Brown Discharge During Pregnancy: Is It Normal And Causes

check_icon Research-backed

Brown discharge during pregnancy may occur due to various reasons, some of which are harmless, while a few others indicate some complications. Light to dark brownish discharge during pregnancy may occur in the later stages when old blood in the uterus flows through the cervixiXThe lower, narrow end of the uterus which forms a passage to the vagina and mixes with vaginal discharge (1). Though most cases are due to benign reasons, it is wise to see a doctor. Read this post to learn what may cause brown discharge and what to do about it.

In This Article

What Is Brown Discharge During Pregnancy?

Brown discharge can vary in its color from light to dark brown and emanate a slight odor; its consistency can differ from thin to thick. Brown discharge is a normal occurrence during the menstrual cycle and can happen at any time. The brown color is caused by oxidation of the blood exposed to air due to delayed discharge from the body (1). Pregnant women can have brown discharge anytime during pregnancy for various reasons. You should look for coexisting symptoms to know if you need medical care.

Is Brown Discharge Normal During Pregnancy?

A light brown discharge with no symptoms is normal

Image: Shutterstock

During early pregnancy, If you have spottingiXMild vaginal bleeding that happens outside of your typical period or observe light brown discharge during early pregnancy with a consistency ranging from fluid to mucus-like, that isn’t enough to saturate a pad or panty liner, and you don’t have any other symptoms, it may be considered normal. Otherwise, it is advised to see your Ob/Gyn immediately (2).

Brown discharge or brown spotting during pregnancy can also be normal in the third trimester near the due date when the uterus prepares for delivery. However, it can also be seen in conditions such as placental abruption. Some women may experience brown discharge in the second trimester due to placenta previaiXA pregnancy-related issue in which the placenta fully or partially covers the uterine entrance (cervix) or preterm labor (3).

protip_icon Quick fact
According to the American Pregnancy Association, 50% of women who experience bleeding or spotting have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby (13).

How Long Does Brown Discharge Last During Pregnancy?

You may experience brown discharge when your due date is approaching

Image: Shutterstock

You may experience brown discharge throughout pregnancy, but it usually occurs due to natural conditions for a shorter duration. For instance, you may have brown discharge early in pregnancy due to implantation bleeding or intercourse. It’s also possible that you will experience it when your due date is approaching (2).

What Are The Causes Of Brown Discharge During Pregnancy?

Brown discharge could be due to natural changes in pregnancy or an underlying medical condition.

Natural causes

  1. Changes in cervical cells: Due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, cervical cells may become tender and extra sensitive. Intercourse or any other rough activity (such as medical examination) could irritate the cervix and cause light brown discharge during pregnancy.
  1. Implantation: During early pregnancy, implantation occurs around nine days after conception (at ovulation time) and ranges between six and 12 days (4). During implantation, the fertilized egg embeds itself into the uterine lining (5), and slight bleeding might happen. It might be seen as a brown discharge after a few days.
protip_icon Quick fact
Implantation bleeding is light pink to dark brown, usually does not have clots, and may be much lighter than your usual periods (14).
  1. Nearing due date: Before going into labor, you might lose mucus plug, a combination of cervical mucus and cells. The cervix softens as the due date approaches. It causes the mucus plug to soften and eject as a brown or red discharge (6).

Causes of concern that need medical attention

  1. Possible miscarriage: Mild brown discharge can happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy due to the bleeding in the chorion (the outermost membrane surrounding the embryo). But in some cases, the brown discharge could signify miscarriage (7). According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG), miscarriage is the most prevalent cause of pregnancy loss. As per estimates, up to 10% of clinically confirmed pregnancies and up to 26% of all pregnancies result in miscarriage. When you observe brown blood during pregnancy, along with symptoms like abdominal pain and cramping, it is recommended to seek advice from your doctor.
  1. Missed abortion: In the case of a missed abortion, the pregnancy stops advancing, but the tissue is not passed out immediately. Brown discharge could be one of the early symptoms of a missed abortion (1).
  1. Molar pregnancy: It is caused by an imbalance in chromosomes and is characterized by abnormal growth of the trophoblastic epithelium of the placenta. Though it commonly presents with fresh bleeding, this condition can cause brown discharge episodes and needs medical attention (8).
  1. Ectopic pregnancy: This pregnancy occurs outside the womb, either in the fallopian tubes, ovaries or in the abdominal cavity. In this case, the uterus remains empty, but the lining grows in response to the hormones. It can result in mild to heavy bleeding (9).
Ectopic pregnancy may result in mild to heavy bleeding

Image: IStock

  1. Placental abnormalities: Placental anomalies, such as placenta previa (when the placenta covers the cervical opening) and placental abruption (placenta separates from the uterus) can cause brown discharge. Both these conditions can lead to a variable amount of bleeding that could be mild to heavy (10).
  1. Sexually transmitted diseases: Vaginal or cervical infections can also cause brown discharge in addition to burning, vaginal odor, and itching. Infections like Bacterial Vaginosis and Trichomoniasis can also cause brown discharge.

Dr. Alan Lindemann, MD, an obstetrician, maternal mortality expert, and former clinical associate professor at the University of North Dakota, says, “Bacteria and some viruses could also cause brown discharge. These include group B, ureaplasma, mycoplasma, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes.”

protip_icon Quick fact
You may notice bleeding during pregnancy if you have cervical polyps, noncancerous growth on the cervix that bleeds due to high estrogen levels (2).

What Are The Complications Of Brown Discharge During Pregnancy?

Brown discharge during pregnancy does not lead to complications if the underlying cause is managed on time. There can also be the risk of anemia if the blood loss is severe and lasts longer.

Causes of brown discharge such as incomplete miscarriage might lead to complications such as disseminated intravascular coagulationiXThe process of forming a blood clot if the remaining products of conception are not removed from the uterus (11).

Not treating sexually transmitted infections causing brown discharge can also be associated with pregnancy and delivery complications. Some infections may also affect the baby while passing through the birth canal.

When To See A Doctor

Meet a doctor if the brown discharge is associated with fever or pain

Image: Mage: Shutterstock

Consult your doctor if you notice brown discharge during pregnancy. Your healthcare provider can help you know the reasons for brown discharge based on their observations and other symptoms. Seek prompt medical care if the brown discharge is associated with symptoms, such as uterine contractions, fever, or pain.

How To Stop Brown Discharge During Pregnancy?

Medications help with brown discharge and prevent premature labor

Image: IStock

Treating underlying causes can help prevent brown discharge in most women.

  • Antibiotics or antifungals are usually recommended if the brown discharge is related to bacterial infections or yeast infections.
  • Placental abnormalities, such as placental abruption and placenta previa, are managed by blood transfusions to cope with the blood loss.
  • Medications to prevent premature labor and continuous fetal monitoring are done. Cesarean delivery is done if needed (10).
  • Avoiding douching, vaginal perfumes, fragrant soaps, or any other products in the vagina might stop brown or blood-tinged discharges.
  • Consult your doctor to determine if it is safe to engage in intercourse. Additionally, inquire with your doctor about the use of sanitary pads to manage the discharge effectively.

protip_icon Quick tip
If you notice spotting during pregnancy, doctors may advise you to take bed rest, limit physical activity, stay hydrated, and avoid lifting heavy objects (13).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long after sex is brown discharge normal during pregnancy?

Experiencing dark brown discharge during pregnancy, particularly after intercourse, could be primarily due to the increased tenderness of the cervix during this period. It can be deemed normal if it occurs in scant amounts; otherwise, visit your doctor (2).

2. Is brown discharge normal in the first trimester?

Brown discharge or spotting cannot be normal in all cases of early pregnancy. It can be normal around the time when the implantation occurs. Some women may have brown discharge due to threatened miscarriage, cervical or vaginal irritation, or due to ectopic pregnancy (3).

3. Do miscarriages start with brown blood?

Miscarriages may begin with brown discharge. However, it is not always the case. Sometimes women may experience light spotting or bleeding at the beginning of a miscarriage.

4. When is brownish discharge a cause for concern?

Brown discharge is a cause of concern if it is not due to implantation bleeding, and it happens near the due date when the cervix begins to dilate. You may consult the doctor to identify and manage the underlying cause (12).

5. Can stress cause brown discharge during pregnancy?

Stress isn’t directly linked to brown discharge during pregnancy. However, it can cause changes in the body that can affect the color, consistency, smell, and amount of vaginal discharge (15). Hence, there’s a chance that stress may play a role in causing brown discharge during pregnancy.

Brown discharge during pregnancy is normal in some women while a sign of an underlying complication in others. However, it is not an emergency that needs immediate medical attention during pregnancy. In early pregnancy, brownish spotting may indicate implantation or cervical changes, while it could also signal a miscarriage, infection, or other pregnancy-related complications. However, do not panic if you spot brown discharge while pregnant. Instead, speak to your doctor to facilitate a timely diagnosis and discover the exact cause.

Infographic: What Could Cause A Brown Discharge In Each Trimester?

The causes of brown discharge may vary in each trimester. You may pay attention to the accompanying symptoms to know the underlying cause. It is advised to seek your doctor’s consultation concerning brown discharge at any time during pregnancy. Go through the infographic to know the common causes of brown discharge in each trimester.

common causes in each trimes recovered (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get high-quality PDF version by clicking below.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • Brown discharge in pregnancy can be due to various reasons, and it is not always a sign of miscarriage.
  • Brown discharge in the initial days of pregnancy can be due to implantation, and it resolves without interventions.
  • Changes in the cervix and placental abnormalities can cause brown discharge in later trimesters.

Find out if vaginal bleeding during early pregnancy can affect your baby in this informative video. Get the answers you need to make the best decisions for you and your baby.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. What are the signs of early miscarriage?.
  2. Bleeding During Pregnancy.
  3. Brown Discharge During Pregnancy – Should You Be Worried About It?.
  4. Alok Sharma and Pratap Kumar; (2012); Understanding implantation window a crucial phenomenon.
  5. Bleeding in Early Pregnancy.
  6. Labor and birth.
  7. Reem Hasan et al.; (2010); Association Between First-Trimester Vaginal Bleeding and Miscarriage.
  8. Ayman A. Al-Talib; (2016); Clinical presentation and treatment outcome of molar pregnancy: Ten years experience at a Tertiary Care Hospital in Dammam Saudi Arabia.
  9. S Vardhan et al.; (2011); Bleeding in Early Pregnancy.
  10. Bleeding in Pregnancy/Placenta Previa/Placental Abruption.
  11. Paulami Guha; (2011); Disseminated Intravascular Coagulopathy following Induced Second Trimester Curettage Abortion.
  12. Am I In Labor?.
  13. Spotting During Pregnancy.
  14. What is Implantation Bleeding?
  15. Shireen Jejeebhoy; (2005); Commentary: Vaginal discharge and stress: a commentary on directions of influence.
Was this article helpful?
The following two tabs change content below.