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Pregnancy brings about many changes in a woman’s body. Brownish discharge during this period can be very scary for pregnant women as it resembles a menstrual period. Though it is normal and, in most cases, just another part of the pregnancy, it can cause panic if you do not understand its causes.
Also Read: Losing Mucus Plug during Pregnancy
What Is Brown Discharge During Pregnancy?
Brownish discharge during pregnancy is a common occurrence reported by more than 20% pregnant women. It is a reddish-brown discharge from the vagina which happens throughout the pregnancy. This is basically old blood that from your uterus that is being expelled in the form of spotting. It may start from early pregnancy and continue until the 37th week, i.e until labour. The amount and colour may also vary depending on the cause of the discharge. It can be differentiated from menstrual bleeding and that of a miscarriage by both its colour, and amount is less.
Different Types of Brown Discharge During Pregnancy
Here is a guide to identify the issue on the basis of the colour of vaginal discharge:
- Lightish-brown – Implementation bleeding or STDs
- Pinkish-brown – Cervical irritation, ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage
- Dark-brown – Early stages of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy
- Thick, brownish – Yeast infections
- Blackish-brown – Miscarriage, infections of the vagina, uterus or cervix
- Watery, brown – Molar pregnancy
- Yellowish-brown – Yeast or bacterial infections
1. Brown Discharge During Early Pregnancy
Spotting or brownish discharge occurs during implantation from 6 days of ovulation to the first few weeks of gestation. Sometimes in early pregnancy, the uterus expelsold blood that causes spotting or brownish discharge. Cervical and vaginal sensitivity can also cause a small amount of bleeding or brownish discharge at different times of the pregnancy. Bleeding from the vagina in early pregnancy is very common and happens in 25% of pregnancies.
2. Brown Discharge During Late Pregnancy
Towards the end of the pregnancy, brown discharge can also be a sign of labour. This is because a few weeks or days before you deliver, the mucous plug at the opening of the cervix breaks off. This is followed by brownish discharge or discharge of blood with a tinge of pink.
Discharge, in general, has a host of causes and is not a reason to panic. However, since more than half of all women who have bleeding during pregnancy go on to miscarry, it is very important to differentiate between brownish discharge and bleeding and take a call about visiting the doctor at the earliest signs of trouble.
Also Read: Leaking Amniotic Fluid during Pregnancy
Is Brown Discharge Normal in Pregnancy?
Brownish spotting during pregnancy is fairly normal and happens to more than 20% of pregnant women, at various times during the pregnancy. Brownish discharge during pregnancy can be because of:
In the early weeks, during the implantation of a fertile egg, the uterus gears itself to sustain a new foetus by expelling old tissue matter.
2. Sex and Medical Examinations
During pregnancy, the cervix and vagina are very sensitive due to increased blood flow. Medical examinations and tests or sex can also cause spotting.
3. Readiness for Labour
Brownish discharge can also happen when the mucous plug is expelled and labour begins.
When is Brownish Discharge a Cause for Concern?
While there is no need to panic in most cases, every pregnant woman should monitor herself so that any signals of a serious problem are not missed. Keeping track of the appearance, quantity, and odour of the brownish discharge is important. Any perceived abnormality should be referred to a doctor at once.
There are some symptoms that reflect serious underlying problems:
- Large quantity of discharge –In general, any discharge during pregnancy which needs a sanitary pad for management is a sign that a doctor must be consulted.
- Discomfort with the discharge – Discharge accompanied by pain and cramping, bad odour and persisting more than a week can indicate a vaginal infection.
- Watery discharge – Discharge accompanied by watery fluid or lumpy matter may signal a miscarriage and a need for a D & C.
- Duration of discharge – Discharge which persists for more than a week after sexual intercourse or a medical examination could be a sign of an infection.
- Fever along with discharge – Discharge accompanied by fever and chills may be a serious infection of the uterus or kidneys and should be treated at once.
- Severe pain with discharge – Discharge accompanied by dizziness, severe pain, and abdominal cramps may be because of an ectopic pregnancy. This poses a threat to the life of the mother and will need termination swiftly.
What Causes Brownish Discharge in Pregnant Women?
Brownish discharge, a very common occurrence during pregnancy may indicate many things. Some of its causes are:
1. Implantation Bleeding
The fertilised egg travels to the walls of the uterus and implants itself there, which may cause bleeding. Implantation bleeding can occur from 6 days after ovulation to the first few weeks of pregnancy. It also occurs, sometimes, as light-pinkish spotting a few days before the expected date of a period. Since menstruation occurs 14 days after ovulation, early implantation bleeding is sometimes mistaken for a light and late period.
2. Pre- labour Discharge
Brownish discharge that happens in the last weeks of pregnancy can be an indication of labour. When this happens between 36 to 40 weeks along with loss of the mucous plug, the discharge may be accompanied by a greyish, mucous and jelly-like blob which is blood-tinged or streaked with old, brownish blood. This happens when the cervix softens, your body gets ready for delivery and the mucous plug stopping the entry of infections into the womb is not required any longer. The plug and the discharge may be expelled all at once or in smaller bits over the course of a few days or weeks.
3. Sexual Intercourse
The cervix becomes flushed with blood during pregnancy and that along with hormonal changes makes it sensitive. Sexual intercourse or an intrusive medical examination can cause brown discharge with some pain.
4. Molar Pregnancy
Brownish discharge is sometimes caused by spontaneous expulsion of a molar pregnancy, an abnormality of the placenta. This is caused by problems during fertilisation. A genetic error during the fertilisation process leads to the growth of abnormal tissue within the uterus. Molar pregnancies are rare, occurring in 1 out of every 1,000 pregnancies, and do not usually result in a viable foetus. They instead involve the abnormally rapid growth of tissues. Brownish discharge and grape-like tissue are spontaneously expelled at the end of molar pregnancies.
5. Cervical Polyps
Cervical polyps are harmless benign growth on the cervix. Brownish discharge during pregnancy is sometimes caused by bleeding from a cervical polyp due to higher estrogen levels, and the increased vascularity in the cervical tissue.
6. Ectopic Pregnancy
Brownish discharge is, sometimes, a symptom of an ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilised egg implants itself outside the uterus, mostly in the fallopian tubes. It is typically accompanied by a lot of dizziness, light-headedness and occasionally fainting, pain on one side of the abdomen and pelvis, which comes and goes.
An ectopic pregnancy is a serious problem and can be associated with fallopian tube rupture and severe internal haemorrhage. If your brownish discharge is accompanied with these symptoms, it needs immediate medical intervention.
7. Missed Abortion
Brownish discharge can sometimes be a sign of a missed abortion. In this case, the pregnancy stops developing but the developed foetal tissue does not pass out of the uterus. When this does not happen for 4 weeks, dark brown spotting or bleeding with a texture of ground coffee occurs. This is sometimes accompanied by bad odour and expelled tissue matter. We advise you to visit the doctor, in such a case, to ensure all foetal matter is cleaned away from the uterus.
Brownish and, occasionally, red discharge from the vagina in the first trimester can be a sign of miscarriage if accompanied by abdominal pain, lower back pain and strong period-like cramps. The bleeding may vary from light to heavy, have blood clots, and come and go for a few days. In most cases, a woman’s body recovers from miscarriage over a period of 1 week to 10 days. Then, further treatment is not needed.
9. Abnormal Placenta
Certain placental conditions or abnormalities like placenta previa and placenta abruption can be a reason of brown spotting. In placenta previa, the opening of the cervix is covered by the placenta, causing brown discharge but no pain. Whereas in placenta abruption, the uterus gets separated from the placenta, causing both brown discharge and pain.
10. Genital HPV
This is another condition which is caused by increased estrogen levels and increased blood flow. Brownish discharge is one of its symptoms.
11. Vaginal Infections
Infections of the vagina and sexually transmitted diseases can also cause brown spotting.
How To Reduce Brown Discharge While You’re Pregnant?
If brownish discharge is due to a serious underlying issue with the pregnancy, most home remedies will not be of any use. However, there are some remedies that can make you feel better as well as help to sustain your pregnancy.
1. Home Remedies
- Monitor yourself: Keep up your hospital visits and complete all the recommended checkups on time so that any problem can be found out and managed before it escalates.
- Take it easy: This refers to the tollpregnancy takes on physical and mental health. See if you can get a hired help or trusted family member to help out and reduce your workload.
- Don’t overdo the exercising: While exercising and staying active is important during pregnancy, remember that too much of something is also bad.
- Sleep heals: Heading to bed is the best thing you can do. Sleep for as many hours as your body needs, for growth and healing. Try to nap during the day if you are working.
- Elevate your feet: Putting your feet up takes your weight off the floor. This helps to better the blood circulation in your body and reduce the quantity of brown discharge during pregnancy.
- Do not lift heavy weights: Straining yourself by lifting heavy weights is not a good idea at this time.
- Tests for discharge and bleeding problems during pregnancy: The tests recommended may include a vaginal and cervical examination, blood tests and ultrasound scans to check the status of your pregnancy, the size of your uterus, the levels of pregnancy hormones in your blood, the amount of bleeding and the presence of any visible factors causing the discharge and bleeding.
The medication administered to treat brown discharge during pregnancy depends on the nature of the problem. Some women don’t require medication while others do.
When Should You Go to a Doctor?
Your decision to seek a doctor’s opinion depends on the nature of the discharge, and its colour, quantity, texture and odour.
Consider seeing a doctor if:
- There is a lot of discharge which is more than spotting. Discharge which needs a sanitary pad should be checked.
- The discharge after intercourse persists for more than 7 days, is foul smelling or irritating.
- The discharge is accompanied by pain or expulsion of tissue or lumps.
- The discharge is accompanied by fever or chills.
- The discharge is accompanied by abdominal cramps, severe pain or dizziness.
Remember, though brownish discharge is usually not indicative of any problem, always call your doctor if you notice bleeding during pregnancy. Always make a note of your symptoms and never hesitate to visit your doctor or hospital if you suspect anything serious. After all – it is better to be safe than sorry.