Under certain circumstances, a woman will not have a regular menstrual period but will have brown discharge instead of period bleeding. Is this a harmful symptom to have and what causes it? This article will tell you all about brown discharge so you can better understand this symptom and know if you need to do anything about it.
Is It Normal to Have Brown Discharge Instead of a Period?
Most of the time, brownish discharge is a normal phenomenon. During your cycles, the amount of discharge you have, its color, and consistency will vary over time. You can have thick, clumpy discharge on one day and thin, watery discharge on another day. The bleeding can be light or heavy, brownish in color, bright red, or pink in color.
Brown discharge instead of period usually happens at the end of the cycle. This is from old blood that has broken down inside the uterus and comes out brown instead of red as the body begins to shed.
On occasion, you can get a brownish vaginal discharge in the middle of the menstrual cycle, or during the time of ovulation. This tends to be more common in teens who have just begun menstruating, in women who are taking a birth control, and in women who are peri-menopausal.
What Causes Brown Discharge Instead of Period?
1. It Can Be a Late Period
In many cases, brown discharge is just because your period is delayed. The vaginal wall is a kind of self-cleaning part of your body. It clears out the lining of the uterus at the end of the menstrual cycle as long as there has been no egg fertilization during that cycle. The uterus sheds the lining of the uterus in what is known as menstrual periods. If the entire lining of the uterus is not expelled, this tissue stays inside the uterus for the next cycle.
If you get a period that is late or have a period that is after the one in which the lining of the uterus has not been expelled, you will have brown discharge instead of period. This represents the old blood that has been treated with oxidation processes inside the uterus and is then expelled from the body at a later time.
2. You May Be Pregnant
You can get brown discharge instead of period because of implantation bleeding. This happens when the egg is fertilized and travels through the fallopian tube, developing into an embryo. The embryo implants into the endometrium or inner uterine lining and bleeding can occur, which shows up as brownish discharge. You can always tell the difference between implantation bleeding and period bleeding because implantation bleeding is very brief and usually happens 6-12 days after ovulation, rather than 14 days if it is a period. The brown discharge may mean that you are pregnant rather than having a period.
3. It Could Be a Sign of Menopause
Around 45-50 years of age, a woman enters perimenopause, which can last for several years before menopause finally happens. During that time, there is a brown discharge instead of a period during some of the cycles. It is usually not uncomfortable and is unassociated with other signs of menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats.
4. Other Possible Causes of Brown Discharge
There can be other causes of brown discharge instead of period. These include the following:
- Undergoing a severe stressor. You can get brown discharge because of some kind of physical or psychological stress, including financial stress or loss of a loved one.
- Inflammation. If you develop brown discharge after surgery or following the delivery of a baby, the discharge may indicate you are suffering from some sort of infection.
- Hormone changes inside the body. You can get brown discharge that may be associated with clots that happen as a result of breastfeeding. The main cause of this is shrinking of the ovaries. It is usually not harmful and goes away when you stop breastfeeding.
- Changes in the weather. If you are traveling or moving to some other place with different weather conditions, it can affect your hormones and you can get a brownish discharge.
- Stark loss of weight. If you lose a lot of weight in a quite short time, you may have no periods or just brown discharge instead of period.
What Can You Do About It?
If you have a brownish discharge and are not pregnant, the problem is not dangerous and is usually quite normal. Use some kind of panty liner to catch the discharge. If it occurs for more than a few weeks or seems to happen every time you have sex, or if you have symptoms of an infection, seek the advice of your doctor as the discharge could represent something more serious.
Call your obstetrician or midwife right away if you have brownish discharge and are pregnant. This could mean that there is something going on with the fetus that needs medical attention. If you are not taking hormones and are postmenopausal with brown discharge, you should also call or see your doctor.