- Women's Health
When Is Dark Brown Discharge before Period Considered a Cause for Alarm?
Once puberty and menstruation begin, women are the first to know that they need to immediately become comfortable with some strange substances that come out of their body. However, just when they get used to having “normal” vaginal discharge and menstrual cycles, something happens and everything will be in disarray all over again.
Then one day, while you are waiting for your menstrual period to come, you start to notice all of a sudden that you are having dark brown discharge. You may think that this dark brown discharge before period is not normal and may be a cause for alarm.
It is pretty understandable that your first reaction might be the same as when you experienced your first period. You may panic, start to think what this means, and ask yourself if there is something wrong with you.
Take a deep breath. This article will detail the possible causes of dark brown discharge before your period and you might just find the answer to what has been bothering you.
Why Do You Have Dark Brown Discharge Before Period?
Vaginal discharge is normally odorless and appears to be transparent or white. Depending on whether ovulation is about to happen, vaginal discharge could be thin and watery or thick and creamy. So, if a normal vaginal discharge is white or clear, what could make it turn dark brown?
There are many possible causes for this occurrence, and most of them are actually harmless. Lots of women are regularly having pink, brown, or dark brown spotting or vaginal discharge on the day they ovulate; whereas others are having spotting because of their preferred birth control method. However, in order to correctly diagnose its cause, you need to be aware of what point in your menstrual cycle you are at and observe if you are experiencing other symptoms.
Delayed or Partial Period
Menstrual period happens when a pregnancy does not succeed and the uterus flushes out the lining that is supposed to nurture a developing fetus. This blood flow is comprised of nutrients, tissue remains, old blood, and endometrial lining. This monthly flushing is sometimes not complete and leaves behind a little lining that could stay in the uterus for as long as one month. The body will eventually flush out this lining. Because the endometrial cells that are being flushed out are older, they could appear brown or dark brownish in color rather than the pinkish or red color that most women are accustomed to during a normal menstrual period. This can happen at any time during the menstrual cycle of a woman. It might seem bothersome, but in most cases, this is normal.
Nutrients are also sometimes flushed out before a woman’s actual bleeding happens, which may look brownish or even darker in color, and this is normal as well.
Hormones have a huge part to play in a woman's menstrual cycle. According to studies, in around 25% of all cases, spotting or discolored discharge before period is caused by hormonal imbalance. The reason for hormonal imbalances could be one of the following:
- Contraceptives - birth control pills and other contraceptives may interfere with female hormones and this is one of the reasons why they take effect. You may experience some side effects when the natural balance of the hormones in your body changes. One of these side effects is having dark brown discharge before your period and this may be common when you are taking oral contraceptives. In most cases, you can alleviate it by making sure that you take all of the prescribed birth control pills and not miss a single one. To help regulate the hormone levels in your body, take your pills at the same time every day.
Symptoms to watch out for: brown or dark brown discharge is quite common if you have only just started using a new hormonal contraceptive method or you missed taking your birth control pill for one or two days.
- Perimenopause or Menopause - in the early stages of perimenopause (shortly before the menopause happens), menstrual periods could often be replaced by stints of brown or dark brown discharge while progesterone levels keep on dropping, which may result in a progesterone deficiency. All through perimenopause, the body creates less and less progesterone and it will come to a point where it almost stops creating it at all. While progesterone levels go down, the average menstrual cycle of women shortens and they may experience irregular bleeding as their periods start to decline.
Symptoms to watch out for: normally, perimenopause or menopause begins to affect women between the ages of 35 and 40, but for some women, it could happen at an earlier time. At this point, women may experience brown or dark brown discharge together with hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, confusion, vaginal dryness, and sleep disruption.
Dark Brown Discharge before Period When You are Trying to Conceive
When can dark brown discharge be considered a good sign?
You are wrong if your answer is A. Most women do not know this, but bleeding or having brown or dark brown discharge may be a positive sign when you are trying to conceive. The possible causes could be:
- Sign of ovulation - when ovulating, some women have brown spotting because the egg leaves the follicle or due to the changing hormone levels during the time of ovulation, which normally happens on day 14 of the normal 28-day cycle. Because blood tends to become dark in color when it exits the uterus and goes out of the body, brown discharge may just be old blood flushing out of the uterus before a normal vaginal discharge. When you experience spotting during ovulation, it may be a sign that you are fertile and experiencing normal ovulation.
- Sign of pregnancy - when women are trying to conceive, some of them may have brown or dark brown discharge a few days before their supposed period. This may be caused by “implantation bleeding,” which is quite a common and normal occurrence. Implantation bleeding happens when a fertilized egg is attached to the uterine lining and normally happens around 10 to 14 days after ovulation. Some women do not really notice it and it only happens to about 25% of women. Implantation bleeding is typically just short - it only lasts for a day or two; it is much lighter compared to a regular menstrual period and best of all, it does not need any medical attention. If you are experiencing brown or dark brown discharge before your supposed period, it could mean that you are pregnant.
Now, you will probably have this question - how would you know whether it is implantation bleeding or ovulation spotting?
Implantation bleeding and ovulation spotting may be quite similar, but you can tell which is which if you know the signs to watch out for. Take a look at below chart:
If you are tracking your menstrual cycle regularly, you would know at which point you are now in your cycle and find out the reason for your bout of dark brown discharge.
When does it happen?
* happens 2 to 3 days around the day a woman is ovulating
happens around 6 to 12 days after a woman ovulates or 1 to 2 days before menstrual period starts
* example is day 14 within a 28-day cycle
* spotting or small amount of blood that is usually light brown or light pink
* spotting or small amount of blood that is usually brown or pink
* no clots
* no clots
lasts for a few hours up to 1-2 days
lasts for a few hours up to 1-2 days
* the discharge may happen together with cervical fluid that is clear and wet
* much less cervical fluid that may be thick, dry, and sticky.
- the watery cervical fluid is described as resembling raw egg whites
Basal body temperature (BBT)
You may see an increase of 0.5°F on your BBT during the spotting.
Your BBT should be high for around 6 to 12 days.
What does it mean?
Ovulation spotting may be a sign that your fertile window is about to end.
Implantation bleeding could be an early sign that you are pregnant.
Dark Brown Discharge Before Period May Be a Bigger Problem
In most cases, women do not need to worry about having a dark brown vaginal discharge before period. However, there are some medical conditions and infections that can cause this kind of symptom and it should be checked by a medical specialist. Below are some of the medical conditions that may cause dark brown discharge and the other symptoms that you need to watch out for:
- Endometriosis - normally, endometrial tissue lines the interior of a woman's uterus and it is plunged during a menstrual period. Endometriosis happens when this tissue grows on the outer area of the uterus, such as in bowel tissue, cervix, vagina, or around the ovaries. They are located all around the reproductive system, so this blood may take longer to find its way out of the vagina through the ovaries, uterus and cervix. This is why it may seem like a dark brown discharge instead of blood. If endometriosis is not treated, it may cause infertility.
Symptoms to watch out for: you may want to consult a doctor when you see a spotting or brown discharge before, during, and/or after your period together with heavy periods and extreme pelvic pain.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS - this is a common endocrine system condition in women that may happen between 19 and 45 years old. Enlargement of the ovaries causes PCOS, which may elicit dark brown discharge before period or brown period blood because a little amount of fluid dripped from the follicles of the ovaries at one point during the menstrual cycle. Women who experience these symptoms are advised to consult a gynecologist for some tests and treatment because PCOS may cause fertility problems if it is left untreated.
Symptoms to watch out for: PCOS is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as irregular periods, weight gain, a lot of period pain, smelly period bleeding, prolonged periods, excessive hair growth, excessing bleeding during the cycle, and acne.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases or STDs - certain STDs may cause dark brown discharge in between periods. Some of the STDs that can cause a brownish discharge include Gonorrhea, vulvovaginitis, Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases (PID), chlamydia, and genital warts (HPV).
Symptoms to watch out for: dark brown discharge goes along with other symptoms like lesions, burning sensations while urinating, rashes, vomiting, or pelvic pain. See a doctor immediately in case you experience any of these symptoms together with an unusual discharge.
- Cervical cancer - in rare cases, dark brown discharge could be a sign of cervical cancer. However, brown discharge on its own is actually not enough for this to be a cause of concern. Regular medical check-ups, including a pelvic exam and pap smear, could detect the earliest stages of cervical cancer and must be done once a year.
Symptoms to watch out for: consult a medical specialist for further testing when dark brown discharge is accompanied by pain during sexual intercourse, longer or heavier periods, weakness, bleeding between periods, or unexpected weight loss.
When Is It the Time to Consult a Doctor?
Take a breather first. Spotting or bleeding in between periods is typically not cause for a big concern. Most cases are just caused by hormonal imbalance due to fluctuating hormones, birth control methods, ovulation or pregnancy. The majority of the cases are not one of the possibly more serious problems stated above. However, in case you experience some discharge with a darker brown color during your menstrual cycle along with any of these other symptoms, it is time to see a doctor and check that everything is okay:
- Abnormal bleeding during menstrual periods that happens for over three days.
- Unusual spotting or vaginal bleeding that is different than the usual pattern
- Continuous abnormal spotting for at least three consecutive menstrual cycles
- Heavy bleeding following a sexual intercourse
- Abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding after menopause
- It if goes along with any other abnormal symptoms like lower abdominal pain, bleeding or pain during or after intercourse, foul smelling discharge, excessively heavy periods, pelvic pain, or pain while urinating.
If you experience a dark brown discharge before period just once, it is normally not a sign of a problem. However, if it happens regularly or more frequently, you must consider seeing a doctor. If you are worried about your light or dark brown discharge, it is still always best to talk to a doctor. They can do a serum pregnancy test or dismiss more dangerous causes through other tests. Now, even though you have a normal vaginal discharge, you can have total peace of mind when you consult a physician.
The best way to determine if dark brown discharge before period is cause for alarm or if there is something wrong is by tracking your menstrual cycle and observe your body's reaction to your cycle. If you pay close attention to your body's signals, you could rely more on yourself in terms of observing slight changes that may signify a problem.
If you simply think there is a problem, you should most likely see a doctor.