Brown Discharge During Pregnancy: Causes & What To Do

Having a little amount of brown discharge during pregnancy is common and isn’t a big cause for concern, but you have to be careful because it can also mean infections, changes in pH or cervix dilation, for example.

A light discharge in small amounts and with jelly-like consistency is more common in early pregnancy, and less worrying, but a very dark discharge with a strong smell may indicate more severe changes. 

In any case, the obstetrician should be informed and tests should be done to identify what is causing this symptom and to start treatment as soon as possible.

Brown Discharge During Pregnancy: Causes & What To Do

Main causes for brown vaginal discharge

Small changes in the pH of a woman's genital area can cause brown discharge in small amounts and isn’t a major cause for concern. In this case, the amount of discharge is very little and lasts for 2 to 3 days, disappearing naturally.

It is also common for a pregnant woman to notice a small brown discharge, which may contain a little blood, after doing some physical activities, such as going to the gym, climbing stairs with shopping bags, or doing intense activities at home, such as cleaning.

But if the dark discharge has a bad smell, or you feel a burning sensation or vaginal itching, this may indicate more serious changes, such as:

  • Infections, as the pregnant woman is more likely to get sexually transmitted diseases;
  • Risk of miscarriage
  • Ectopic pregnancy, which is characterized by severe abdominal pain and blood loss through the vagina.
  • Cervix infection.

Dark discharge in greater amounts, associated with blood loss, increases the risk of complications such as premature delivery or rupture of the pouch, so it’s important to go to the doctor whenever you see a dark discharge, even in small amounts, so that he can see you and do an ultrasound to check if everything is okay with both you and the baby.

When is brown vaginal normal?

Small amounts of brown discharge with a more watery or jelly-like consistency are common, especially in early stages of pregnancy. It is also normal to have a little dark discharge after sexual intercourse, but if you have noticed that the discharge doesn’t have these characteristics, you should go to the doctor.

Other symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored are vaginal itching, a bad smell and cramps. These signs don’t always indicate something serious, but it is better to be cautious and to inform your doctor.

Dark brown discharge, similar to the color of coffee grounds, at the end of pregnancy may be blood loss and should be reported immediately to the obstetrician. If it is an abundant, light brown discharge with a few streaks of blood, it probably isn’t anything to worry about, as it may be the mucus plug indicating that you will go into labor soon.

Treatment for brown discharge in pregnancy

Treatment can be done with the use of antifungal medication when the cause is candidiasis, for example, or antibiotics, if it is an STD. But when the discharge is unrelated to any disease, the treatment may be just to rest, avoiding physical efforts.

In any case, you should follow these precautions to avoid the occurrence of discharge:

  • Avoid the use of soaps with moisturizing cream and antibacterial and antifungal properties;
  • Use intimate wash as directed by the gynecologist;
  • Intimate clothing should be light, loose and cotton;
  • Avoid using softeners or bleach on underwear;
  • Wash lingerie with mild soap and water;
  • Avoid the use of panty liners;
  • Avoid washing the genital area more than twice a day, as this can decrease the natural protection of the mucus of that area.

These precautions can help prevent infections and this way decrease the appearance of vaginal discharge.

Is dark vaginal discharge a sign of pregnancy?

Dark vaginal discharge may be a sign of pregnancy, but that isn’t always the case, because in some women, sometimes, a greater flow of blood appears before or on the last days of menstruation. In some cases, the flow may decrease in the last days of menstruation, causing the blood to become more concentrated and darker.

If the period is late, dark discharge may be the peeling of the endometrial tissue, which lines the uterus, so, it is important that the doctor checks everything, because this delay in menstruation and dark discharge are not always signs of pregnancy.

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  • HASAM, Reen et. al.. Patterns and predictors of vaginal bleeding in the first trimester of pregnancy. Ann Epidemiol.. Vol.20. 7.ed; 524-531, 2010
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