What Causes Brown Vaginal Discharge Before Period?

What is Brown Discharge?

Brown discharge before a period is normally a vaginal discharge that contains blood. In most cases, brown discharge before a period is usually harmless. It may indicate pregnancy or perimenopause. In rare cases, it could signal an underlying health condition.

Brown discharge that occurs when a period is not due may cause concern.

A vaginal discharge is normally thin and clear or white. Sometimes, it may assume other colors. When vaginal discharge is brown, it likely contains small amounts of old blood that has taken longer to come out of the uterus may be brown. Brown discharge can occur for some reasons.

READ ALSO: Causes of Vaginal Itching after Sex

Reasons For Brown Vaginal Discharge

  1. When not pregnant

When there is no pregnancy, brown discharge may be caused by:

  • ovulation spotting, which may be pinkish-brown
  • old blood leaving the uterus a few days after the end of a period
  • a period just beginning to start, where the flow is very light
  • a reaction to a Pap smear test or vaginal exam
  • a reaction to having forceful sex
  1. During pregnancy

Pink or brown discharge before a period may be an early sign of pregnancy. Not every pregnant person will experience this symptom.

READ ALSO: Causes of Vaginal Swelling and Solutions

This discharge is caused by implantation bleeding that can happen when the fertilized egg tunnels into the uterus lining. Implantation bleeding can occur 1 to 2 weeks after the egg has been fertilized.

Anyone who is pregnant and experiences dark brown discharge should speak to a doctor. It may indicate an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage in rare cases.

  1. Approaching menopause

Brown discharge may be a sign of perimenopause for those people in their 40s or 50s. Perimenopause is the evolution period before menopause when periods stop. Other symptoms may include:

Severe Causes of Brown Discharge

There are some other more serious causes of brown discharge. These may occur at any age regardless of whether there is a pregnancy.More serious causes include:

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the cervix and uterus that can cause brown discharge. Other symptoms may include:

Anyone who thinks they might have PID should speak to their doctor. If the doctor diagnoses PID, antibiotics may be prescribed for treatment.

Sexually transmitted disease

Sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, may cause brown discharge before a period. Other symptoms may include:

  • smelly discharge
  • burning sensation when urinating
  • pain during sex

Not all people with STDs experience symptoms, which is why it is essential for all sexually-active people get tested regularly for STDs. Treatment may include a course of antibiotics.

Retained foreign body

Bad-smelling brown discharge can occur if a foreign object accidentally gets left in the vagina. Objects that can cause this might include: condoms, tampons, vaginal contraceptive sponges, diaphragms, cervical rings, or cervical caps. Anyone who notices a brown discharge with an odor should see their doctor, as they may have a retained object or vaginal infection.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a hormonal imbalance. It may cause a brown discharge from irregular, light bleeding. Other symptoms can include:

  • pelvic pain
  • irregular periods
  • no longer having periods
  • very heavy periods
  • excess hair on the face or body
  • acne or oily skin
  • infertility
  • patches of dark, discolored skin

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), between 8 and 20 percent of reproductive-age women globally have PCOS.

Those who suspect that they may have PCOS should speak to their doctor. There is a range of treatments available.

Cervical cancer

In very rare cases, brown discharge may be a symptom of cervical cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, cervical cancer only affects around 0.6 percent of women during their lifetime.

In the unlikely event that the cause of brown discharge is cervical cancer, other symptoms may include:

READ ALSO: Bleeding after Sexual Intercourse: Is it Normal?

Anyone who suspects that they may have cervical cancer should speak to a doctor.

The first test a doctor will carry out for cervical cancer is a Pap test. This can detect abnormal cells in the cervix. If abnormal cells are detected, they might examine the cervix using a magnifying instrument. They may then take a tissue sample for testing in a laboratory.

For those who do have cervical cancer, a doctor will carry out some imaging tests to determine its stage. Treatment options include radiotherapy, surgery, or chemotherapy.

When to see a doctor

Brown discharge is unlikely to be a cause for concern. However, a person should speak to their doctor if they have brown discharge that:

  • frequently occurs after sex
  • persists for several weeks
  • is accompanied by vaginal itching
  • has bad odour
  • is accompanied by pain or cramping


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