What Does Brown Vaginal Discharge Mean?

A brown discharge from the vagina is not always abnormal, specifically if there are no associated symptoms.

The vaginal canal is lined by numerous glands which secrete mucous secretions which keep the canal moist and lubricated. Also, this is a part of natural cleaning of the vaginal canal, where the secretions wash away all dirt, tissue debris and germs from the canal to outside.

Causes of Brown Vaginal Discharge

Following Menstrual Flow

Vaginal discharge may be slightly brown in color just after menses, when the uterus cleans itself and the canal.

The normal clear discharge may get mixed with blood and dead cells after the cycle to give this color. Such a discharge is normal and not a point of concern. However, if it persists for a week or more, it needs to be investigated.

After Sex

A brown vaginal discharge after sex may be due to some blood getting mixed with it. It is likely that the act lead to some mild trauma inside, which caused bleeding. The blood gets dried up to give a brown color.

However, if the yellow brown vaginal discharge is persistent for more than two days, it should be investigated. This may be a sign of some infection.

Cervical Cancer

Malignancies are notorious to give little or no symptom at all. If you observe a light brown vaginal discharge or even spotting from the vagina on a persistent basis, it is advisable to go for investigations at the earliest.

An easy screening test called pap smear may be done every 3 years to rule out this cancer.

Vaginal Infections

Some infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea or even warts may give a brownish discharge. The discharge is usually brown and smelly. Other symptoms are usually associated, like pain, itching, bad odor or burning.

At the Time of Ovulation

Ovulation occurs at the 14th day of menstrual period. A clear discharge is common during this day. Sometimes, slight bleeding may occur with the release of egg. This blood turns brown till it reaches the vaginal opening and a brown vaginal discharge may be seen.

Brown Vaginal Discharge During Pregnancy

This may be implantation bleeding. When the egg gets implanted in the uterus, a slight bleeding is possible. This bleed may pass out through the vagina as a light pink or brown discharge.

Uterine Polyp

There may be a growth inside the uterus, like polyps. Such growths bleed with menses. They may also bleed otherwise to give a reddish brown vaginal discharge.

During Perimenopausal Phase

Perimenopause may be associated with a brown discharge. This discharge may sometimes be yellow to reddish brown. It is usually slight in amount. If it is heavy, consult your doctor at the earliest.

Brown vaginal discharge after menopause also needs to be investigated. It may be an indication of some growth in the uterus or else where in the reproductive tract.

Atrophic Vaginitis

This is a condition where the inner lining of the vaginal canal gets thinned out or atrophied. The condition is usually associated with decreased amounts of estrogen as in menopause.

There may be a light brown or yellowish discharge. Itching due to dryness is usually associated. Sexual intercourse is painful.

Certain Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases (PID)

Infection anywhere in the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, vagina or the ovaries may lead to a vaginal discharge. Its color may vary from light brown, yellow or reddish, depending upon the infection and its location.

Associated symptoms are usually there, including fever, itching, pelvic pain,  foul smelling odor and menstrual irregularities.

Diagnosing a Brown Vaginal Discharge

If you have a brown mucus vaginal discharge on a persistent or recurrent basis, do not ignore it.

Look of any other associated symptom, like:

  • Smell of the discharge,
  • Whether it is thick brown vaginal discharge or thin. Whether it is light or dark brown in color.
  • Any pain in the canal, pain during intercourse.
  • Itching or burning in the genital region
  • If the discharge is sticky or stringy
  • Swelling or redness of the vagina and nearby areas.

Further investigations need to be carried out to diagnose the cause of the discharge.

Treatment would depend upon the underlying cause of the discharge. If it is an infection, antibiotics would be required. Growths inside the uterus require hormonal treatments. If the bleed is heavy, surgical excision may be done.

Malignancy needs to be treated a the earliest.

Medical Advice (Q&As) on “Brown Vaginal Discharge – Causes and Management

  1. WHITNEY

    It’s been almost a week now plus mo days from my menses. I have this pink to light brownish vaginal discharge not foul smelling and it’s not in alarming quantity! I usually have this kind of discharge for two days after menses. Now worried could there be something wrong with me! I’m 24 years and I have one sexual partner.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      There are more than one possibilities.

      This may be pregnancy or some infection.

      In infective states, you’ll find the surrounding area red, itchy. You may self examine with a mirror.

      A painless bleed may be malignancy. It is recommended you go to a doctor for examination.

      Reply
  2. Victoria

    Hello. It has already been 2 weeks that I had a yellow vaginal discharge, it smells and it burns. Recently a light brown discharge is added to the list. What could be the cause?
    I am 19 years old.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      This is likely to be an infection. You need to take antibiotics for this.

      It’s better to go to a doctor as early as possible. If left untreated, the infection may travel up to involve other higher reproductive organs.

      Reply
  3. Susan

    I’ve been having light brown discharge for over a week and it’s been pretty light. I haven’t gotten my period yet (unless I’m just having a super light one right now), but I have no other symptoms other than maybe slight bloating. Should I be worried?

    Reply
  4. Julie

    I lost my virginity 4 days ago. I now am getting some white to light brown discharge. Is this normal? We used a condom and he is clean. It’s just still a scary thought.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Any pain, redness or itching down there?

      If not, you may relax. The discharge may be due to the first intercourse you had. This is normal.

      Reply
  5. Nicole

    I started getting brown discharge (caries in color light/dark) about a week and a half ago. I have PCOS and very irregular periods but always had great blood work. They claim that my being overweight effected it. I just started changing my diet and exercise routine two months prior. So I am not regular and haven’t had a period in 7 months. I have light bloating and mild cramps. Very confused.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      PCOS has a relation with being overweight. Loosing weight would help.

      As for the brown discharge, let us know if there is any redness or itching down there.

      Reply
        1. Buddy M.D. Post author

          You are unlikely to have any infection down there. The discharge may be related to your PCOS problem.

          You need to see a gyne for this.

          Reply
  6. Rebeca Green

    After having sex, I always have normal discharge. The discharge does have a strong smell and usually lasts about a day. I do wash well but on excessively. After intercourse is the only time it has the odor any other normal body discharge does not have a smell. Could this be because of an imbalance of the bacteria or what could cause this?

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      After intercourse, it may be your vaginal secretions mixed with semen, or the smell of latex condom mixed with your secretions.

      As far as you see no redness or itchiness down there, it is not a problem.

      Reply
  7. Rosemary Thairu

    3 months ago, I got this foul smelling discharge that is yellowish/brownish and was treated for UTI. It has recurred and after scan I am told I got fluid in the POD a sign of PID. Now what is the best treatment for this, as I fear what the doctor was suggesting, having the fluid extracted. Is there medication for it?

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      This appear to be a PID, may be partly bacterial vaginosis. Two different medicines are recommended as treatment for BV: metronidazole or clindamycin.

      Though most cases of infections get healed by antibiotic treatment alone, if the infected fluid present in your pelvis is substantial, it’s better to get it drained surgically.

      Reply
  8. Cynthia

    I had intercourse 9, 6, and 2 days ago.
    After the first 2 times (9&6) days ago, there was bleeding, though I suspect this was due to possibly being scratched.
    However, when I had intercourse 2 days ago, I noticed there was a dark brown discharge accompanied by dark brown, almost black specks, which occurred at the beginning of the day (prior to intercourse), which has only gotten heavier/darker
    What could have caused the spotting/ is the bleeding associated with it?

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      This appears to be something from the uterine cavity. Small clots could have appeared as black specks.

      Have you been menstruating until recently? What’s your age?

      Reply
      1. Cynthia

        I am 19.
        Until about 6 months ago my cycle was highly irregular, however, I went on birth control pills around then and they have been regular since then.
        I noticed that this evening the spotting has decreased but is still present.

        Reply
  9. joan

    Hi! I’m 27 years old and had a long distance relationship. Just this last week, me and my partner had sexual intercourse again after 3mos, we only had 4 days to be together and we made love 3 times and all those intercourse were not withrawal and no protection, which is we always do. We’ve been together for a year but had very limited intercourse due to long distance relationship and everytime we do it we never had any protection and never done any withrawal process. Anyway, just this last week after our intercourse when I get back in my place I had this dark brown smelly discharge and I am very alarm because it was far from the usual. Even when I am wearing pants, I can still smell the disgusting odor down there. Can you please tell me what’s the reason behind this? Is it possible that HE might had an intercourse with other woman that’s why I am having this dark brown smelly discharge. I had irregular menstruation as well, last month I had my menstruation on the 3rd to 7th of november. Please, please I hope you can help me about this. I’ve been so stressed about this and I don’t know what to do. Been having this smell and discharge for about 6 days up to now.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      This is very likely to be a vaginal infection. You need to see gyne for a check up. The earlier you start with the medicines, the better it is.

      If delayed, the infection can travel upwards and affect other reproductive organs too.

      It’s difficult to comment how you got the infection. It may be through infected commodes, intercourse, tampons etc.

      Reply
  10. j

    I have been having a brownish discharge for nearly a week now. I must admit, this month I have forgotten to take my pill regularly. Could this be the cause?

    Reply
  11. tabitha

    I have been having light brown to dark brownish discharge for 2 weeks now. It does have a smell and I do have slight pelvic pain here and there. I had my left ovary and tube removed in 2011 due to a serous fibroadenoma that was recurrent. I am a little concerned and not really sure if this is normal.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Likely to be a pelvic infections, for which antibiotics need to be given.

      However, since you have mentioned fibroadenoma in your past history, you need to visit your doctor to rule its recurrence.

      Reply
        1. Buddy M.D. Post author

          Infection of the vagina or may be higher up, that is the uterus.
          If you have any swelling or pain down there or any itching or rashes in your groin region, there are chances that it’s an infection.

          Reply
  12. Christina

    I am 19 and I have been having dark brown discharge and brown specks ever since having sex over a week ago. It isn’t itchy and doesn’t hurt, but I was expecting it to go away by now. Is this concerning/should I go see a doctor about this, or is it common? My period isn’t supposed to come for another 11 days.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      This may happen in normal circumstances. The discharge sounds normal, not giving you any trouble. However, it shoud go in another 3 to 4 days. If not, you need to see a doctor for examination.

      Reply
        1. Buddy M.D. Post author

          If it doesn’t go, you need to see a gyne for physical examination.

          As you may read above, there are various causes for having a brownish discharge. It may be some trauma, infection or even malignancy.

          Reply
  13. Anna

    I have had a brown vaginal discharge for about 2 weeks starting shortly after my last period. There are no other symptoms accompanying the discharge. I had 1 sexual partner before my last period. The discharge ranges from light to heavy. Because there are no other symptoms a bit confused. I am 22 years old.

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      Since you have no other disturbing symptom, it’s likely to be a normal discharge, a part of the cleaning process done by the vagina from time to time.

      However, if this happens again or if you develop any other symptom, you need to get examined.

      Reply
  14. Lesly

    Hi, I am 21 years old. My period date was supposed to be on 1st of every month. I missed my period and instead getting brown discharge from vagina. I haven’t had any sort of intercourse. What can be the cause for this?

    Reply
  15. Jane

    I just had my period and it was light. I am 47; so, I wasn’t concerned; however, I am having a brown watery discharge that is very smell for the past 2days. I am not having any other abnormal pain; but, the stench is aweful. My Dr. can’t see me for 2 weeks. Is this something that needs immediate care? What is it?

    Reply
    1. Buddy M.D. Post author

      You need to be examined for diagnosis. It’s not an emergency. So, you may wait till two weeks.

      This may be a mild infection or else the discharge may be coming from some growth inside the uterus.

      Reply