Why Is My Period Blood Brown?

What does it mean when your period is brown?

You might be surprised to find out that not all period discharge is red. I know—blood is red, right? Usually, yes. But sometimes, you might see brown period blood. There are several reasons for this, and most of them are harmless. 

Why Is My Period Blood Brown?

You might not realize it, but you have some vaginal discharge nearly every day. It’s often clear or white, but other times you can experience spotting of other colors. For most women, brown discharge is simply a sign of old blood leaving your uterus.

What Does It Mean When Your Period Is Brown?

There are many times throughout your cycle that vaginal discharge could be brown.

  • Brown discharge before your period: sometimes, the very light flow at the beginning of your period looks brown. You might even have brown spotting, or brown blood at the beginning of your period, instead of your period. Totally normal, and no reason to worry.
  • Brown discharge during your period: again, this is usually very normal. Sometimes your uterus has more tissue to clear out than other months, and it can often look brown instead of red. Other times, you might just have a bit of dark brown discharge instead of a period. It all depends on your cycle and what is normal for your body.
  • Brown discharge after your period: old blood often looks brown. So, if this is old blood from your uterus a few days after your period, or the last couple of days, the blood is brown simply because it’s old. This brown discharge after your period is normal.
  • Brown discharge when you’re pregnant: some women will have pink or brown spotting as an early sign of pregnancy. When a fertilized egg burrows into the uterus wall, it sometimes causes a bit of bleeding. This is called “implantation bleeding” and usually happens one to two weeks after conception.

    After you’ve taken a pregnancy test or you already know you’re pregnant, brown discharge could be a cause for concern. In very rare cases, it could be an ectopic pregnancy or be a sign of miscarriage. Talk to you OBGYN as soon as you can, and she can help you figure out what’s going on.

    Also—after you have given birth, you’ll experience lochia. Lochia is a four to six week period after giving birth that your body will bleed, usually a heavy red flow at first that turns yellow or brown after the first week or so.
  • Brown discharge between periods or with no period: if you just had a Pap smear test or vaginal exam, you might experience some spotting. It could be bright red, pink, or brown. If it continues after a couple of days, talk to your physician, just in case.

    Another time you might have brown spotting when you’re not on your period is after sex. Again, watch it and make sure it isn’t super heavy and doesn’t continue for several days.

    Women and girls, from their first period through menopause, often have brown spotting when they are ovulating. 

Serious Causes Of Brown Discharge

There are a few reasons that brown discharge is concerning. It is usually just one of many symptoms, however, so keep track of what else is going on when you talk to your doctor. Most of these issues are accompanied by 5 symptoms:

1) Brown discharge continues for several weeks, or a period for longer than seven days.
2) It usually happens after sex
3) The discharge is really smelly
4) Pain and a lot of cramping
5) Vaginal itching

So, if you have one or more of these symptoms along with brown discharge, speak to your doctor. She might help you identify the problem as one of the following:


  • Pelvic inflammatory disease: this is an infection of the cervix and uterus. You’ll also experience pain in your pelvis or abdomen, pain during sex, a fever, and burning when you use the bathroom. Luckily, an antibiotic is usually all you need to get back to normal.
  • Sexually transmitted disease: symptoms of gonorrhea or chlamydia almost always includes brown discharge. It will also smell quite strong, and you’ll have pain during sex and when urinating. Some STDs can be treated with antibiotics, but others will take more involved treatment.
  • Something that doesn’t belong: If there is something left inside your vagina accidentally, your body will often react with inflammation and bleeding. This could be a tampon, condom, or contraceptive ring. If the discharge is smelly, speak to your doctor.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): brown discharge is only one of many symptoms of PCOS. This is a hormonal imbalance and is very common in women during their childbearing years (The National Institutes of Health estimates between eight and twenty percent of women worldwide have PCOS). You could also experience irregular periods, very heavy periods, unusual acne or oily skin, difficulty getting pregnant, and uneven color of your skin.
  • Cervical cancer: unlike PCOS, cervical cancer is extremely rare (less than 0.6 percent of women are diagnosed with cervical cancer). So, more than likely, brown discharge is not a symptom of cancer. You would also have pain during sex and bleeding after. Heavier and longer periods as well as bleeding in between are also causes for concern.

While brown discharge can be a cause for concern, for most women, it is normal. Remember to watch for other accompanying symptoms, and then you’ll know if it’s something you should bring up with your doctor. For the most part—you’re just experiencing that normal flow that comes with being a woman. For further protection, try our breathable, moisture wicking, buttery-soft microfiber leak proof undies for the day-to-day leaks and shop our complete collection of panties at Proof.com to find your style!


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