Brown discharge (light, dark): understand what it can be

Brown discharge (light, dark): understand what it can be

Discharge is often a natural secretion of the female body. Generally, that white mucus—which can be thicker or more transparent—with no smell and no other symptoms to go with indicates that everything is working normally.

However, if there are changes in the color, frequency and intensity of the discharge, especially if accompanied by pain and vaginal burning, it is necessary to seek medical assistance.

What is brown discharge?

Brown discharge, also called brownish vaginal blood flow, can signify a release of old blood from the genital tract. It is common for some pregnant women in early pregnancy.

In some conditions, when accompanied by symptoms such as pain, itchiness, redness and bad odor, it becomes worrying, as it can signify an indication of a disease.

The brown discharge itself contains a small amount of clotted blood, which joins the vaginal discharge and turns that color. It can be caused by leftovers from menstruation, trauma, foreign body, infection, implantation of the embryo in the uterus in the first days of pregnancy, vaginal atrophy, ectopic pregnancy or some type of gynecological cancer.

In this article you will find:

  1. Brown (light brown) and dark discharge
  2. How is the normal vaginal discharge
  3. What is vaginal pH?
  4. What is the difference between discharge and mucus secretion?
  5. Causes of brown discharge
  6. Symptoms
  7. Is a light brown discharge a sign of pregnancy?
  8. Is or brown discharge blood?
  9. Is brown discharge blood in pregnancy?
  10. Is brown discharge blood from menstruation?
  11. Brown discharge in menstruation
  12. Brown discharge in menopause
  13. Brown discharge with contraceptive use
  14. When to look for a doctor?
  15. How is the diagnosis made?
  16. Is there a cure?
  17. Treatments
  18. Living together
  19. Prognosis
  20. How to prevent
  21. Common questions


Brown (light brown) and dark discharge

The brown discharge can manifest for several causes and have a variation in the intensity of its color. Some women have a lighter discharge and others a darker one.

When it comes to dark brown, it is usually related to the amount of blood in its composition, which may indicate sores on the cervix, vaginal walls or be a trace of menstruation.

The light brown discharge, however, is more associated with implantation of the egg in the uterus, which causes lighter bleeding. This type can also be associated with irritation caused, for example, by the use of too much intimate soap, which causes an imbalance in the vaginal pH.

How is the normal vaginal discharge?

Vaginal discharge, also known as physiological vaginal discharge, is natural to all women of childbearing age. It is formed by a combination of natural bacteria from the vaginal flora, mucus secretion and dead vagina cells.

The volume of this discharge can vary depending on some factors, such as pregnancy, increased hormone production, menstrual cycle, ovulation, and use of estrogen-based contraceptives.

This type of discharge normally presents a volume of 1mL to 4mL daily, without odor or mild odor.

The appearance of this discharge can vary, but it is usually thick, elastic or watery, clear or white in color.

It plays the role of a vaginal lubricant, keeping the region moist and clean, preventing the emergence of infections.

When is brown discharge normal?

Brown discharge is normal in some situations, such as after menstruation, intimate contact, or when there is some irritation of the vaginal walls.

Before getting scared by the discharge, check in which situations it can be considered normal:

  • After intimate contact during pregnancy;
  • In the first few days after menstruation;
  • When the woman has any hormonal changes;
  • Change of contraceptive.

When the brown discharge occurs for a period longer than 3 days, it may be a sign that there is a problem, such as vaginal infections. However, in these cases, the brown discharge does not happen in isolation, other symptoms such as itching, pain and bad odor accompany it.

Dark menstruation and low flow: what could it be?

What is vaginal pH?

It is very common to hear about vaginal pH when it comes to intimate health. This term is almost always present on commercials or intimate product labels, but why is it so important?

The acronym pH stands for hydrogen potential. It represents a scale that measures the acidity, neutrality or alkalinity of a given medium. In the case of vaginal pH, the scale measures the acidity of this region.

The scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 equal to neutral, from 0 to 7 considered acidic and from 7 to 14 classified as alkaline or basic.

The vaginal region normally has a pH between 3.8 and 4.5, which fits into the acidity scale.

These numbers act as a kind of thermometer for vaginal health. It is natural the presence of some bacteria and fungi in the region, which do not harm women’s health. They produce lactic acid which helps to lower the pH value.

Because it has this more acidic index, when it is regulated, the pH does not allow other bacteria to survive, preventing infections and irritation.

Several external factors can interfere with the vagina’s natural process of maintaining its acidity, such as the use of medication, suffocation, lack of proper hygiene, tight clothing, and sweating.

The use of antibiotics, for example, can kill both the bacteria that are healthy for the vaginal region and the harmful ones.

To keep the vaginal pH within the ideal range, the use of looser clothes and cotton are the most indicated, as they help with ventilation.

During the menstrual period, basic care such as changing the pad regularly also helps to keep the intimate region healthy.

What is the difference between discharge and mucus secretion?

The word discharge is most often used when it comes to a symptom arising from an infection or other illnesses. Mucus is the normal secretion produced by all women.

However, this does not mean that every discharge is a sign of some illness. Therefore, the ideal is to identify if there is the presence of other symptoms, if the duration exceeded what is considered normal and seek medical help.

Causes of brown discharge

brown discharge

Several conditions can cause brown discharge. The most common causes involve the presence of vaginitis, infection caused by bacteria and fungi. It also happens because of an allergy to substances, such as spermicides, or the presence of a foreign body, which is rarer.

Some conditions considered rare that can cause brown discharge are:

  • HPV infection;
  • Oxiurus worm infection;
  • Herpes;
  • Semen allergy;
  • Foreign body, such as tampon or “lost” condom.

Find out about some of the most common causes:

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is one of the main causes of vaginal discharge. It is caused by the abnormal proliferation of natural bacteria in the vaginal region.

One of the recurrent bacteria in cases of bacterial vaginosis is Gardnerella vaginalis. Its proliferation, in addition to causing discharge, causes a strong and very unpleasant smell.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease, as its name suggests, is an inflammation that occurs in the female reproductive organs.

One of the causes for this disease is the spread of sexually transmitted bacteria from the vagina to the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes.

It may manifest, in addition to a brown or yellowish discharge, fever, pelvic pain, strong vaginal odor and tenderness during cervical movement. For the treatment of this disease, the use of antibiotics is recommended.


Trichomoniasis is a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) caused by the presence of the protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis.

The main symptoms of this disease in women are discharge (brown and yellowish or greenish-yellow), strong odor, genital redness, itching, pain during sexual intercourse, difficulty in urinating and others.

Ectopic pregnancy

This is a pregnancy that happens in the wrong place, so to speak. What is certain is that the egg is implanted in the uterus, in ectopic pregnancy, normally the egg implants in the fallopian tube.

Some of the symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include pelvic pain, pain during sexual intercourse, abdominal pain and bleeding such as brown discharge.

Cervical irritation

Cervical irritation, or cervicitis, is considered a common condition. It mainly happens due to an STD contamination, such as herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Symptoms of cervical irritation also include pain during sex, bleeding, discharge, pain, and fever.

Atrophic vaginitis

Atrophic vaginitis, also called vaginal atrophy, is a condition in which a lack of estrogen causes dryness and thinning of the vaginal mucosa.

This atrophy can lead to inflammation and cause discharge. Atrophic vaginitis usually happens after menopause.


The use of some products can trigger brown discharge. Some women, due to allergy to condom lubricant, spermicides, intimate soaps, perfumes and other agents, end up having this symptom as an allergy response.

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer or cervical cancer is a malignant tumor. The most frequent type of malignant tumor in the cervix is related to HPV infection.

In the early stage, cervical cancer is asymptomatic. Symptoms in advanced disease include vaginal bleeding after intercourse, bleeding between menstrual periods, after menopause, and smelly brown discharge.


The brown discharge itself is a symptom. It can mean the presence of various diseases or even be considered a normal response of our body to some specific conditions.

See which symptoms, together with the brown discharge, indicate that it is not normal:

  • Itch;
  • Strong and bad odor;
  • Abdominal pain;
  • Burning;
  • Redness;
  • When brown discharge occurs after intercourse;
  • Fever;
  • Pelvic pain.

Smelly discharge: what is the best remedy to treat?

Is a light brown discharge a sign of pregnancy?

Some women, within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, may experience a brown discharge. One of the reasons for this to happen is the implantation of the embryo in the uterine wall, a process also known as nidation.

Nidation is usually characterized by bleeding that is lighter than a brown discharge, and may be closer to a pinkish color. The flow is also much lower than the menstrual flow and lasts for a few days.

During pregnancy, the cervix becomes softer and, therefore, bleeding may occur during sexual intercourse or during gynecological exams. The risk of infections is also greater during this period.

Bleeding or discharge during pregnancy, even when considered common, should not be overlooked or overlooked. The guidance of a gynecologist is advised in all cases.

In the puerperium period, after childbirth, the woman has a bleeding called lochia. The duration of the lochia varies from woman to woman, but the average is 3 to 6 weeks.

It presents with menstruation-like bleeding in the first few weeks, turning pink and brown in the last few weeks.

Is brown discharge blood?

The brownish or brownish color of the discharge is due to the presence of blood. In general, it gets this color because the amount of blood is small and suffers the action of oxygen, so it turns brown.

Is brown discharge blood in pregnancy?

In general, yes. During early pregnancy, it is common for there to be small amounts of blood, resulting from nidation. For many women, this brown discharge (which can be a brownish or more pinkish discharge) lasts for a short time — up to 3 days at most.

Is brown discharge blood from menstruation?

It is possible that the brown discharge is due to remnants of menstruation or small leaks before normal bleeding.

Brown discharge in menstruation

Brown discharge may be present during the menstrual cycle, but it usually occurs after or before the actual period.

It is the result of “remnants of menstruation” that the uterine mucosa has not been able to completely eliminate.

It is not considered serious as it is the elimination of clotted blood and endometrial tissue. It can last for 3 days.

Brown discharge in menopause

Menopause can also have a brown discharge, although it is not as common. When it happens, it is related to the decrease in hormone production, causing the thinning of the vaginal mucosa and irritation in the vaginal area, brownish discharge and itching in some cases.

Medical evaluation is required whenever there is a postmenopausal brownish discharge to rule out suspicion of uterine bleeding.

Brown discharge with contraceptive use

A brown discharge when it occurs as a result of the use of contraceptives can mean escape bleeding.

This type of bleeding can happen during the beginning of the use of the contraceptive pill, even in the first packs, as the body is still in the adaptation phase.

The recommendation is to seek medical advice if the discharge lasts for more than 3 days.

The discharge can also happen due to irregular use of the contraceptive.

When to look for a doctor?

In some situations the brown discharge is not considered serious, but it is important to know when this symptom should be a reason for medical consultation.

If the discharge is not related to the menstrual cycle, the use of morning-after pills or contraceptives, and still persists for more than 3 days, it is an alert to seek medical help.

During pregnancy, when a brown discharge can be common and does not mean a risk to the health of the baby and the mother, it is also a sign that it is necessary to seek a doctor, even if it is just to clear up the doubts and not have any worries.

Also, when the brown discharge is accompanied by other symptoms such as cramping, itching, and strong odor, it also means it’s time to go back to the gynecologist.

How is the diagnosis made?

The diagnosis of brown vaginal discharge is made through clinical examinations performed by the gynecologist.

During the consultation, the doctor will evaluate through the patient’s report, symptoms, gynecological exam and complementary exams to identify the cause of the discharge.

It is possible that the physician understands the need to take a sample of the discharge to assess the vaginal pH, through a microscopic investigation and culture.

Is there a cure?

Brown discharge is considered a symptom and its cure depends on the cause, diagnosis and specific treatment.


The treatment of brown discharge depends on what caused this symptom. Each cause has a different treatment.

The use of antifungals or antibiotics may be recommended for infections, or estrogen creams for atrophic vaginitis.

There is no treatment that can solve brown discharge from different causes, only the doctor will be able to say which one will be the best to be done.

Living together

Brown discharge is not a condition that the patient has to get used to living with. In some circumstances it is considered normal, but when it occurs frequently it can be a warning that there is some other health problem.

The main conduct that women should have in relation to this symptom is not to feel ashamed or hide it from the gynecologist, as it is common for a brown discharge to occur.


Vaginal discharge, brown or of another color, is one of the most common reasons that lead a woman to a gynecological consultation, with bacterial vaginosis, candidiasis and trichomoniasis as the most frequent cause. These three diseases account for 90% of vaginal secretions considered abnormal.

Most diseases that cause brown discharge are treatable and curable. Therefore, what makes this symptom worrying, in some cases, is the delay in diagnosis and initiation of treatment.

How to prevent

A few simple routine changes are enough to prevent brown vaginal discharge.

Preventive exams

One of the best ways to prevent brown discharge is to maintain a healthy gynecologist appointment routine. With regular exams and following the guidelines of the gynecologist, the chances of this symptom manifesting itself because of an illness are smaller.

Use of cotton underwear

One of the most common recommendations of gynecologists is that women wear cotton panties, to keep the intimate region drier than when you have the usual use of panties with other materials.

Avoid tight pants and shorts

As well as wearing cotton underwear, avoiding tight pants and shorts will also help prevent running. This way, the region is not muffled by the pressure of clothes, which improves perspiration and prevents the proliferation of microorganisms that can cause infections.

Avoid intimate showers

It is not healthy to use intimate showers. The cleaning of the woman’s intimate region must be done daily, but only with the cleaning of the external region of the vagina during the bath.

Common questions

Is brown discharge after intercourse normal?

No, brown discharge should not be considered normal in this situation. This symptom is related to several diseases. Ideally, a doctor should be seen to investigate the cause.

Is brown discharge normal when it comes to a more advanced pregnancy?

It depends . During pregnancy, the cervix becomes softer. For this reason, minor bleeding may occur, such as after having sex.

However, the pregnant woman must pay attention to the blood volume, the presence of pain, itching and bad smell. These symptoms can indicate another, more serious disease.

Is brown discharge with bad odor normal?

No, the bad smell is not considered normal. In addition to the discomfort, it can be an indication that the woman has an infection, such as trichomoniasis and vaginosis.

Can condoms cause brown discharge?

Yes, the latex present in condoms can cause allergies in some women and, as a result, have their vaginal pH deregulated. Thus, the chances of bacterial proliferation increase and the possibility of bacterial vaginosis as well.

This infection can cause brown discharge. Faced with this situation, the woman should seek medical advice from a gynecologist. Stopping the use of condoms should not be done without replacing another condom or contraceptive method, to prevent sexually transmitted diseases or an unwanted pregnancy.

What can be brown discharge accompanied by cramps?

A brown discharge accompanied by cramps can mean different things for each patient.

In some cases, it may be a sign of pregnancy, as nesting can cause cramping and a brown discharge.

These two symptoms can also indicate that menstruation is approaching. It can also happen after the end of the menstrual cycle, without posing risks to the woman’s health. However, only the gynecologist will be able to tell if it is normal or not.

How often should I go to the gynecologist?

The recommended frequency for visits to the gynecologists is once a year, for every woman who has had or has an active sexual life.

In this routine consultation, a clinical evaluation should be carried out, including a touch exam, a pelvic exam, and collection of material for the Pap smear.

A vaginal discharge is common, but depending on its color and other accompanying symptoms, it can be a health alert.

In this article we discussed what brown discharge means in each of its possible causes and how there is no reason to be ashamed to talk about it.