What It Might Mean If You Have Brown Discharge

Photo: getty
What It Means If You Have Brown Discharge

If you’re a woman, then you know there are a lot of different things that can happen to your body. You might get a sudden breakout, you might have a delayed period, or you may end up having something a little funkier happen. After all, our bodies are always in flux and all those little changes should be noted.

One of the more obvious ways to track major women’s health issues is your vaginal discharge. In the days of yore, it was a go-to method of tracking fertile days. (In fact, it still is.) Every woman has a little discharge once in a while, and for the most part, it’s normal.

But, once in a while, you might get discharge that’s brown. So, what does brown discharge mean for your vaginal health? It can mean quite a few things, actually.

RELATED: 5 Causes Of Vaginal Discharge (And What To Do About Each)

1. It could mean you’re just on your period.

Believe it or not, some women regularly experience brown vaginal discharge in their early days of their period or during the last legs of it. It’s usually due to having some extra lining that stayed around a bit too long.

This is a fairly normal occurrence. Dr. Pamela D. Berens of University of Texas Health Science Center explains that if it happens on a regular basis, “You probably have nothing to worry about.”

2. It could also be spotting that just dried before you noticed it.

Dr. Jessica Shepherd, an OB/GYN and women's health expert, noted that blood dries brown when it’s exposed to oxygen. If you recently started spotting, it could be that the brown discharge is really nothing other than dried blood.

3. Sometimes, birth control can cause it.

If this isn’t the norm for you and you recently started a new form of birth control, that might be what’s causing your discharge. Hormonal birth control methods that contain progestin, such as the mini-pill and hormonal IUDs, can cause darker discharge.

Generally speaking, this phenomenon happens close to the start of your menstrual cycle. This is mostly because these pills make your uterine lining less stable, which occasionally can cause leaks.

4. If it’s not time for your period, brown discharge may be a sign of pregnancy.

When a woman first gets pregnant, the fertilized egg will implant itself in the uterine lining. When this happens, it’s common for slight bleeding (or brown discharge) to occur. Grabbing a pregnancy test can help rule this out.

5. Irregular cycles and brown discharge together can be a sign of a hormonal disorder.

Ladies, you should never take an irregular cycle as something to “just live with.” In many cases, an irregular cycle paired with strange discharge can be a sign of a hormonal issue like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, also known as PCOS.

RELATED: 9 Things Your Vaginal Secretions Can Tell You About Your Body And Your Health

6. Certain STIs are also known to cause discolored discharge.

Many sexually transmitted infections, including syphilis and gonorrhea, are infamous for causing discoloration in women’s discharge. Depending on the disease, the discoloration could be grey, green, dark yellow, orange, or brown.

If you recently had high-risk sex and noticed a change in discharge, it may be time to visit the doctor. Most STIs that have this symptom are curable if caught in time.

7. Uterine and cervical polyps can also cause discolored discharge.

Polyps are non-cancerous growths that can happen in people of all ages. When they develop in your uterus or cervical regions, it can irritate your lining and cause the occasional brown spot to appear on your pantyliner. It’s a good idea to get a check up with your OB/GYN if you think you may have polyps.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

8. Cancerous growths can cause brown discharge, too.

The reason why most doctors will tell you to get polyps or brown discharge checked out is because it’s also a sign of endometrial cancer. If you regularly “bleed brown” between periods, it could be that a cancerous growth is causing you to shed uterine lining as it continues to grow.

So, what's the general verdict about brown vaginal discharge?

Most of the time, getting brown discharge once in a while isn’t a sign of something serious. To make sure you’re good, it’s best to keep an eye on your “baseline.” If it’s normal for you to have brown spotting from time to time, you probably shouldn’t worry. On the other hand, if this is a brand-new phenomenon in your life, you may want to call up a doctor for a Pap smear.

Take a deep breath. Brown discharge is still relatively normal and isn’t a reason for a serious freakout in most cases. Almost every woman has experienced (or will experience) it once or twice in her lifetime. If the discharge changes are really worrying you, it’s always wise to call a gynecologist for help. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

RELATED: What It Means If You Have Black Vaginal Discharge

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of Red Bank, New Jersey. She writes primarily about lifestyle, food, finance, and relationships. You can follow her Twitter.