What Does Brown Vaginal Discharge Mean?

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Imagine waiting for your period and you see something brown instead. Most of us would panic. There are a few reasons a brown discharge happens. It could come before or at the end of your period. Sometimes it comes mid-cycle. It could be because progesterone levels are low. Or it could be a sign of an infection. Read on to understand what a brown discharge means.

Brown vaginal discharge always seems to be of concern. The discharge that you notice depends on what point of the menstrual cycle you are seeing it and also the context in which you notice.

Vaginal Discharge

Before Your Period

A bit of brown spotting the day before your period starts is fairly common and not a cause for much concern. If you are trying to conceive, and you have 2-3 days of brown spotting leading up to your period, this is a greater cause for concern.

Why, because this often occurs when there isn’t as much progesterone as there should be and healthy progesterone levels are vital to conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy.

What can be done about it? Vitamin B6 can help support normal progesterone production and as a naturopathic doctor, I use a herb called vitex or chaste tree berry to support progesterone.


Mid-cycle spotting can be a sign of ovulation or it can also be a sign of less than adequate hormone levels. Healthy levels of estrogen and progesterone help to maintain the lining of the uterus until it’s time to get your period.

A drop in these hormones are what tell your body that it is time to get your period. Levels that aren’t high enough to tell the lining to stay put, can lead to spotting.

At The End Of Your Period

As the blood flow tapers off at the end of your period, it’s not unusual for women to experience brown discharge. This is just older period blood that has taken longer to come out and not at all a cause of concern.

Signs Of Infection

If you have any signs of a vaginal infection, like burning, itching, bleeding, fever, vaginal pain, and/or unusual discharge, you should see your GP or ob/gynecologist as soon as possible. It can be a sign of vaginal or intra-uterine infection.

During Pregnancy

Any unusual discharge during pregnancy warrants a visit to your doctor as soon as possible. It may be implantation bleeding, it may be nothing and perfectly normal, but it can also be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, problems with the placenta or a uterine, cervical or vaginal infection.

Instead Of A Period

Brown discharge instead of a period can mean that you are pregnant, or it can mean that there is a hormone imbalance that caused a thinner lining to be produced than normal. The best option is to see your doctor for a pregnancy test and some hormone blood work. Scanty or missed periods can be a sign of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS.

After Intercourse

Vaginal secretions are increased during arousal and intercourse, there can be extra vaginal discharge afterward as well. There can be a bit of brown blood in the discharge if intercourse is timed with ovulation, with embryo implantation, the end of your period, the start of your period, if intercourse is particularly rough or if you have a vaginal infection or STD.

If you have signs of an infection like itching, burning, abnormal discharge or pain, see your doctor.

Random Brown Discharge

If there isn’t any pattern to the discharge, it may be happening because of hormone fluctuations, it may be that you need to switch birth control pills or take the pill more consistently, it can be a sign of something as serious as cervical cancer. If you are at all concerned, it’s best to see your doctor for assessment of your situation and appropriate testing.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Pamela Frank

I believe in addressing the root of any health problem through diet, stress reduction, exercise and specific vitamins. minerals, amino acids, herbs and other natural supplements to provide lasting health improvement to my patients.

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