Why do I have brown discharge ?
A certain amount of vaginal discharge is absolutely normal and a regular occurrence. The glands present in vaginal walls and cervix secrete this fluid that also keeps the vagina clean. Normally the fluid is thick, clear, milky white and does not give foul smell. However there are certain types of discharge that can be a sign of infection. Abnormal discharge can be yellow, green or brown in color and may give foul odor.
It is very normal to have brown discharge before, during or after period. There’s no need to worry about it much. Brown discharge before period can also be a signal of onset of menstruation cycle. Also, women taking contraceptive pills are likely to get brown smelly discharge before periods.
What does brown smelly discharge indicate?
Generally brown smelly discharge is because of the long menstrual periods. Longer periods means the blood becomes oxidized and thus causes discoloration. If this is the cause of your brown discharge, then there’s nothing alarming.
However in many cases, the brown discharge would mean vaginal infections, stress, hormonal dysfunctions, fibroids, polyps and cancer. It is fine to have a healthy discharge smell but it can be frightening if this smell changes.
Normal discharge from vagina is a normal bodily function and is the body’s own way of cleaning and protecting vagina. Generally abnormal discharge is due to yeast or bacteria.
- Bacterial vaginosis is a common bacterial infection that causes vaginal discharge with strong, foul smell. Women having more than one sexual partner or have oral sex frequently are most likely to get this bacterial infection.
- Trichomoniasis is another type of infection caused by protozoan. This type of infection spreads through sexual contact, using common towels and bathing suits. The protozoan infection gives yellow or green smelly vaginal discharge. It may also be accompanied with few more symptoms like pain, itching and inflammation.
- Yeast or fungal discharge gives white cheese-like discharge along with the feeling of burning and itching. It is normal for the yeast to be present in vagina but it becomes a matter of concern if keeps on multiplying and eventually its number goes out of control.
- Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia are sexually transmitted infections that produce yellow or cloudy vaginal discharge.
- Pelvic inflammatory infection causes heavy, smelly discharge. It is caused by sexual contact and occurs when bacteria spreads into vagina and reproductive organs.
- Human Papillomavirus and cervical cancer produces blood brown colour or watery abnormal vaginal discharge which gives bad odour.
- Missed birth control pills or hormonal pills can result in spotting or breakthrough bleeding. It is even more dangerous if you miss hormonal pills in the beginning or end of menstrual cycle because this is just like increasing the interval when you don’t take pills.
There are many types of vaginal discharge based on colour and consistency; brown discharge is one among these. Brown or bloody colour discharge is normal as long as it occurs during menstrual cycle. Often late discharge during the last days of period looks brown instead of red. Brown vaginal discharge is nothing but old menstrual blood.
Sometimes women also experience brown smelly discharge between periods, known as spotting. If it happens during regular period days and you recently have had sex then it is a clear indication of pregnancy. Brownish discharge can be a result of implantation bleeding i.e. the bleeding caused by fetus getting implanted into endometrium lining.
In few cases, brown smelly discharge can be sign of cervical cancer. It is therefore advised to take up pelvic exam and Pap smear at least once in a year and know if there exists any cervical abnormality.
When to consult a doctor?
If you see unusual discharge and other symptoms such as fever, itching and burning sensation in vagina, abdominal pain, increased urge to urinate and abnormal weight loss then it is necessary to consult a doctor.
The doctor will preferably take up a physical examination including the pelvic examination. The doctor will ask several questions related to the symptoms, sexual activity, menstrual cycle etc. If the doctor could not diagnose the condition through physical examination then you may be required to have certain tests.
The tests will be conducted with the scrape from your cervix to check for the possibility of HPV or cervical cancer. The scrape might also be examined under microscope to fine out the presence of any infection causing agent.
In order to prevent brown vaginal discharge it is important to practice proper hygiene and wear cotton comfy underwear. Refrain from using douches as these will worsen the discharge by removing necessary bacteria. Make it a point to make safe sex and use protection every time to prevent the risk of getting sexually transmitted disease.
Yeast infections can be reduced by taking yogurt containing live and active cultures. In case you develop yeast infection, it can be treated with over-the-counter yeast infection creams