Brown Discharge After Period: What Does It Mean?

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Brown Discharge After Period: What Does It Mean?
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Brown discharge after period is fairly common and usually means that there is old menstrual blood getting cleaned out. Noticing some light to dark brown spotting after your period has ended doesn’t always mean there is something to worry about. Many women experience some dark spotting after their period as part of their regular menstrual cycle.

Some of the reasons for spots of brown discharge after your period can be due to ovulation, stress, or taking birth control. In some cases, implantation bleeding can cause rust-colored discharge a couple of weeks after your period has finished. However, if you notice brown discharge on your underwear after your period with other symptoms like abdominal cramping or an irregular period, this can be a sign of another health problem like ovarian cysts or uterine fibroids.

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If you are worried about what brown discharge means, then this article will help you discern the reasons for brown discharge. In most cases, brown discharge only means that you should observe your monthly cycle to look for other symptoms or changes to your period before getting overly anxious.

What is Brown Discharge?

Because regular vaginal discharge is clear or milky white, many women are worried when they notice brown discharge or dark spotting before or after their periods. Even thick white discharge is normal for many women as long as there is no discharge odor with it. Thankfully, brown discharge doesn’t usually mean anything is wrong.

According to doctors from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, brown discharge can happen right after your period. The brown color of discharge is just because it’s an old blood and it is usually part of the menstrual cycle.1

In fact, according to medical staff from WebMD, the presence of old blood along with menstrual flow can be a reason for dark or even black period blood that occurs at the end or just after your period.2

Common Causes of Brown Discharge After Period

Apart from brown discharge being part of some women’s regular menstrual cycles, there are other reasons why you may notice brown discharge or spotting after your period.

Ovulation

Brown discharge that occurs 7 to 14 days after your period could mean that you are ovulating. Usually, the menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, and about 2 weeks after the start of your monthly cycle your body will release an egg. However, the menstrual cycle may be shorter or longer depending on what is regular for you.

Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology from the University of Florida, Dr. Andrew Kaunitz says that changes in hormone levels around the time of ovulation can be a reason for small amounts of brown discharge after your period. If you have irregular periods, then you may see some dark-colored spotting before or after your menstrual period.

Implantation spotting

Another reason for noticing small spots of rusty brown-colored discharge after your period is implantation bleeding. Although not all women experience implantation bleeding as an early sign of pregnancy, some light bleeding is normal and nothing to be worried about. Along with brown spotting, you may notice an increase in milky white discharge and have some implantation cramping.

According to Dr. Traci Johnson on WebMD, implantation bleeding occurs around a week to 12 days after conception. The light brown discharge along with light cramping happens when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine lining. Because this happens around the time you expect your period, many women mistake implantation spotting for the start of their period.4

If the brown discharge doesn’t result in a period, you should take a pregnancy test and look for other early signs of pregnancy.

It is normal to have discharge during the course of your pregnancy. However, if you are pregnant and notice unusual discharge with a bad smell or you have vaginal bleeding, you should speak to your doctor.

Birth Control

Birth control can cause some small amounts of brown discharge between your periods, especially in the first few months. The brown spotting or discharge can occur when taking birth control pills or after having an intrauterine device fitted.

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Doctors from the University of Colorado say that brown spotting after your period or before your period can often happen when using birth control. The irregular spotting happens because of changes in estrogen levels or not taking the pill at the same time every day.5

Even though brown discharge caused by birth control methods is normal in many cases, you should still mention the bleeding to your doctor.

Stress

You might notice brown discharge when you don’t expect your period if you have been under a lot of stress. Intense stress over a period of time can cause changes in your hormones that can result in irregular dark brown spotting.

According to Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet, stress is a very common cause of irregular periods or even missing a period completely.6 This irregularity with your periods can result in brown spotting when you are not expecting it. In fact, doctors from the National Health Service say that stress is one reason for spotting after your period has finished.7

Learning how to cope with stress better can help to regulate your menstrual cycle and stop brown discharge after your period.

Perimenopause

As you approach the menopause, your periods become less regular and this can cause some brown discharge after your period. Irregular periods or a light menstrual flow can mean that blood isn’t expelled quickly. This can cause brown spotting at the end or after your period.

Doctors from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that changes in progesterone and estrogen levels cause irregular menstruation patterns. This can cause irregular spotting or bleeding between your periods. You may also notice that some periods are lighter, some heavier and the time between periods can fluctuate.8

Hormonal changes during the perimenopausal period can cause extra stress on your mind and body. To find out about natural ways to cope with the menopause, please read my article on natural supplements to relieve symptoms of menopause. You may also find relief in using essential oils that help reduce the effects of the menopause.

Other Reasons for Brown Discharge After Period

While there are many “normal” reasons for brown discharge after your period, noticing brown spotting on your pad or underwear can also be a sign of a more serious health concern.

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Ovarian cyst

Ovarian cysts can cause brownish discharge along with abdominal cramping after your period has finished. Although ovarian cysts are part of your menstrual cycle, if they continue to fill with fluid and then rupture, they may cause ovary pain and result in light to heavy bleeding.

According to Dr. Irina Burd on MedlinePlus, ovarian cysts can sometimes cause bleeding between periods. Along with spotting on your underwear, you may have dull pelvic aches and abdominal pain after your period or before your period.9

There are some warnings signs of ovarian cysts apart from irregular menstrual bleeding. Usually, doctors recommend a “wait and see” approach before recommending the removal of the cysts.

Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

One of the signs of an underactive thyroid is brown discharge appearing 7 or more days after your period. Your thyroid controls certain hormones and is needed for your body to function properly. An underactive thyroid (or hypothyroidism) can also cause you fatigue, poor blood circulation, depression, constipation, and tingling in your limbs.

According to Dr. Millie Behera on Medscape, hypothyroidism can be to blame of abnormal bleeding between periods. Depending on the effect the lack of thyroid hormone has on your system, the bleeding before or after your period can be light to heavy.10

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

An infection in your reproductive organs can cause vaginal discharge that looks brown along with other symptoms. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a bacterial infection that results in inflammation, foul-smelling discharge, pain when urinating, and irregular periods.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PID is often to blame for discharge between periods that smells bad. Doctors recommend getting treatment at the earliest sign of PID as any damage done to your reproductive system can’t be undone. Left untreated, pelvic inflammatory disease can leave you infertile or cause long-term abdominal pain.11

Uterine fibroids

Another abnormality of the reproductive system that can result in brown discharge after your period is uterine fibroids. These are noncancerous growths in the uterus that can cause some light brown discharge a week or so after your period.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that along with spotting between periods, uterine fibroids can cause heavier than usual menstrual bleeding, frequent urination, and pain in your lower back. You should see your doctor if you suspect you have uterine fibroids and have long menstrual periods and difficulty emptying your bladder.12

Cancer

In rare cases, abnormal vaginal bleeding between your periods that looks like brown discharge could be a sign of cancer in your reproductive organs.

However, it’s good to remember that abnormal bleeding in itself doesn’t mean that you have cancer. In fact, doctors from the National Health Service say that most women with bleeding between periods don’t have cancer at all. However, if you have been through the menopause, then you should speak to your doctor about any kind of vaginal bleeding.13

There are other warning signs of uterine cancer that you should be aware of. Also, cancer of the cervix or ovarian cancer can also cause abnormal vaginal bleeding along with pelvic pain, frequent need to pee, loss of appetite, and feeling constantly fatigued.

Brown Discharge After Period – When to See a Doctor

Most cases of brown discharge after your period are normal and not connected with any serious medical condition. Some women regularly have some spots of brown discharge between periods due to stress, ovulation, or other factors that can be to blame.

However, if you have heavy spotting or bleeding between periods, then you should see your doctor. According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, you should see a doctor for abnormal discharge in the following circumstances:

  • The discharge is green, yellow, or thick white clumpy discharge.
  • There is a strong odor to the discharge after your period.
  • You also have itching, swollen labia, or vaginal irritation.
  • Bleeding that is unusual in your menstrual cycle.
  • You have passed the menopause and you notice a brown discharge or any kind of vaginal bleeding.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. PAMF. Vaginal discharge.
  2. WebMD. Menstrual blood problems.
  3. UpToDate. Abnormal
  4. WebMD. Bleeding during pregnancy.
  5. ColoradoWomensHealth. Vaginal bleeding.
  6. MedicineNet. Does stress affect your period?
  7. NHS. Vaginal bleeding between periods.
  8. ACOG. Perimenopausal bleeding and bleeding after menopause.
  9. MedlinePlus. Ovarian cysts.
  10. Medscape. Abnormal uterine bleeding.
  11. CDC. Pelvic inflammatory disease.
  12. MayoClinic. Uterine fibroids.
  13. NHS. Womb cancer.
  14. MayoClinic. Vaginal discharge.
  15. MayoClinic. Vaginal bleeding.
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