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Brown Vaginal Discharge

brown discharge no period

Vaginal discharge is perfectly natural. It is the body’s way of protecting the vagina from infections and keeping it clean. Discharge from the vagina can also range in amount and colour, depending on things like where you are in your menstrual cycle.

While brown discharge might look alarming, it is not always a reason to worry. Brown discharge can also be related to hormonal changes, periods or certain conditions affecting the ovaries and uterus. You may see this colour throughout your cycle, typically around the time of menstruation. 

Getting to know your body can help you notice when something might be a cause for concern. Try to take note of what your vaginal discharge is normally like and speak with a healthcare professional if you notice any significant changes or any worrying symptoms. 

Why is there Brown Discharge?

Brown discharge is common among most females, especially around 2 to 3 days before the period. The brown discharge might be a sign of a period coming In such cases. Some women get brown discharge following their period. This happens when the uterus cleans itself after the period and there might be very light or no bleeding in such a case. Several days after the menstruation has ended, there may be extremely mild discharge.

Use of Hormonal Birth Control or Contraceptives can also cause brown vaginal discharge. Using hormonal birth control causes the uterine lining to thin. This condition might result in mild brown discharge even when there is no period. In this situation, brown discharge develops as the body tries to adjust to the altered hormone levels.

A female might experience brown discharge as a sign of ovulation in rare cases. When the mature egg breaks open the ovary, there might be slight bleeding. The colour of the vaginal discharge can be brown to reddish pink. Sometimes, it also looks like brown discharge mixed with clear discharge. The female can also experience cramps, lower back pain and abdominal pain in such situations.

The brown discharge might also be a result of breakthrough bleeding and there is mild light brown discharge in this case. A female might experience mild brown discharge between period cycles. 

Some women might have mild brown discharge after sexual intercourse. This might be the effect of intense sexual activity. In such cases, brown discharge occurs due to slight bleeding of the vaginal canal (cervix). Certain medical conditions can also cause unusual or abnormal brown discharge.

What are the Causes of Brown Discharge?

There are many possible causes of brown discharge. Brown discharge is nothing to be concerned about in most cases. However, brown discharge can indicate a possible health issue if it is accompanied by other symptoms, such as changes to your menstrual cycle, a strong odour, pain or vaginal itching. There are several reasons why brown discharge could occur suddenly, including the following:

Early Pregnancy

If you are in the early stages of pregnancy, you may have brown spotting or light bleeding. As many as 30% of pregnant people have brown spotting or light bleeding during their first trimester. This is normal, but you should still call your healthcare provider or doctor to check that everything is alright.

Birth Control Implant

Some contraceptive methods like implants or IUDs release the progestin hormone into your body to prevent you from getting pregnant. As your body adjusts to the new form of birth control, you may experience side effects like brown discharge,  breakthrough bleeding, spotting and irregular menstruation. 

PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)

PID is an infection of the uterus and cervix that can sometimes result in brown discharge. It’s usually caused by an untreated STI (sexually transmitted infection) like chlamydia or gonorrhoea. Other PID symptoms include heavy discharge with a bad smell, painful urination, fever, pain during sex and pain in the pelvis and lower abdomen. PID is a severe medical illness that requires immediate diagnosis and care.

STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections)

Some STIs(Sexually Transmitted Infections), like gonorrhoea or chlamydia, can cause you to have spotting or brown discharge when you do not have your period. Other symptoms include vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odour, a burning sensation when urinating and pain during sex. 

PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)

One in ten persons with a vagina of reproductive age (15–49) have PCOS, a very prevalent hormonal disorder. Its exact cause is unknown but likely has to do with excess insulin in the body and genetics. People with PCOS have an imbalance of reproductive hormones; their bodies produce higher levels of hormones called androgens, resulting in missed or irregular periods. Brown discharge in place of your menstruation is one indication of PCOS. Other symptoms include dark patches on the skin, ovarian cysts, infertility, obesity, excessive hair growth, acne and irregular menstrual cycles. 


Endometriosis is a chronic condition that occurs when the tissue that is usually in your uterine lining starts growing in other areas, like your bowels, fallopian tubes or ovaries. Heavy periods and irregular bleeding are common in endometriosis patients, and they occasionally have internal bleeding that results in brown discharge.

Reaction to a Gynaecological Exam or a Pap Smear Test

It is normal to experience some spotting or light bleeding after a vaginal exam or a pap smear test. Gynaecologists take great care in these cases, but occasionally their instruments might produce a minor irritant inside the walls of your vagina or cervical lining. If you experience this without any other symptoms, you do not normally need to worry about it.

Reaction to Vigorous Sex

 Vaginal irritation can cause light bleeding if you have recently had vigorous sex. It might take a few days for the blood to leave your body, and during this time the blood turns brown as a result of oxidation.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Occasionally after unprotected sex, a fertilised egg will attach itself outside your uterine cavity, causing an ectopic pregnancy. This is rare, but when it happens, it is serious and requires medical care as soon as possible to prevent life-threatening complications. Signs of ectopic pregnancy include spotting and light bleeding, lightheadedness, vomiting and nausea and severe abdominal cramps. 

Cervical Cancer

In extremely rare cases, brown discharge could be a sign of cervical cancer if it’s accompanied by symptoms including weakness,  unusual weight loss, bleeding between periods, prolonged or heavy periods and painful intercourse. Gynecologic care and regular pap smears can help detect and prevent any early signs of cervical cancer. Between the ages of 21 and 65, everybody with a vagina should have these tests to be proactive.

Is Brown Discharge a Sign of Pregnancy?

A female might experience abdominal cramps and light bleeding in her early pregnancy.  Brown discharge might be a cause of implantation bleeding, as an early sign of pregnancy. Implantation bleeding happens when the fertilised egg implants in the inner lining of the uterus. There might be slight bleeding that may be brown at this point. 

This kind of brown discharge typically appears when a woman is about to start menstruating. Brown discharge instead of a missed period in a female is typically an indication of pregnancy. Consult your gynaecologist as soon as possible in such a case. 

Can Brown Discharge Occur Due to Infections?

The abnormal brown discharge accompanied by several other symptoms and complications might be something you need to consult with your gynaecologist

There might be certain infections that cause abnormal brown discharge. If you observe brown discharge for several days and it does not stop on its own, it is wise to visit a gynaecologist and get help. Certain diseases or infections that cause brown discharge are:

  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • Chlamydia
  • Bacterial Vaginosis
  • Gonorrhea

There are other symptoms associated with brown discharge that result from any of the aforementioned problems. In cases of severe illness, the following other symptoms may also appear along with brown discharge:

  • Heavy or mild fever
  • Tenderness or abdominal cramps
  • Dysuria (pain or burning sensation while urinating)
  • Dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse)
  • Irritation or itching around or in the vaginal area
  • Foul or fishy smell from the discharge

Because they may worsen over time, you shouldn’t treat these symptoms lightly. So, waste no time and consult a gynaecologist as soon as you observe pain or discomfort accompanied by brown discharge during pregnancy. 


Brown vaginal discharge may not necessarily indicate cause for concern. If you are concerned about your condition and feel that it might be serious, then it is always advisable to seek medical help from an experienced gynaecologist. Timely care and help can ensure appropriate treatment as per the cause of your condition. 

At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult a gynaecologist, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment with Dr. Seema Sehgal at the CK Birla Hospital.


Does Brown Discharge Count as a Period?

A few days before and following a period, a person frequently has brown vaginal discharge. When it occurs before, it is likely an early, light flow. Brownish discharge after a period is the result of extra menstrual blood leaking out of the vagina.

Does Brown Vaginal Discharge Mean Pregnancy?

Spotting or brown vaginal discharge can sometimes be an early sign of pregnancy. This is known as implantation bleeding. 

Is It Typical to Get a Brown Discharge in Place of a Period?

Yes, it is normal. Sometimes your uterus has less tissue to clear than others, and when this happens, you will experience brown discharge instead of a full period.  It is usually nothing to worry about, but if you find this happening month over month, talk to your doctor.

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