Brown Discharge During Pregnancy - Causes, Symptoms And Prevention

Brown Discharge During Pregnancy

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You are ever vigilant when you are pregnant. When you have observed white discharge, and talked to your doctor about it, she must have told you that it is normal during pregnancy. But what if the discharge is brown in color? Is that normal too or should you worry about it?

MomJunction tells you everything about brown discharge during pregnancy, why it happens and when you should see a doctor.

What Does Brown Discharge Mean?

Brown discharge is the spotting that happens when the blood levels increase and move towards the cervix during your pregnancy. It makes the area extra sensitive, leading to the discharge. Having sexual intercourse or a routine internal examination can also result in brown discharge or some brown spotting (1).

Brown discharge during pregnancy is nothing to be worried about. It may happen due to some irritation in the inner parts of the body.

Causes Of Brownish Discharge:

While there could be many reasons for the discharge, it mainly occurs

  • in early weeks of pregnancy due to the implantation bleeding.
  • in the last weeks of pregnancy brown discharge before birth is due to nearing due date.

In either case, make sure you inform your doctor about the matter.

Besides the above reasons, there could be a few more reasons for the discharge.

[ Read: Discharge During Pregnancy ]

1. Sexual intercourse:

Your cervix becomes extra tender and sensitive during pregnancy. Intercourse or any other rough activity could lead to irritation, which results in light brown discharge and mild pain.

2. Miscarriage:

Brown discharge in the initial weeks of pregnancy can be due to miscarriage. It could indicate old blood, which has been in the system for long and is being expelled only now. And you could assume that bleeding started some while ago, and for some reasons took a long time to come out (2)

3. Implantation:

Almost about two weeks into conception, you may notice some spotting along with other pregnancy symptoms. It occurs when the fertilized embryo implants into the uterine lining, resulting in slight brown discharge. There could be severe bleeding in some cases (3).

4. Missed abortion:

In the case of a missed abortion, the fetus is unable to develop any longer, the heartbeat ceases, and the fetus dies inside the uterus. It, therefore, leads to brown discharge, and your practitioner will do a uterine evacuation (2).

5. Molar pregnancy:

An abnormal tissue resembling the fetus grows inside the uterus. It is usually mistaken for pregnancy and causes brown vaginal discharge. It requires immediate medical attention as it could be cancerous (4).

6. Ectopic pregnancy:

In ectopic pregnancy, the embryo attaches itself in the fallopian tubes, instead of the uterus and causes brown discharge due to internal hemorrhage (5).

7. Cervical polyps:

The small, abnormal growths on the cervical surface are fragile and occur due to increased estrogen levels. The polyps may also lead to lower abdominal pain, discomfort, and unusual bleeding patterns (6).

8. Placental abnormalities:

There are certain placental anomalies, such as placenta previa and placenta abruption. Both these cause brown discharge, which could either be brown spotting or bleeding that is brown in color.

In placenta previa your placenta will cover the opening of your cervix causing brown discharge but no pain. In placenta abruption the placenta separates from the uterus, causing brown discharge and pain (7).

[ Read: Jelly Like Discharge During Pregnancy ]

9. Genital HPV:

Brown discharge is also a symptom of genital HPV, which is caused by increased estrogen levels and increased blood flow to the vaginal area (8).

10. Infections including STDs (sexually transmitted diseases):

Vaginal or cervical infections can also cause abnormally brownish discharge. The infections cause burning, vaginal odor, itching, and brown discharge (9).

Brown Discharge During The Trimesters Of Pregnancy:

Brown discharge can occur in any trimester.

First trimester (weeks one to 12):

Though not a matter of concern,brown spotting in the first trimester during pregnancy could be due to: (10)

  • Implantation
  • Cervical sensitivity

If the bleeding continues or gets heavier, you should see your practitioner immediately.

Second trimester (weeks 13 to 28):

Brown discharge is common throughout pregnancy, and in the second trimester it may be due to the following, harmless reasons:

  • Irritation of the cervix
  • Routine pregnancy examinations
  • Sexual intercourse

However, brown discharge could also be an indication of yeast infections or STDs, which require immediate treatment.

Third trimester (weeks 29 to 40):

Brown discharge during the third trimester :

  • Cervical irritation
  • Pregnancy examinations and sexual intercourse
  • A sign of labor

The mucus plug, which develops a few days or week before labor, is a glob of mucus that covers the cervix to protect the baby. This sheds as the body prepares for labor, and you will experience brownish mucus like discharge, which is referred to as ‘bloody show’ (11).

[ Read: What Is Placenta Previa During Pregnancy ]

When To Worry About Brown Discharge During Pregnancy?

As mentioned above, brown discharge can be an indication of an infection. This makes it imperative to understand its quality, odor, appearance, and seek medical care if anything seems to be unusual, such as:

  • If the discharge is more than mild (due to implantation bleeding)
  • Brown discharge that lasts more than a week after sexual intercourse
  • If the discharge smells foul or feels itchy
  • Pain in the abdominal region or tissues or clots in the discharge (can be a sign of missed abortion)
  • Discharge followed by abdominal cramps, foul odor, and watery appearance
  • Discharge associated with fever or chills (this could be a sign of infection in the uterus or kidney)
  • Discharge associated with pain, cramps, and light-headedness could be signs of ectopic gestation and is a medical emergency

How To Stop Brownish Discharge During Pregnancy?

These tips will help you manage the discharge and ensure that you and your unborn baby are safe:

1. Limit your physical workout:

Cut down on your physical activity as much as you can. Even though it is good to be active during pregnancy, if you have brown discharge, you should avoid physical activities. Do not try to do a lot of work in less time to rest later. Skip work if need be and take as much rest as you can.

2. Get enough rest:

Increase your rest time and lie down as much as possible. If you are at home, lie down often during the day and take regular naps. If you are at work, take some time off in the day to rest and give your body a break.

[ Read: Is White Discharge An Sign Of Pregnancy ]

3. Do not lift heavy weights:

Avoid lifting heavy objects or anything above ten pounds during pregnancy, especially when you spot brown discharge. If you lift heavy weights in early pregnancy, it could lead to vaginal discharge (12).

4. Elevate your feet:

Give your feet as much rest as possible. You may work by sitting on the bed or putting your legs on another chair to give your feet some rest. Put your feet up for as long as possible. At home, lie down and prop your feet up on cushions. At work, you can sit on a chair and rest your feet in another chair in front of you. Put a pillow, or bag or anything else on it for elevation. It aids better blood circulation and also reduces brown discharge.

5. Keep your genitals clean:

You should take extra care of the genital area. It has to be dry and clean especially if you are experiencing vaginal discharge. Use only non-perfumed or non-scented soaps, and water to clean the area.

Different Types Of Brown Discharge During Pregnancy:

  • The discharge appears lightish-brown in the case of implantation bleeding and STDs (gonorrhea, chlamydia, and genital warts) (13).
  • Pinkish-brown discharge occurs as a result of cervical irritation and ectopic pregnancy. You can also notice this color discharge during miscarriage.
  • Dark-brown discharge happens during the early stages of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.
  • Yeast infections could lead to thick brownish discharge.
  • Miscarriage, and infections of vagina, uterus, or cervix could lead to blackish-brown discharge.
  • Watery, brown discharge is common in early pregnancy, and can be due to molar pregnancy (14).
  • Yellowish-brown discharge is abnormal discharge caused by yeast or bacterial infections
  • Brown, stringy discharge is tinged with old blood.

If you notice any discharge, do not panic. In most cases, it is quite normal. But if the discharge is longer, and associated with other symptoms, you should get checked by your health practitioner. Understand the possible causes, know when you can consult your doctor, and take necessary steps accordingly.

[ Read: Vaginal Bleeding Or Spotting During Pregnancy ]

Have any questions, or experiences to share, then leave them in the comments below.

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Rebecca Malachi

"I believe words have power. They are a powerful tool for a creative soul. Being a 'word addict', I express my thoughts and contribute articles on health, wellness and beauty. Apart from writing, I love listening to gospel music and enjoy observing nature in silence."
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  • Kalpana

    Hi,
    Please check with your doctor and if required go for a second opinion regarding the bleeding behind the placenta. She should be able to advise you better depending on your situation.

  • momjunction

    Hello Tosin Vickylasy,

    You need not worry since your doctor already asked you to come after two weeks, Just ensure to limit any physical activity you have been doing, get proper rest, and keep the genital area clean to avoid further infections.If any symptoms seem to worrying you, go to the doctor again.