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Why is my discharge brown?

Discharge can be brown-tinged due to old blood–but that isn’t always the case.

Brown Discharge: The Quick Take

  • Vaginal discharge can turn a brownish color if it’s tinged with blood.
  • That can happen for a range of reasons, from blood mixing with discharge, to a possible sign of menopause or an infection.
  • If you suddenly also experience pelvic pain, itching, or discharge that is foamy or has a bad odor, contact your doctor.

Throughout the month, you may notice some changes to your discharge outside of your period, and those are very important to pay close attention to.

After your period, discharge can turn brown when the blood from your period is older and has been exposed to oxygen, turning it darker red or brown.

However, there can be other reasons for brown discharge. Let’s outline possible causes for that change and when it’s time to get more information from your doctor.

Brown discharge could be a sign of menopause

As you approach menopause, your estrogen levels become lower. That hormonal change can cause the walls of your vagina to become more thin, even brittle.

This is called vaginal atrophy, a shrinking of the blood vessels, and it’s one possible cause of the brownish discharge you may experience. You may want to check in with your doctor to confirm that the source of the brown-colored discharge is your vagina, rather than your uterus–which can indicate other conditions.

Bacterial vaginosis can cause brown-to-grey discharge

Infections also can change the color of vaginal discharge. Bacterial vaginosis (BV), for example, is a bacterial imbalance that often occurs around your period and after sex.

It’s a common outcome of discharge mixing with blood or semen. BV can cause discharge to turn greyish-brown (especially when it’s dry).

If you experience brownish-grey discharge with a fishy odor, reach out to your doctor to find out if you need a prescription to help restore the bacterial balance in your reproductive tract.

STDs/STIs can make discharge brown

Sometimes this color change can be associated with chlamydia discharge and/or gonorrhea discharge. Another STI that can cause brown discharge is trichomoniasis, a common infection caused by a live parasite in your reproductive tract. It causes an irritation that leads to bits of blood that can turn discharge brown.

Sometimes trichomoniasis also can cause discharge that has:

  • A white, yellow or greenish color
  • A foamy texture
  • A bad odor

Your doctor can test you for this condition and give you a prescription that eliminates the parasite.

When to be concerned about “spotting”

Discharge can turn a brownish color even from a small amount of blood mixing with it. Sometimes that blood can come from the cervix.

It’s common because the cervix is fragile, so this phenomenon, called “spotting” can happen at any age and between periods. But abnormal bleeding (prolonged and heavy) –especially if it’s accompanied by pain–is a reason to see your doctor.

Takeaways:

If the brown discharge occurs before or after a period and there are no other symptoms alongside it, then in all likelihood there isn’t any cause for concern. You can mention it at your next physical or gynecologist visit. If any other symptoms are present or you have concerns regarding other health issues, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as you can.

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