Brown Period Blood: What Does It Mean?

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Brown Period Blood - What Does It Mean?
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If you have noticed brown period blood instead of regular period blood, you may be wondering what it means. Thankfully, brown period blood doesn’t always mean that there is something wrong. In fact, many women notice that their period blood is occasionally brown. Each woman’s menstrual cycle is different and it’s not uncommon for period blood to change in consistency, volume, and color during a period.

Very often, brown blood appears at the end of your period when your body is shedding old blood that has accumulated. Or, it could be that you mistake brown spotting for brown period blood if ovulation is late or you have signs of implantation bleeding.

However, there are circumstances when noticing spots of brown blood means that it’s wise to pay a visit to your doctor. On rare occasions, brown period blood can be a sign of benign growths in your reproductive system or even cancer.

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This article looks at the various meanings of brown period blood. In many cases, you will realize that occasionally, period blood that has a brownish color is completely normal and nothing to worry about.

What is Brown Period Blood?

Why is period blood sometimes brown? The reason is that old blood turns a brown or even black color and makes period blood look brown.

Doctors from WebMD explain that sometimes period blood becomes dark brown or even black towards the end of the menstrual period. This is completely normal and is nothing to worry about. The reason for the blood turning brown is that older blood is getting released from the body along with regular red menstrual blood.1 In fact, this can be a reason for sometimes noticing dark or black period blood on your pad.

Also, depending on the flow of your menstrual blood, blood may spend longer in your vagina and give regular period blood a hint of brown. So, irregular menstrual periods can sometimes cause old blood to be expelled with new blood, and give brown color to your period blood.

The Causes of Brown Period Blood

Let’s look in more detail at some of the reasons for noticing brown period blood during your menstrual cycle.

Regular menstrual period

First, brown period blood can be part of regular menstrual bleeding that a woman experiences every month.

As already stated, blood that stays in the uterus for longer than usual can turn a brown or dark brown color. Therefore, many women may experience some brown period blood at the end of their period.

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Implantation discharge

What you think is brown blood at the start of your period may, in fact, be a sign of implantation bleeding.

Implantation bleeding happens when you become pregnant and can result in brown-colored spotting just before your period. Because the early signs of pregnancy can be similar to the start of your period, many women mistake brown spotting for period blood.

The American Pregnancy Association says that many women experience implantation bleeding a week or two after conception. This results in brownish spotting and can easily be mistaken for the start of the menstruation period. The blood looks brown because it is aged and therefore isn’t bright red like regular menstrual bleeding.1

Some other signs that the spotting is not brown period blood are light cramping, spotting that only last a day or two, mood swings, and headaches.

Brown discharge during pregnancy

Although you don’t have periods during your pregnancy, you may experience some light bleeding or brown discharge during early pregnancy. Also, it’s normal to lose a small amount of blood during pregnancy and this could show up as brown discharge during pregnancy.

For example: the cervix is usually more sensitive during pregnancy, and irritation to the cervix due to intercourse or a routine pregnancy exam can cause spotting which appears like brown discharge.

Because many pregnant women are worried about miscarriage, you should tell your doctor or obstetrician about any changes in your vaginal discharge or bleeding, or if the spotting continues or the flow of blood gets heavier.

Contraception

Contraception can cause irregular bleeding that can cause brown-like period blood especially if you have recently started using contraception.

Some of the common contraception methods that can result in irregular blood flow and, therefore brown period blood, are the pill and intrauterine devices (IUDs). According to doctors from the National Health Service, hormonal contraceptives can cause irregular menstrual bleeding in the first three months.2

You may also experience “breakthrough bleeds” which doctors describe as being lighter and shorter than your regular periods. This can be a reason for brown discharge rather than period while on birth control.3

Doctors advise that, if bleeding last for longer than 3 months, you should speak to your doctor about the contraception methods.

Stress

Being under a lot of emotional or physiological stress can affect your menstrual cycle and could cause brown period blood.

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The Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research reported on a study on how stress can affect menstrual cycle regularity. Researchers found that excessive stress can cause menstrual cycles to become irregular and erratic. It was also found that psycho-social stress can cause premenstrual symptoms to become more pronounced.4

Very often, irregular menstrual periods can cause changes in period blood as the menstrual flow is reduced. This can result in older blood being passed with new blood that can look brown.

Upsetting your menstrual cycle is just one way that stress can affect your body. To help get rid of stress, you can try using some essential oils that have stress-relieving properties. You might also find that meditation is an excellent natural remedy for stress and anxiety.

Menopause

As you approach the menopause, you may find that your period blood is sometimes brown in color.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that fluctuations in progesterone levels and estrogen mean that the menstrual cycle becomes irregular. This can result in period bleeding being heavier or lighter than normal, and other months you might have shorter or longer periods.5

Hormonal changes in your body as you approach the menopause can put your body and emotions under a lot of stress. You can try some natural remedies for menopausal symptoms. These can help to reduce the intensity of hot flashes, increase energy levels, and reduce feelings of anxiety naturally. You might find that some essential oils can help reduce menopause symptoms.

Ovarian cysts

Brownish bleeding along with period blood or spotting between periods could be a sign of ovarian cysts.

Ovarian cysts are small sacs on the ovaries filled with fluid. According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, ovarian cysts are common and very often don’t cause any symptoms. However, some cysts can rupture and cause painful and uncomfortable symptoms.6 For example, ovarian cysts are often a cause of abdominal pain on only one side or spotting before your period.

Ovarian cysts can also cause irregular menstrual cycles and affect period blood. Dr. Wayne Blocker on eMedicineNet says that cysts on the ovaries cause abnormalities in menstrual periods and spotty bleeding from the vagina is common. They could also delay your menstrual period and cause brown period blood towards the end of your period.7

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If you suffer signs of ovarian cysts like unexplained abdominal cramping, lower back pain, problems with bowel movements, or a constant feeling of fullness, you should see your doctor. You can read more about what ovarian cyst are and about different types of ovarian cysts in my article about ovarian cysts: warning signs you should not ignore.

Uterine fibroids

Another reason why period blood could be brown is the presence of fibroids in the uterus.

Uterine fibroids are harmless growths on the uterus, but they can cause painful symptoms and upset your menstrual cycle. According to researchers from the Cleveland Clinic, uterine fibroids are one of the reasons for abnormal menstruation. This can cause periods to be as long as 35 days apart and result in a heavier or lighter flow than normal.8

Doctors say that fibroids can grow to be as large as a grapefruit. These large benign tumors can cause fibroid symptoms like pelvic discomfort, heavy menstrual periods, and bleeding between periods. You can find detailed information about what uterine fibroids are, their symptoms, and what causes them in my article about 7 warning signs you may have uterine fibroids.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition that could cause some brown period blood at the end of your period.

Endometrial tissue that grows outside the uterus is called endometriosis. Dr. Kecia Gaither on WebMD says that although the tissue is outside of your uterus, at the end of your period this tissue will break apart and bleed. At the end of your period, this breaks apart and causes heavier than usual bleeding. Dr. Gaither says that abnormal bleeding during periods is very common with endometriosis.9

Other complications that endometriosis causes are difficulty becoming pregnant, pain during sexual intercourse, severe abdominal cramping during your period, and painful bowel movements.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome could be a reason for brown period bleeding if you have very irregular periods. PCOS is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age in which a woman’s hormones are out of balance, and it can cause problems with a woman’s periods and make it difficult to get pregnant.

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According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, PCOS can cause infrequent, irregular, or prolonged menstrual cycles. This can result in having fewer than 9 menstrual periods in any given year.10 This abnormal bleeding during your period can mean that there is more old blood present in the menstrual bleeding. This can be a reason why your period blood is brown and infrequent.

If you suffer from PCOS, please refer to my article about the best natural remedies for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), where you can find herbal extracts, supplements and alternative therapies for PCOS.

Cancer

It’s not very often, but brown spotting that may or may not happen around the time of your period could be a sign of cancer. Cervical cancer, uterine cancer, or ovarian cancer can all cause irregular bleeding.

According to the American Cancer Society, although menstrual changes and irregular vaginal bleeding can be a sign of ovarian cancer, it is more likely caused by other conditions. The common signs of cancer of the reproductive organs are bloating, pelvic pain, or a feeling of fullness. However, these can also be signs of other non-cancerous diseases.11

If you are concerned about abnormal bleeding or you have brown vaginal bleeding after the menopause, you should visit your doctor for a checkup.

Is Brown Period Blood Always Normal?

Experiencing brown period blood toward the end of your period is normal for many women. There are some times when brown period blood is not normal, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms.

For example, the Cleveland Clinic reports that abnormal menstrual blood can indicate problems in the following circumstances:8

  • Your menstrual flow becomes heavier or lighter than usual.
  • You start having periods that are longer or shorter than usual.
  • Menstrual bleeding lasts longer than 7 days.
  • You also have sharp pains or cramping, nausea, or vomiting during your period.
  • You start to miss periods and you are not approaching the menopause.
  • You have brown spotting after the menopause.

When to See a Doctor about Brown Period Blood

If you notice that you occasionally have brown blood during your period, this is usually nothing to worry about. It is a sign that your reproductive organs are working properly to shed uterine lining and get rid of any waste during menstruation.

Because the body can still get rid of old blood after menstruation, you may find that you have brown vaginal discharge after your period.

However, doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that anytime you notice abnormal changes in your vaginal bleeding, you should see a doctor. The times to visit your doctor in cases of abnormal vaginal bleeding include:11

  • Having any kind of vaginal bleeding during pregnancy.
  • You have passed the menopause and are not taking hormonal therapy.
  • You are postmenopausal and take cyclic hormone therapy. This will cause some light bleeding for 10 to 12 days a month. Any bleeding other than this should be reported to your doctor.
  • Bleeding persists for longer than 6 months after starting continuous hormone therapy in the menopause.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. AmericanPregnancy. Implantation bleeding.
  2. NHS. What causes bleeding between periods?
  3. NHS. Irregular periods.
  4. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015 Mar; 9(3): QC01–QC03.
  5. ACOG. Perimenopausal bleeding and bleeding after menopause.
  6. MayoClinic. Ovarian cysts.
  7. eMedicineHealth. Ovarian cysts.
  8. ClevelandClinic. Abnormal menstruation.
  9. WebMD. Endometriosis.
  10. MayoClinic. Polycystic ovary syndrome.
  11. CancerOrg. Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.
  12. MayoClinic. Vaginal bleeding.
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2 Responses to Brown Period Blood: What Does It Mean?

  1. Dieketseng Mashego says:

    I have a problem. I’ve been mensturating for 5 month.I went to doctor but I’m not getting any better. so wt must I do.when I’m in bed with my Husbee I’m bleeding a lot.I wonder wt is the course. plz I need help my husband is not happy with that.plz I need help

    • Jenny Hills, Medical Writer and Researcher says:

      If your family doctor cannot help, it’s best to go to a gynecologist who may refer you to do an ultrasound to find out if there are any fibroids, cysts, polyps or any other issue that causes the abnormal bleeding.

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