Brown discharge (light, dark): understand what can be

The discharge is often a natural secretion of the female body. Generally, that white mucus – it can be thicker or more transparent -, with no smell and no other accompanying symptoms, indicates that everything is working normally.

However, if there are changes in the color, frequency and intensity of discharge, especially if accompanied by vaginal pain and burning, it is worth seeking medical help.


What is brown discharge?

The brown discharge, also called brownish vaginal blood flow , can mean a release of old blood through the genitals. It is frequent for some pregnant women, in early pregnancy.

In some conditions, when accompanied by symptoms such as pain, itching, redness and bad odor, it becomes worrying, as it may mean the indication of some disease.

The discharge itself contains a small amount of clotted blood, which joins the vaginal discharge and becomes that color. It can be caused by remnants of menstruation, trauma, foreign body, infection, implantation of the embryo in the uterus in the early days of pregnancy, vaginal atrophy, ectopic pregnancy or some type of gynecological cancer .

Brown (light brown) and dark discharge

The brown discharge can be manifested by several causes. Another variation is the intensity of its color, because in some women it has a lighter tone and in others a dark tone.

When it comes to dark brown, it is usually related to the amount of blood in its composition, which can indicate wounds on the cervix, uterine tubes, vaginal walls or being a remnant of menstruation.

The light brown discharge, however, is more associated with the implantation of the egg in the uterus, which causes milder bleeding. This type can also be associated with irritation caused, for example, by the use of excessive intimate soap, which causes an imbalance in the vaginal pH.

How is normal vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharge, also known as physiological vaginal discharge, is natural in almost all women of reproductive age. It is formed by a combination of natural bacteria from the vaginal flora, mucus secretion and dead cells from the vagina.

The volume of this discharge can vary according to some factors, such as pregnancy, increased hormonal production, menstrual cycle, ovulation, vaginal pH imbalance and use of estrogen-based contraceptives.

This type of discharge usually has a volume of 1mL to 4mL daily, with no odor or mild odor.

The appearance of this discharge may vary, but it is usually between thick, elastic or watery, transparent or white.

It plays the role of vaginal lubricant, keeps the region moist and clean, preventing the onset of infections.

When is brown discharge normal?

The brown discharge is normal in some situations, such as after menstruation, intimate contact or in the presence of some irritation of the vaginal walls.

Before you get scared of the discharge, check out in what situations it can be considered normal:

  • After intimate contact during pregnancy;
  • In the first days after menstruation;
  • When the woman has some hormonal change;
  • Change of contraceptive;
  • Hormonal medications, such as thyroid medications.

When the brown discharge occurs over a period of more than 3 days, it may be a sign that there is a problem, such as vaginal infections. However, in these cases, brown discharge does not occur in isolation, other symptoms such as itching, pain and bad odor accompany it.

Read more: Dark menstruation and little flow: what can it be?

What is vaginal pH?

It is very common to hear about vaginal pH when it comes to intimate health. This term is almost always present in commercials or labels for intimate products, but why is it so important?

The acronym pH stands for hydrogen potential. It represents a scale that measures the acidity of a particular medium. In the case of vaginal pH, the scale measures the acidity of the vaginal region.

The scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 equal to neutral, from 0 to 7 considered acidic and from 7 to 14 classified as alkaline or basic.

The vaginal region has a pH between 3.8 and 4.5 normally, which fits the acidity scale.

These numbers act as a kind of thermometer for vaginal health. It is natural the presence of some bacteria and fungi in the region, which do not cause damage to women’s health. They produce lactic acid that help to reduce the pH value.

Because this index is more acidic, when it is regulated, the pH does not allow other bacteria to survive, preventing infections and irritation.

Several external factors can interfere with the natural process of the vagina in maintaining its acidity, such as the use of medicines, stuffiness, lack of proper hygiene, very tight clothes and sweat.

The use of antibiotics , for example, can wipe out both bacteria that are healthy for the vaginal area and harmful bacteria.

To keep the vaginal pH within the ideal range, it is recommended to use intimate soaps that help to keep it acidic, as they are less aggressive to the skin and mucous membranes. In addition, the use of wider clothes and cotton are also indicated, as they help with ventilation.

During the menstrual period, basic care such as regular tampon changes also helps to keep the intimate area healthy.

What is the difference between discharge and mucus secretion?

Mucus secretion is a name used to refer to discharge that is normal in a healthy body. The genital mucus represents the woman’s ovulation period and happens once a month.

The discharge, when it happens, is in a different color from the genital mucus, which may indicate that the fluid is contaminated by the presence of other bacteria.

The word discharge is most often used when it comes to a symptom arising from an infection or other diseases.

However, this does not mean that any discharge is a sign of illness. Therefore, the ideal is to identify if there are other symptoms and if the duration has exceeded what is considered normal and seek medical help.

Causes of brown discharge

Various conditions can cause brown discharge. The most common causes involve the presence of vaginitis, infection caused by bacteria and fungi. It also happens due to allergies to substances, such as spermicides, or the presence of a foreign body, which is more rare.

Some conditions considered rare that can cause brown discharge are:

  • HPV infection;
  • Oxyurus worm infection;
  • Herpes;
  • Semen allergy;
  • Foreign body, such as tampon or “lost” condom.

Know some of the most common causes:

Bacterial vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis is one of the main causes of vaginal discharge. It is caused by the abnormal proliferation of natural bacteria in the vaginal region.

One of the recurrent bacteria in cases of bacterial vaginosis is Gardnerella vaginalis.  Its proliferation, in addition to causing discharge, causes a strong and very unpleasant smell.

Ovarian cyst

The cyst in the ovary is a benign change that can occur in women of different ages. It resembles a kind of purse or bag, and may have a solid or liquid-filled interior. Typically, these cysts appear on the surface or inside the ovary.

Although it is not considered a serious injury, as it often disappears spontaneously, the cyst in the ovary can cause symptoms such as irregular menstruation, severe cramps and pain during sexual intercourse. The brown discharge can happen as a result.

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease, as its name suggests, is an inflammation that occurs in the female reproductive organs.

One of the causes for this disease is the spread of sexually transmitted bacteria from the vagina to the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes.

In addition to brown discharge, fever , pelvic pain, strong vaginal odor and tenderness during cervical movement may manifest . For the treatment of this disease, the use of antibiotics may be recommended.


The trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the presence of protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis.

The main symptoms of this disease, in women, are discharge (brown and yellowish or yellow-greenish), strong odor, genital redness, itching, pain during sexual intercourse, difficulty urinating and others.

Ectopic pregnancy

This is a pregnancy that happens in the wrong place, so to speak. What is certain is that the egg is fertilized in the uterus, in ectopic pregnancy, normally the egg is lodged in the fallopian tube.

In such cases, what usually happens is a spontaneous abortion, as the fallopian tubes do not have enough nutrients and space for the embryo to develop. Therefore, he ends up dying and the organism expels him.

Some of the symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include pelvic pain, pain during sex, abdominal pain and bleeding, such as brown discharge, for example.

Irritation of the cervix

Irritation of the cervix, or cervicitis, is a condition considered common. It happens mainly due to an STD contamination, such as herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhea .

It can also occur in women during the postpartum period or be related to the continuous use of birth control pills, which, in this case, can be diagnosed as a chronic cervicitis.

Symptoms of cervical irritation also include pain during sex, bleeding, discharge, aches and fever.

Atrophic vaginitis

Atrophic vaginitis, also called vaginal atrophy, is a disease in which the lack of estrogen causes dryness and thinning of the vaginal mucosa.

This atrophy can lead to inflammation and cause discharge. Atrophic vaginitis usually occurs after menopause .


The use of some products can trigger the appearance of brown discharge. Some women, due to an allergy to condom lubricant , spermicides, intimate soaps, perfumes and other agents, end up having this symptom in response to allergy.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition very close to the ovarian cyst, the main difference being the size and number of cysts.

The cause of this disease is still poorly understood, but the hypotheses include a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

In addition to causing irregular menstruation and discharge, patients with polycystic ovaries may have excess hair on the face, breasts and abdomen, acne and obesity .

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer or cervical cancer is a disease caused by the presence of a malignant tumor. The two most frequent types of cervical malignancy are related to HPV infection .

In the initial stage, cervical cancer is asymptomatic. Symptoms, when they appear later, include vaginal bleeding after intercourse, bleeding between intervals from one menstruation to the next, after menopause, and a foul-smelling brown discharge.

As the disease progresses, symptoms may include bleeding, intestinal and urinary tract obstruction, abdominal and low back pain, presence of a palpable mass on the cervix, weight loss and appetite


Brown discharge, in itself, is already a symptom. It can mean the presence of several diseases or be considered a normal response by our organism to some specific conditions.

See which symptoms, along with the brown discharge, indicate that it is not something normal:

  • Itch;
  • Strong and bad odor;
  • Abdominal pain;
  • Burning;
  • Redness;
  • When brown discharge occurs after intercourse;
  • Fever;
  • Pelvic pain.

Read more: Smelly discharge: what is the best medicine to treat?

Is light brown discharge a sign of pregnancy?

Some women, within the first 12 weeks of gestation, may suffer from a brown discharge. It is, in these cases, bleeding similar to menstruation. One of the reasons for this is due to the implantation of the embryo in the uterine wall, a process also known as nidation .

Normally, nesting is characterized by bleeding that is lighter than brown discharge, and may be closer to pink. The flow is also well below the menstrual flow and the duration is a few days.

During pregnancy, the vagina may become more sensitive and therefore bleed during intercourse or during gynecological examinations. The risk of infections is also greater during this period.

Bleeding or discharge during pregnancy, even when considered common, should not be overlooked or overlooked. The advice of a gynecologist is advised in all cases.

In the postpartum period, after childbirth, it is possible that the woman suffers from a discharge called locus. It can be similar to brown discharge or have other color variations.

It happens due to loss of blood, tissues inside the uterus and mucus. In the presence of the locus, talk to your gynecologist or obstetrician how to proceed.

The duration of the locus varies from woman to woman, but the average is 3 to 6 weeks.

Read more: Nesting: What it is, symptoms and when it occurs

Is brown discharge in pregnancy and colic normal?

It is possible that the woman has light brown discharge accompanied by colic during pregnancy, especially during the first weeks. Brown secretion usually occurs due to the presence of bleeding that mixes with mucus, but is also accompanied by colic.

It is worth mentioning that if the pain is moderate in these cases and, if there are other signs or severe pain, it is necessary to seek medical help.

Is brown or brown discharge blood?

The brownish or brownish color of the discharge may be due to the presence of blood that mixes with the secretions of the vagina. In general, it gets this staining because the amount of blood is small, not being able to turn the secretion red.

Is brown or brown discharge blood in pregnancy?

In general, yes. During the beginning of pregnancy, it is common to have small amounts of blood, due to the nesting. For many women, this brown discharge (which may be a brown or pinkish secretion) lasts for a short time – reaching a maximum of 3 days.

Is brown or brown discharge menstruation blood?

It is possible that the brown discharge is due to remnants of menstruation or small leaks before normal bleeding. Often, it can be accompanied by small clots of more intense colors.

Brown discharge in menstruation

The brown discharge may be present during the menstrual cycle, but it usually occurs after or before actual menstruation.

It is the result of “menstrual remnants” that the uterine mucosa has not been able to completely eliminate.

In some people, this discharge can happen during the first menstruation, even in adolescence.

It is not considered serious, as it is the elimination of coagulated blood and tissue. It can last for 3 days.

Brown discharge at menopause

Menopause can also cause brown discharge, although it is not so common. When it happens, it is related to a decrease in the production of hormones present in the menstrual period.

The absence of some types of hormones can dry out the mucosa and cause irritation in the genital area, causing itching in some cases.

Brown discharge with contraceptive use

The brown discharge when it happens as a result of the use of contraceptives can mean a sign of escape bleeding.

This type of bleeding can happen during the beginning of the use of the contraceptive pill, even in the first cards, because the organism is still in the adaptation phase to all the extra hormones it is receiving.

The recommendation is to seek medical advice if the discharge occurs for more than 3 days.

The discharge can also happen due to the unregulated use of contraceptives.

When to see a doctor?

In some situations the brown discharge is not considered serious, but it is important to know when this symptom should be the reason for going to the doctor.

If the discharge is not related to the menstrual cycle, with the use of pills the next day or contraceptives and, even if it persists for more than 3 days, it is an alert to seek medical help.

In pregnancy, a time when brown discharge may be common and not pose a risk to the health of the baby and the mother, it is also a sign that it is necessary to see a doctor, even if only to clear the doubt and not worry.

In addition, when the brown discharge is accompanied by other symptoms such as cramps, itching and strong odor it also means that it is time to go back to the gynecologist.

How is the diagnosis made?

The diagnosis of brown vaginal discharge is made through clinical examinations performed by the gynecologist .

During the consultation, the doctor will be able to evaluate through the patient’s report, the analysis of the symptoms and with complementary exams what is the cause of the discharge.

It is possible that the doctor understands the need to take a sample of the discharge to assess vaginal pH, through microscopic investigation and culture.

Is there a cure?

Brown discharge is considered a symptom and its cure depends on the cause, diagnosis and specific treatment.


The treatment of brown discharge depends on what caused this symptom. Each cause has a different treatment.

The use of antifungals or antibiotics may be recommended for infections, or estrogen creams for atrophic vaginitis.

There is no treatment that can solve the brown discharge for different causes, only the doctor will be able to tell which will be the best to be done.

Living together

Brown discharge is not a condition in which the patient has to get used to living. In some circumstances it is considered normal, but when it occurs frequently it can be an alert that there is some other health problem.

The main position that women should take in relation to this symptom is not to feel ashamed or hide from the gynecologist, as it is common for brown discharge to happen.


Vaginal discharge, brown or of another color, is one of the most common reasons that lead a woman to a gynecological consultation, having bacterial vaginosis, candidiasis and trichomoniasis as the most frequent cause . These three diseases account for 90% of vaginal secretions considered abnormal.

Most of the diseases that cause brown discharge are treated and cured. Therefore, what makes this symptom worrying, in some cases, is the delay in making a diagnosis and starting treatment.

How to prevent

A few simple changes in the routine are sufficient to prevent brown vaginal discharge.

Preventive exams

One of the best ways to prevent brown discharge is to maintain a healthy routine of consultation with the gynecologist. With regular examinations and following the instructions of the gynecologist, the chances of this symptom manifesting because of an illness are less.

Use of cotton underwear

One of the most common recommendations of gynecologists is that women use cotton panties to keep the intimate area drier than when using panties with other materials.

Avoid tight pants and shorts

As well as wearing cotton underwear, avoiding tight pants and shorts also helps to prevent discharge. This way, the region is not drowned out by the pressure of clothes, which improves sweating and prevents the proliferation of microorganisms that can cause infections.

Avoid intimate showers

Intimate showers are not healthy. The cleaning of the woman’s intimate region should be done daily, but with the cleaning of the outer region of the vagina during the bath.

Common questions

Is brown discharge normal after intercourse?

No , brown discharge should not be considered normal in this situation. This symptom is related to several diseases. The ideal is to see a doctor to investigate the cause.

Is brown discharge normal when it comes to a more advanced pregnancy?

It depends . During pregnancy, the vaginal wall may be more sensitive. For this reason, minor bleeding can occur, for example, after having sex.

In the case of brown discharge, specifically, it can be caused by remnants of blood from the uterus. It is not considered serious in these cases.

However, the pregnant woman must pay attention to the volume of blood, the presence of pain, itching and bad smell. These symptoms may indicate another more serious illness.

Is it normal brown discharge with a bad odor?

No , the stench is not considered normal. In addition to the discomfort, it can be an indication that the woman has an infection, such as trichomoniasis and vaginosis.

Can condoms cause brown discharge?

Yes , the latex present in condoms can cause allergies in some women and, as a consequence, have their vaginal pH unregulated. Thus, the chances of bacterial proliferation increase and the possibility of bacterial vaginosis also occurs.

This infection can cause brown discharge. Faced with this situation, the woman should seek medical advice from a gynecologist. The abandonment of condom use should not be done without the replacement of another condom or contraceptive method, to prevent sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies.

What can be brown discharge accompanied by colic?

The brown discharge accompanied by colic can mean different things for each patient.

In some cases, it can be an indication of pregnancy, as the nesting can cause cramps and brown discharge.

These two symptoms can also indicate that menstruation is near. It can also happen after the end of the menstrual cycle, without posing any risk to the woman’s health. However, only the gynecologist will be able to tell if it is common or not.

How often should I go to the gynecologist?

The recommended periodicity for visits to gynecologists is once a year, for every woman who has had or has sex.

In this routine consultation, a clinical evaluation should be made that includes a touch exam, a pelvic exam and the collection of material for the Pap smear .