Why Is My Period Brown?

The color of menstrual discharge can vary from bright red to rust-colored to brownish-red. All of these variations are normal and can occur throughout the menstrual cycle. In most cases, a brown discharge related to the menstrual cycle is completely normal. In some cases, though, brown discharge could indicate a problem.

What causes brown menstrual discharge?

Brown discharge that occurs during the normal course of your period is usually just blood that has lingered in the uterus or the vagina, allowing it to change from red to brown. It is particularly common to see brown discharge during the end of your period, when the flow has slowed down, or at the beginning before the flow picks up. It can also be blood left over from a previous cycle during which all the uterine tissue was not shed.

Brown or red-brown discharge can also occur mid-cycle. This is often described as spotting and can be related to ovulation. This kind of spotting is sometimes accompanied by discomfort in the abdomen known as 'mittelschmerz.' This is cramplike pain that occurs as you ovulate and is relatively common.

Spotting that is brown also happens sometimes during early pregnancy. Many women experience spotting during the first month of pregnancy, in the days when they would normally have had their period.

When is brown discharge a problem?

If you experience brown menstrual discharge on a regular basis, and it occurs in a predictable pattern-for example at the beginning and/or end of your period-chances are good that there is nothing wrong. However, if anything seems abnormal or doesn't fit your usual pattern, you might want to consult with your gynecologist. Some signs that your discharge might indicate a problem include:

  • Abnormally heavy discharge
  • Brown discharge during the time when you would not normally be menstruating
  • Discharge or bleeding accompanied by severe pain
  • Discharge accompanied by an unpleasant odor, itching or burning

In any of these instances, you should consult with your gynecologist to determine if there is an underlying problem. You could be suffering from an infection, a uterine cyst, endometriosis or another serious issue that should be addressed.

Brown discharge during pregnancy

Spotting during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, is not uncommon. However, in order to be sure there are no complications, any spotting should be reported to your obstetrician, since it could be a sign of an impending miscarriage or another problem with the baby. Spotting that occurs instead of a normal period should also be checked into if there is any possibility you may be pregnant. Under these circumstances, the sooner you determine whether you are pregnant, the sooner you will be able to provide proper prenatal care for your baby.

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