Brown discharge: What it can be and when is it normal?


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Brown discharge is normal after menstruation because it is due to blood clots that appear a few days after the end of menstruation cycle. In addition, brown discharge is also common after sexual intercourse due to irritation of the vaginal walls, especially during menstruation or pregnancy.

When brown discharge lasts more than 3 days, it may be a sign of vaginal infections, cysts or even changes in the cervix. For this reason, when the discharge not stop or when it causes some type of discomfort such as itching, it is advisable to consult a gynaecologist who will identify the problem then prescribe the appropriate treatment.

When brown discharge is normal

Brown discharge is normal in the following situations:

  • Adolescence
  • After intimate contact during pregnancy
  • In the first days after menstruation
  • When the woman presents hormonal changes
  • Contraceptive change

However, if the discharge comes out in large quantities, with odour, irritation or for more than 4 days, it is advisable to consult a gynaecologist so as to start the most appropriate treatment.

7 diseases that cause brown discharge

In some cases, brown discharge may not be normal and it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Some of the possible causes of brown discharge include:

1. Irritation of the cervix

The cervix is a very sensitive region of the reproductive system. Some simple activities such as pap smear or frequent sexual intercourse can cause inflammation of the uterus, hence resulting to release of brown discharge.

How to treat: There is no specific treatment required for the irritation of the cervix. This is because the amount of brown discharge is likely to be low and other symptoms might not be present. It is important to keep the region clean and dry so as to control this the discharge which will stop in less than 2 days. However, sexual contact should be avoided until the discharge completely stops.

2. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease is an inflammation of the internal genitals of a woman It is caused by conditions such as endometriosis, salpingitis or inflammation of the ovaries. It may be accompanied by fever, general malaise and ovarian abscess.

How to treat: After performing tests to diagnose the real cause of the inflammation, the gynaecologist may prescribe antibiotics that may be oral or ointments, that will be inserted into the vagina. He may also recommend medicines that will lower fever using anti-inflammatory drugs such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.

If the symptoms do not improve after 3 days, the doctor can prescribe stronger medications. Most of these diseases are usually sexually transmitted, therefore it is recommended to avoid unprotected sexual intercourse until treatment has been completed.

3. Ovarian cyst

Ovarian cyst can result in bleeding before and after menstruation and it is usually mixed with the woman’s other natural secretions therefore it can cause brown discharge. However, in such cases, other symptoms may be experienced such as pain during ovulation, pain during sexual intercourse, vaginal bleeding outside menstruation, weight increase and difficulty in getting pregnant.

How to treat: Ovarian cysts has no specific treatment but the gynaecologist can recommend using a contraceptive pill. In the most severe cases, iyt may be necessary to remove the ovary so as to avoid major complications that may arise such as ovarian torsion or cancer.

4. Polycystic ovary syndrome

For polycystic ovarian syndrome, brown discharge is common due to the presence of blood as well as other symptoms such as irregular menstruation, excess thick hair, increased weight and acne.

How to treat: Treatment can be done using the contraceptive pill which will regulate menstruation and control hormonal irregularities, as prescribed by the gynaecologist. This is because, not just any contraceptive pill can be used.

5. Sexually transmitted infections

Some sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia, also cause brown discharge and they are usually more frequent when practicing unprotected sexual intercourse. They are usually accompanied by other symptoms such as pain when urinating, a feeling of pressure in the pelvic region or bleeding during sexual intercourse.

How to treat: Sexually transmitted infections are usually treated with antibiotics hence it is very important to consult the gynecologist for further examinations.

6. Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition that affects several women and it caused by the growth of the uterine tissue in other places such as the ovaries and the intestines. Some of the most common symptoms of endometriosis include dark discharge, severe pelvic pain, heavy menstrual flow, pain during sexual intercourse and difficulty when urinating and defecating.

How to treat : Treatment of endometriosis should be well oriented and specified for each woman. For this reason, it is necessary to consult the gynaecologist on a regular basis. The treatment may be done using IUDS, anti-hormonal remedies or surgery.

7. Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer causes brown discharge that has a string odour as well as pain in the pelvic region after sexual intercourse.

What to do: In case of suspicion of cervical cancer, it is important to consult a gynaecologist who will perform a pap smear and colposcopy so as to check if the underlying cause is cancer and prescribe the right treatment. Treatment can be done by conisation, brachytherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery so as to remove the uterus depending on the stage of the tumour.

Can brown discharge be pregnancy?

Brown discharge is usually not a sign of pregnancy. This is because at the beginning of pregnancy, the woman usually presents small amounts of pink discharge that is a sign of implantation of the embryo on the uterus.

However, for women who are pregnant, the flow of a dark liquid similar to menstruation and brown discharge may be a sign of blood loss through the vagina and therefore it should be evaluated by the gynaecologist; especially if it is accompanied by abdominal pain, itching of the vagina and abundant bleeding. This change may be a sign of other conditions such as ectopic pregnancy or an infection.

When to go to the gynecologist

It is recommended to consult a gynecologist when the brown discharge:

  • Lasts more than 3 days
  • Arises and is accompanied by other symptoms such as abdominal pain, foul smell or itching in the vagina or vulva
  • It’s interspersed with bright red bleeding

In such cases, the doctor will make a diagnosis of the problem by evaluating the discharge by using a speculum to check the inside of the vagina and cervix, then prescribing the right treatment.

How to avoid vaginal discharge

To prevent brown discharge, it is recommended to shower, wash daily the external genital region when bathing using water only or after sexual intercourse. The panties worn should preferably be cotton so that the region is always dry. One should also avoid wearing tight shorts and tight jeans because they muffle the place, encouraging sweating and proliferation of microorganisms that will cause infections.


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