Vaginal discharge is considered as a normal part of the vagina’s cleaning process. In most of the cases, the vaginal discharge is white or transparent and varies in terms of consistency.
The smell, color, and consistency of vaginal discharge tell a lot about the reproductive system of females. Some women start discharging a brown colored fluid immediately after their periods are over. This brown discharge may look alarming, but it is normal and may not always be a reason for concern.
Why Do Females Release Brown Discharge After Periods?
Women release brown vaginal discharge after periods due to the following reasons generally:
Dry Menstrual Blood
After three to four days when the periods are about to complete, the remaining menstrual blood may take a longer time to come out of the body and becomes thick, dark, and brown color due to the oxidation process which takes place as your blood comes in contact with air.
The brown discharge released at the end of the menstrual cycle appears thick, dry, and clumpy compared to regular blood.
The brown discharge varies among women. Some women release brown discharge for two to three days while for others it comes and goes for one or two weeks. The duration of the brown discharge depends upon how well your uterus will shed its lining and the speed at which it will leave from your body. The process is different for every woman.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition found in women that disturbs their hormone levels. Changes in the hormonal levels result in irregular periods or no periods at all. PCOS women sometimes release brown vaginal discharge instead of the normal menstrual blood.
Perimenopause is a condition in which your body naturally shifts to menopause before the actual onset of the menopause stage.
Perimenopause can begin in females as early as 10 years before the official time of menopause. It usually occurs in females who are 30 to 40 years of age.
Women during perimenopause can have either long or short periods called perimenopause periods during which their estrogen levels keep on fluctuating which causes changes in their menstrual cycle. Such changes may often cause brown discharge after a menstrual period or even during other parts of the cycle.
Using Birth Control Implant
Some women use birth control implants to control their pregnancy. Birth control implants are means of hormonal birth control that can be implanted into the upper arm, just under the skin.
These implants release hormones like progesterone into the body of females for preventing pregnancy. Brown discharge and irregular periods are the common side effects of using these birth control implants.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Your vagina is prone to various infections, especially during sexual intercourse. Many organisms are responsible for causing sexually transmitted infections in females such, chlamydia, gonorrhea, bacterial vaginosis (BV), etc.
Infections by these organisms can also cause brown discharge or brown spotting in females after they finish their periods.
Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases (PIDs)
Severe infections of the female reproductive organs called pelvic inflammatory diseases (PIDs) may also result in brown spot formation after periods.
The presence of some fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries called ovarian cysts may create pressure or pain in the lower back along with brown discharge.
Why Do Women Release Brown Discharge After Missed Period?
There are different reasons why do women release a brown discharge after they have missed their periods. However, some of the common causes may include the following:
- Poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Using hormonal birth control pills
- Implantation bleeding
- Early pregnancy
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Ovarian cysts
When Should Women Worry About Brown Discharge?
The release of brown discharge after periods is not risky as such; however, it can indicate a problem when accompanied by the following symptoms:
Post Period Brown Discharge and Cramps
If you experience brown discharge after your periods along with cramps, it could be caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Brown Discharge and Odor
Releasing brown discharge after periods is normal but if your brown discharge is smelly, it may be an indication that you have sexually transmitted infection (STI).
If your vagina is getting irritated after releasing brown discharge, it may be an indication that you have some vaginal infection.
Some other symptoms that may indicate that the brown discharge is not normal include:
- Vaginal itching
- Burning sensation in your vagina during peeing
- Excessive vaginal bleeding
- Pain or cramping
- Missed periods
- Heavy periods
- Light periods (hypomenorrhea)
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Implantation bleeding
- Prolonged brown discharge (can be a sign of endometriosis)
- Thick or stringy brown discharge (maybe an infection)
Is Brown Discharge an Indication of Cervical Cancer?
In most of the cases, brown discharge is normal without any serious cause. The purpose of brown discharge is to keep your vagina clean and healthy by cleaning out the dead cells from your vaginal lining.
Brown discharge is actually the normal regular discharge that gets mixed with new blood that is not flowing yet properly or it is just the old blood that got a chance to mix up with air.
Rarely, brown discharge can be an indicator of an underlying serious condition like cervical cancer. Brown discharge can be presumed as a warning sign for cervical cancer if it is accompanied by some unusual symptoms like unintentional weight loss, weakness, heavy and longer periods, painful intercourse, bleeding between the periods, etc.
Since cervical cancer is itself very rare, these symptoms will be found in the most serious cases of brown discharge. Only 0.6 % of women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in their lifetimes (estimated by the National Cancer Institute), therefore it is unlikely that your brown discharge will be due to cervical cancer.
However, if you find any of the symptoms mentioned above during your brown discharge, you should immediately consult your doctor and get yourself screened for cervical cancer.
When Should You Visit a Gynecologist for Brown Discharge
In the majority of cases, brown discharge is normal but you should visit a gynecologist for your brown discharge under the following conditions:
- If your brown discharge is smelling bad
- If your brown discharge lasts more than 3 days
- If your brown discharge is accompanied by some other symptoms like abdominal pain, vaginal itching, smelly vagina, etc
- If your brown discharge follows bouts of bright red bleeding