14 Causes of Brown Discharge Instead of Your Period: Could I Be Pregnant?

What does it mean if you have a brown discharge instead of period?.  Is it a sign of pregnancy, an infection or a gynaecological condition?. A brown mucus discharge or brown spotting can be dark, light, thick, sticky, watery, stringy, slimy, smelly or odorless.

Brown discharge can be caused by so many reasons such as pregnancy, miscarriage, perimenopause, birth control pill, stress, PCOS, cervical cancer e.t.c

What does Brown Discharge Mean?

Brown discharge means your vaginal discharge is mixed or tinged with blood. Brown spotting is a vaginal bleeding that is not your regular menstrual period. Spotting can appear as brown spots of blood or pinkish blood on your underwear or on a toilet paper when you wipe.

Is BROWN like Discharge Normal?

Normal vaginal discharge color ranges from clear to creamy white. It is usually odorless or has a mild odor. It is not itchy or cause any burning sensation down there.

Any discoloured vaginal discharge such as brown, pink, black, yellow, green should be investigated further.

Most of the time a brownish discharge is caused by changes in hormones or implantation.

Causes of Brown Vaginal Discharge 

1. Perimenopause

Perimenopause is the period of 4-12 years in which your body makes transition in menopause. Menopause means a woman no longer sees her menstrual period. 

Perimenopause stage usually occurs in late 30 and 40's. A drop in estrogen hormone levels is very common in this phase.

The signs and symptoms that you are in the perimenopausal phase are: Irregular periods, low sex drive, lighter periods or heavier periods, vaginal bleeding between periods, abnormal brown discharge, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and weight gain.

2. Birth Control​

Birth controls are one of the safest and easiest ways to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

The downside is that they also come with some  side effects. They interfere with your natural reproductive hormones.

Any form of disruption to natural levels of estrogen and progesterones affects the natural functions of the menstrual cycle.

Common side effects of birth controls in the first 3 months of use are: brown spotting between periods, lighter and short periods, heavy bleeding and prolonged bleeding.

Hormonal birth control contain man-made estrogen and progestin.

These artificial hormones​ increases the level of estrogen or progesterone hormones in a woman's body in order to stop ovulation from taking place.

The progestin hormone in hormonal contraceptives also thickens the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from getting into the uterus.

3. Late period​

Late period or a delayed period occurs for many reasons. Even though you are currently experiencing a brown discharge and a negative pregnancy test, your period may come in a fews days after your period is late.

A black blood or brown discharge​ before menstruation starts can be old blood from previous cycle just being expelled. 

Sometimes during a woman's period,  not all the blood in the uterus is expelled. This left over blood is known as retained blood which can be expelled days after your period is over or days before your next period starts.

Other than pregnancy, hormonal imbalances is one of the reasons for a late or missed period.

4. Pregnancy /implantation bleeding

If you are trying to conceive (ttc) or you had unprotected sex around ovulation, then the brown spotting or discharge you are noticing around the time of your expected period might be implantation bleeding.

Bleeding during implantation occurs when the the fertilised egg attaches its self to the lining of the walls of the uterus 6-7 days after conception.

Take a pregnancy test around a week after a missed period.


Polycystic ovary syndrome(PCOS) is a condition that causes multiple cysts to grow on a woman's ovary.

It is common in women who have a higher than normal level of male hormones (androgen). PCOS is an hormonal imbalance issue.

The common symptoms of PCOS are: Acne, thinning or loss of hair, infertility, excessive hair growth, irregular period or absence of period(amenorrhea).

PCOS can cause brown spotting before menstrual period and brown period blood.

6. Coming Off The Pill

There are so many reasons why women take the pill. Some use the pill to reduce acne, stop painful periods, avoid getting pregnant.

​But brown like discharge instead of period after coming off the pill is a common phenomenon.

For some women their periods do not return for months. This happens because most hormonal contraceptives interfere with a woman's menstrual cycles an sex hormones.​

7. Hormonal Imbalance

Hormonal imbalances occurs when your hormones(chemical messengers) work in an abnormal way that it affects how your organs and system functions.

The menstrual cycle is controlled by two key hormones estrogen and progesterone. An imbalance between this 2 hormones is a major culprit of many female gynaecological problems such as PCOS, abnormal uterine bleeding, abnormal vaginal bleeding, spotting but no period.

8. Cervical Cancer

In very rare cases black discharge or dark brown discharge is an indication of the presence of cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer​ is the cancer of the cervix. It arises when abnormal cells grow on or in the cervix.

The cervix is the lower part of the uterus(womb). It connects the vagina to the uterus.​

Other symptoms of cervical cancers are: bleeding after sex, abnormal menstrual bleeding, Pain when urinating, abnormal vaginal discharge with an usual color or smell.

9. Endometrial Cancer 

Endometrial cancer is the cancer of the lining of the uterus or womb(endometrium). The cells that lines the uterus starts to grow out of control.

One of the first symptoms of endometrial cancer is vaginal bleeding that is not your normal period and pelvic pain.

10. Endometriosis

Endometriosis occurs when the tissues that form the lining of the uterus starts to grow outside the uterus in order organs such as the fallopian tube, ovaries, bowels and pelvis.

Symptoms of endometriosis are: spotting or bleeding between period, old black blood before period, lower abdominal pain painful periods and infertility.

11. Mirena

Mirena is a form of hormonal intrauterine device(IUD) that helps to prevent unwanted pregnancies. 

It is a T shaped device that is inserted into the uterus. It contains progestin (artificial progesterone).

Progestin helps to thicken the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from penetrating or fertilising an egg.

Mirena can work up to 5 years in preventing pregnancies. 

Many women using mirena as a form of contraceptive have complained about getting a brown stringy discharge on their panties.

Any form of unusual red or darkish discharge on mirena should be reported to your doctor immediately.

12. Morning After Pill

Morning after pill is a form of emergency contraceptive that is taken after having unprotected sexual intercourse to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

A common type of the morning after pill is plan b.

​Emergency contraceptives work by

  • Disrupting the menstrual cycle​
  • Prevents ovulation from taking place
  • Irritates the lining of the uterus to prevent a successful implantation

Some women spot or have a brownish discharge after taking plan b.

13. Stress​

For women, the impact of stress on the body is huge. When you are highly stressed your body goes into a survival mode. In this mode it focuses on keeping you safe first.

Thereby reducing the production of reproductive hormones to focus on releasing cortisol a stress hormone.

​The effects of stress on the menstrual cycle are brown bleeding before period, a shorter than normal menstrual period or even an absence menstruation.

14. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease(PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease also known as pelvic inflammatory disorder is simply an infection of the upper part of a woman's reproductive organs. 

PID affects organs such as the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and pelvis.​

PID is caused when bacteria from the vagina enters into 

Also when sexually transmitted diseases(STD) such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea are left untreated it leads to PID.

Common symptoms of PID are: Abnormal uterine bleeding, pain during or after sexual intercourse, vaginal odor with an unpleasant smell, yellow brown discharge, green or yellow discharge.

Although reddish brown discharge is rare with PID, it is still possible to get one.​

Other causes of PID are abortion and child birth.​

When To Worry about brown/pink discharge instead of menstruation

You should be worried about if you have a brown /pink secretion  but no period if you have any of the following:

  • A negative pregnancy test
  • Cramps, lower abdominal pain or back pain
  • Pregnant with bloody discharge
  • Fever or cold chills
  • Vaginal itching 
  • Foul-smelling discharge
  • Using a birth control such as implanon, mirena iud, copper iud, nuvaring, nexplanon, on depo shot

most asked questions about Brownish Discharge

What does brown spotting instead of period not pregnant mean?

Brown discharge when not pregnant can be caused by underlaying issues such as 

  • Hormonal imbalance
  • PCOS
  • Birth controls
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Pelvic Inflammatory disease
  • Abnormal uterine bleeding

Brown Pinkish discharge instead of period could I be pregnant?

Women trying to get pregnant often ask is brown discharge a sign of pregnancy?

Light brown discharge around the time your period is due may be implantation spotting or bleeding.

Getting a BFP(positive pregnancy test) result is one of the best ways to confirm if pregnant or not.​

Taking a home pregnancy test too early may result in a false or negative test result.

Wait a week passed your missed period date to take one. ​

Late Period Brown Mucus Discharge Negative Pregnancy Test

If trying to conceive, you would be eager to see a positive pregnancy test.  But having a late period and a negative pregnancy test with a brownish spotting or discharge can be quite confusing.

If you have a brown colored discharge around the time of your period is due, this could be implantation bleeding.

The best time to take a home pregnancy test is a week after a missed period.

Taking a test too early can result in a false result.

Also stressing about pregnancy can cause a missed or a late period with tan or brown discharge.

Why is my Period Blood Brown at the beginning?

Red blood is normal during menstruation, so you may be surprised if suddenly your period blood is brown.

Brown blood during period is common especially towards the beginning and at the end. 

The presence of black blood or brown blood at the start of your period indicates that the retained old blood from previous cycle is being expelled first.

​The longer, blood stays in the uterus before it is expelled, the darker and thicker it becomes.

A bright red menstrual blood is the most preferred and this means the blood is fresh.  It is also being expelled from the uterus at a quick or normal rate.

Brown Stringy Discharge Instead of period on Birth Control

Abnormal vaginal bleeding is one of the side effects of using an hormonal birth control. 

Hormonal contraceptives can disturb the normal functioning of your natural hormones. 

Side effects of using contraceptives include: spotting but no period, brown spotting for over a week, irregular period and cycles.

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