What is Dark Brown Discharge?
Dark Brown Discharge is one of common concerns of girls and women. Not all cases of dark brown vaginal discharge are cause for concern. Dark brown vaginal discharge is most often associated with old endometrial tissues. If your period is late you might get dark brown, rather than red, discharge. It could also mean that for whatever reason during your last menses the entire uterine lining failed to make a timely exit. Dark brown discharge may happen right after periods, and is just "cleaning out" your vagina. Old blood looks dark brown.
Women who have a regular menstrual cycle, know very well as to when to expect their periods. Due to this, any change in the regular pattern can cause anxiety and worry. Due to this, if the woman observes dark brown discharge during the time she is not expecting her periods, it can be disturbing. In most cases dark brown vaginal discharge is not a serious condition and can be treated with some dietary as well as lifestyle changes. But sometimes dark brown discharge could be a symptom for serious problems.
There are several causes for dark brown discharge.
Dark Brown Discharge Causes
It is always better to know all possible causes for dark brown discharge which can be useful for prevention, early diagnosis and in time treatment (if needed).
Dark Brown Discharge in puberty
Once you start puberty a white and/or clear discharge is normal. The vagina is self-cleaning. This same discharge increases the closer you get to ovulation and when you are sexually aroused. You can have this normal discharge for weeks, months or even years before getting your first period. It will also continue after you get your period. Sometimes you can have few times dark brown discharge before your first period. Your first period can also look like dark brown.
Dark Brown Discharge & Endometrium
Endometrium is a mucous membrane which lines the uterus and thickens so that a fertilized egg can attach itself to this lining. But if partners use contraception and if pregnancy does not occur, this lining disintegrates and is thrown out of the body in the form of menstrual blood. These endometrial tissues have different layers and are completely shed during menstruation. However, sometimes due to some reason, certain parts of the uterine lining may not be able to shed completely. Due to this, the person may experience dark brown discharge after period or may be before the beginning of the next periods. As the blood is a little old, it becomes dark brown in color.
Dark Brown Discharge during ovulation
Some women experience dark brown discharge just in the middle of the menstrual cycle. If you experience dark brown discharge between periods, it is most likely because of ovulation. In most cases women with average 28-30 days menstrual cycle have ovulation on 14th - 16th day - as the mature egg releases from the ovary, some women experience a little bleeding which is usually called “ovulation spotting”. In most cases the combination of dark brown discharge with short abdominal cramps indicate ovulation day.
Dark Brown Discharge during stress
How many time we are facing stress! - Love, danger, fear, abuse, exams, conflicts, work, personal relations, misunderstandings, fight, sadness, diseases, death, etc.
Eating disorders, dieting, drug use, and reliance on stimulants like caffeine and alcohol are also interpreted by the body as kinds of stress. Poor nutrition seems to physically change the proteins in the brain so they can no longer send the proper signals for normal ovulation.
When we are under stress, our adrenal glands are designed to produce the hormone called stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline) which have direct impact on the sex hormones (mainly estrogens and progesterone). Estrogens and progesterone are responsible for development of the endometrium (internal lining of the uterus). Sex hormones are also responsible for normal regular menstrual cycles.
When a woman is subjected to extreme stress and depression, the inner lining of the uterus becomes thin. This thin lining means that there is a delay in shedding the endometrial wall. This delay will cause the blood to oxidize and become discolored – often like dark brown discharge. Scientists discovered the correlation between chronic stress, irregular periods and dark brown discharge.
It was hypothesized that women with higher stress levels would be more likely to experience abnormal cycles and unexpected dark brown discharge. Many women after stress could have irregular periods and/or dark brown discharge instead of period, and/or irregular dark brown discharge.
Dark Brown Discharge during pregnancy
Dark brown discharge during pregnancy is always alarming symptom and special attention should be paid to it. Although many pregnant women could have dark brown discharge during whole pregnancy without any serious reason but sometimes the dark brown discharge during pregnancy could be a signal of some serious conditions.
Dark brown discharge in early pregnancy is very common and can be an indication that one has conceived. This usually occurs a few days after conception (when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine lining) – it is called implantation bleeding. This type of dark brown discharge during pregnancy lasts for 3-4 days and is usually very light.
Dark brown discharge during pregnancy could be observed if woman have cervical sensitivity, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and/or genital HPV.
Sometimes during pregnancy dark brown discharge could be a signal for serious threats such as ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage and/or molar pregnancy.
However, if you experience dark brown discharge any time during pregnancy, it is better to contact your doctor.
Dark Brown Discharge & Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Other reasons that can give rise to the occurrence of dark brown discharge in women are vaginal infections including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) - gonorrhea, genital warts, Chlamydia. However, in this case, along with vaginal discharge, one may also experience other symptoms which include pain, burning sensation, infertility, loss of appetite and/or vomiting.
Dark Brown Discharge during cervical dysplasia
Dark brown discharge is typical for cervical dysplasia.
Cervical dysplasia is precancerous changes of the epithelial cells that line the cervix. Risk increases with multiple sexual partners, sexual activities before age 18, childbirth before age 16, or a past history of STDs.
Dark Brown Discharge & polyps
Dark brown discharge could be a symptom of cervical and/or uterine polyps.
Cervical polyps can bleed when touched during intimacy. Cervical polyps are smooth, red or purple, finger-like growths that grow out of the mucus layer of the cervix or the cervical canal. Cervical polyps are extremely fragile, extending out of the cervix, and easily and painlessly removed.
Uterine polyps occur when the endometrium overgrows causing these protrusions into the uterus. Women with uterine polyps frequently experience dark brown bleeding between periods, after sex, dark brown spotting and bleeding after menopause.
Dark Brown Discharge after intercourse
Although many women will notice small amounts of blood or dark brown discharge after sexual intercourse, it is less common to notice more moderate or larger amounts of dark brown discharge during intimacy.
Main causes of the dark brown discharge during and/or after intercourse include hymen tears, pregnancy, cervical dysplasia, inflammations and/or irritations, adenomyosis, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), vaginal yeast infection and cervical polyps.
Dark Brown Discharge & contraception
Dark brown vaginal discharge can be one of side effects of birth control pills. Dark brown discharge caused by birth control is an unpleasant and embarrassing problem that many women deal with monthly – it is just a signal of some hormonal changes developed by birth control pills. Birth control pills are responsible for decreased concentrations of estrogens and progesterone – both responsible for endometrial normal development. As a result the lining of the uterus is becoming so thin that it sometimes sloughs off a little bit and appearing as unpleasant unexpected dark brown discharge. In most cases dark brown discharge is usually old blood or tissue from uterus.
Other reason for dark brown discharge during birth control pills could be missed pills. Missed pills are disturbing the whole hormonal mechanisms and “upsetting” the endometrium. Taking birth control pills at precisely the same time every day may help during brown discharge.
Dark brown discharge and/or brown spotting are pretty common side effects of morning after pills (Emergency Contraception). Some women could have dark brown discharge/spotting or bleeding within the first week of taking morning after pills.
Dark brown discharge is one of unpleasant side effects of intrauterine devices (IUD) especially for hormonal IUDs (Mirena). During first 6 months with Mirena you could experience dark brown discharge. Main causes for dark brown discharge during Mirena use are hormonal disturbances and/or infections (vaginal infections and/or pelvic infections). In both cases the endometrium (internal uterine lining) is damaged.
Dark Brown Discharge during menopause
As women approach 45-50 the menopause is also approaching. Women in perimenopause and/or menopause start having irregular periods (often rare periods every 3-6 months). During menopause, women no longer have a period but women could experience light bleeding or dark brown discharge. A condition during menopause known as atrophy can also cause the dark brown discharge. Atrophy occurs when the blood vessels within the uterine lining become weak and spontaneously burst, causing dark brown discharge.
Experiencing dark brown discharge instead of period is very common in perimenopausal and/or menopausal women. During this period women experience hormonal changes, irregular periods and some other menopause symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, body ache, depression, foul urine odor, etc.
Dark Brown Discharge during Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
One of the most serious problems which can cause the dark brown vaginal discharge is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This disease occurs due to the infection on the ovaries, uterus lining, fallopian tubes, cervix and the vagina. This is commonly seen in women who have sexual contact with more than one partner. Apart from dark brown vaginal discharge some other typical symptoms could be noted such as abdominal pain, painful menstruation, pain during sexual intercourse, infertility, fewer, etc.
Dark Brown Discharge after hysterectomy
Dark brown vaginal discharge after hysterectomy could last several weeks after surgery and it may have some specific vaginal odor. The amount will vary depending on patient activities but is often more noticeable two weeks after surgery.
Main causes for smelly dark brown discharge after hysterectomy include bacteria and/or virus and/or other vaginal infections such as yeast infection and Chlamydia. These infections could originate from the vagina. Since after hysterectomy the immune system is weakened due to the surgery, these microorganisms could take over.
As after hysterectomy women would not have more periods, dark brown discharge could be disturbing. Women should expect brown vaginal discharge for several weeks after surgery. Sometimes vaginal discharge can be pink and may have a slight odor. The amount will vary depending on women activities but is often more noticeable two weeks after surgery when you begin passing some of the absorbable stitches. If you are flowing like a period or you begin passing clots the size of your thumb or larger, notify your doctor.
After hysterectomy women could experience dark brown vaginal discharge combined with bloating, pain on the abdominal area, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and weakness.
Sometimes dark brown vaginal discharge after hysterectomy could be a symptom of HPV (human papilloma virus) or UTI (urinary tract infection).
Dark Brown Discharge during cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is surely the most serious as well as the most dangerous cause of dark brown discharge. This type of cancer is usually caused by the virus HPV which is spread through sexual contacts. Some of the risk factors that can cause cervical cancer include having sex at a young age, having multiple sex partners, weakened immune system, etc. Other than dark brown vaginal discharge, some other symptoms of cervical cancer include unexpected weight loss, pelvic pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, etc.