Brown Vaginal Discharge: Top Causes and Signs Explained

The female reproductive system is comprised of different parts working together to ensure reproduction. It is also designed in such a way that if fertilization does not occur, menstruation will take place.

The monthly period is just one of the normal vaginal discharges that ladies can expect. However, concern may arise when the substance eliminated from the body doesn’t look or smell normal at all.

It is easy to be alarmed when seeing something non-traditional discharged from the vagina, but not all of the things that come out spell bad news.

Vaginal discharge is one of the female reproductive system’s most important functions; it’s a way to keep the vagina clean and it also prevents infection.

The amount of discharge from the vagina varies, as does the color and odor, depending on what stage the menstrual cycle is in. Women who are breastfeeding, ovulating, or are sexually aroused can expect more discharge.

Even the smell of the discharge varies, especially for those who are pregnant or who have neglected personal hygiene.

Although not all vaginal discharges are bad, there are cases when you should take notice. When the consistency, odor, and color of a discharge seems unusual and is accompanied by burning or itching, then there might be an infection or some other condition.

One of the most common concerns regarding vaginal discharges is when it is brown in nature. Is it normal? Or does it point to something more serious?

Discharge Types and What They Mean

Vaginal discharges are normal occurrences and they can come in different colors and consistencies. Although they are not a cause for concern, most of the time, there are occasions when the look, smell, and texture of the discharge may indicate a condition that needs to be treated.

Here’s a list of some of the common types of discharges along with what they could possibly mean:

Bloody or brown

A discharge that takes on a bloody or brown look is normal, most of the time, especially if it occurs during the menstrual cycle or after it. Discharges that occur at the end of the period can look brown rather than red.

Small discharges between periods, called spotting, can also occur. However, it could be a sign of pregnancy when it happens during the period and recently after having unprotected sex. Spotting during early pregnancy could also mean miscarriage.

Clear and stretchy

Vaginal discharge can take the form of something mucus-like and may even appear stretchy. This type of discharge is normal and it’s a sign of ovulating.

Clear and watery

This can happen any time of the month and is not unusual. In particular, this kind of discharge can be really heavy after exercise.

Cloudy or yellow

This could mean gonorrhea when accompanied by bleeding between periods, pelvic pain, and urinary incontinence. It’s best to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and to get the right treatment.


A white discharge during or at the end of a menstrual cycle is normal. However, it is a cause for concern when it is accompanied by itching or has the consistency of cottage cheese; this kind of discharge could signal a yeast infection.

Yellow or green

A thick discharge that is either yellow or green, especially when accompanied by a foul odor, is not normal. This kind of discharge could mean trichomoniasis, which can spread through having sex.

Abnormal Vaginal Discharge Causes

Vaginal discharge is a normal function of the body. It is one of the ways the vagina is kept clean and protected.

The amount of discharge changes depending on a number of factors, including birth control use, emotional stress, exercise, ovulation, and sexual arousal.

However, there are also abnormal vaginal discharges which can be caused by an infection. Here are some of the common causes of abnormal vaginal discharge:

Bacterial Vaginosois

This is a common bacterial infection, especially among those who are pregnant or have sex with more than one partner. Those who have this will experience increased vaginal discharge that has a foul odor, sometimes even fishy. Symptoms will not present itself as well in some occasions.

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

These are sexually transmitted diseases that result in discharges that are cloudy, yellow, or greenish in nature.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) or Cervical Cancer

HPV is spread through sexual contact and may lead to cervical cancer. This is a kind of cancer that can present no symptoms, but can produce discharges that are bloody, brown, or watery and have a foul smell. On the hand, it is easy to prevent cervical cancer through annual pap smears and HPV testing.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

This is another infection that can be spread through sexual intercourse. This disease happens when bacteria travels from the vagina into other organs responsible for reproduction. The discharge with this type of infection is heavy with bad odor.


This kind of infection is caused by a protozoan and is spread through having sex. However, it can also be transmitted through shared towels or bathing suits.

The discharge from this kind of infection is yellow or green and has a bad smell. Symptoms of this infection can include itching, inflammation, and pain, but some don’t experience any symptoms at all.

Yeast Infection

Although it is normal for yeast to be present in the vagina, it becomes a problem when it grows in abnormal amounts.

Antibiotics, birth control pills, diabetes, stress, and pregnancy can increase the chances of abnormal yeast growth.

This kind of infection produces a white discharge with a cottage cheese consistency accompanied by burning and itching.

Final Thoughts

Under normal circumstances, vaginal discharges are no cause for concern: they are a natural occurrence of the body meant for cleanliness and protection. However, they shouldn’t be ignored when unusual in color, texture, and odor.

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  1. christy June 22, 2017
    • Alison June 25, 2017