Should I Be Worried About Brown Discharge?

Dr. Tariq MiskryDr. Tariq Miskry

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Dr Tariq Miskry, Consultant Gynaecologist & Obstetrician

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Woman sitting at the top of a rock and looking at the seaWoman sitting at the top of a rock and looking at the sea

On a visit to the loo, you may have noticed some brown discharge in your underwear or on the toilet paper. Although it can be a little disconcerting, it is usually perfectly normal and no reason to worry.

Whether it’s an entirely new experience for you or it happens every so often, read on to get of the rundown on the ins and outs of brown discharge, what causes it, and when to worry (and when you can safely relax – which is most of the time! Great!)

What Causes Brown Discharge?

Put quite straightforwardly, brown discharge is caused by bits of blood getting caught up in your discharge, leaving your body. Here is a list of possible reasons why you might be experiencing brown discharge every once in a while:

  • You Have Just Finished Your Period
    Thick brown discharge is often a sign that your body is cleaning itself by flushing out residual blood from your period. Bits may come out with your discharge in the days after you think your period has ended. Older blood tends to turn more brownish. You might see this during your period when the blood is a bright red in the first few days and becomes browner a few days in. See this as a positive thing, as it means that your body is doing a good job of keeping clean.

  • You Are About To Ovulate
    Brown sticky discharge can also occur due to the hormonal changes your body experiences during ovulation. Oestrogen levels rise, prompting your body to release an egg from your ovaries, so the change in discharge texture is completely normal.

  • It’s Not You, It’s Your Birth Control
    Random brown discharge can be your body’s reaction to a new birth control pill or you might have forgotten to take your pill for a few days recently. This is thanks to the hormonal changes, and the spotting should stop as your body adjusts. If you have forgotten to take your birth control pill it’s important to start taking it as soon as possible and consider emergency contraception if you have had intercourse.

  • Your Cervix is Irritated
    The cervix is fairly sensitive, so anything from a slightly careless pelvic examination to vigorous bedroom antics can be causes of brown discharge.

  • You Are Stressed or Depressed
    Stress and depression can cause the lining of the uterus to thin, and parts of it to come away at unexpected times. Try to identify and remove the cause of stress from your life. Take some time out to relax or, if it feels more serious, see a doctor about the way you are feeling. With the right self-care and support, this brown discharge should clear up.

What Causes Brown Smelly Discharge?

All discharge has a scent of some sort, which can also vary throughout the month according to what is happening in your body. It may be that two different things are going on in your vagina at the same time, and the smell and colour are not linked.

Sometimes, however, brown smelly discharge can be a sign of something more serious that should be checked out by a doctor. This could be anything from a vaginal infection, to problems in the reproductive system, to a health issue elsewhere in your body.

On the other hand, brown smelly discharge may be caused by something as simple as a tampon that you have forgotten about and left inside you.

Is Brown Discharge A Sign Of Pregnancy?

Brown discharge that looks like spotting in your underwear can also be an early sign of pregnancy. Though it’s not a definitive sign you’re pregnant (you should get a pregnancy test if you think you are! Maybe should say ‘might be’ rather than ‘are’), spotting sometimes occurs when a fertilised egg, or embryo, implants into your uterus’ wall. Which is often around the time you might expect your period.

For some women, brown stretchy discharge or brown watery discharge can appear during the early days of pregnancy. This is caused by the fertilised egg nesting itself into the lining of the uterus and spotting is a completely normal side effect.

For that reason, many pregnant women choose to wear Always Dailies pantyliners throughout the first trimester to help prevent this from ruining their underwear and keep them more comfortable.

When Should I Be Concerned About Brown Discharge?

As long as your discharge is not itchy, smelly, or greenish-brown coloured, it is perfectly normal. Signs to look out for are cramping, pelvic pain or bleeding during sex, spots, weight gain, fever, or – as mentioned earlier – strange smells. This may indicate an underlying medical condition or serious hormonal imbalance that requires treatment.

These include things such as ovarian cysts, polycystic ovary syndrome, and cervical cancer (infection should be in this list as would be most common). These are rarely the cause, and they are often accompanied by other symptoms, so please don’t worry, but it is always worth getting the opinion of a medical professional.

What Should I Do If I Have Brown Discharge?

To be honest, you probably don’t need to do anything for the time being. It is rarely a sign of an actual issue, but brown discharge can be disconcerting – as well as a bit of a nuisance, thanks to the marks it can leave in your underwear.

If you are worried though, keep a diary to track how long this discharge lasts for, and make a note if you suffer any other symptoms at the same time. Whatever the cause, brown vaginal discharge is actually incredibly easy to manage. Simply using a pantyliner will keep it off your knickers (yay for not ruining your favourite pair!).

Always Dailies pantyliners come in a variety of sizes and absorbencies, to keep you feeling fresh and confident no matter what your discharge situation is. They are super flexible and wick away moisture, so you’ll barely know you have one on. That way you can go about your day free of discharge worry.

Always Dailies is on a mission to bust common myths around vaginal discharge. In fact, vaginal discharge is totally normal and happens to all of us women. Why make it a taboo topic? We want to provide you with all the information you need and ask for. In case you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us under 0080077634434 or 0800 0285884 (UK), 1800509203 (ROI).

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