and prevent brown vaginal discharge from happening.
If the brown vaginal discharge you are experiencing is caused by an STD or bacterial infection, then get a prescription from your doctor and take them as directed.
Prevent Brown Vaginal Discharge
You can prevent brown vaginal discharge by:
Wearing cotton underwear and loss fitting undergarment;
Changing your sanitary napkin or tampon more frequently during periods;
Avoiding douching to prevent body pH imbalance.
Asking your doctor for medications to treat STDs, pelvic inflammation disease, uterine polyps and cervical cancer.
See a Doctor
You should seek medical attention for the brown vaginal discharge, if:
The discharge lasts for more than a few days after your period ends;
The flow between periods doesn’t stop after a day or two;
You experience itching or irritation along with the brown vaginal discharge;
You experience abdominal pain along with the discharge.