What Causes Brown Discharge During Pregnancy?

May 8, 2023

It can be unsettling to experience brown discharge during pregnancy. You may come across this sludge-like substance on your underwear or while wiping with toilet paper. A hundred questions may race through your mind when you spot this discharge when you are expecting. The good news is, there is nothing to worry about!

Brown discharge during pregnancy is common in many women. You need not panic unless you experience other symptoms such as itching or a foul smell.

We know every kind of vaginal discharge is a signal sent by your body trying to communicate with you, telling you about the changes that are happening internally. So there are various reasons why you may be seeing brown discharge depending on your symptoms and the stage of your pregnancy.

Let us explore what lies behind brown discharge during pregnancy and if you need to do something about it.

Why are you seeing brown discharge during pregnancy?

Brown discharge during pregnancy is vaginal discharge tinged with old blood. This means bleeding inside your uterus or vagina occurred some time ago but just recently began to flow out. As blood ages, it oxidizes, turning from a deep red to a rusty brown color. This is what lends the discharge its brownish hue.

You may be wondering, is seeing blood during pregnancy even normal? You can breathe easily because light spotting is not unheard of during early pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, approximately fifteen to twenty-five percent of women experience bleeding during the first trimester.

However, it can cause concern if bleeding occurs in the second or third trimester. In this case, it is best to immediately consult your healthcare provider. They will advise you on further steps.

As for brown discharge, there are several causes behind it, and many of them are perfectly normal. Here are five possible reasons you may experience brown discharge during pregnancy.

1. Implantation Bleeding

At one to two weeks after ovulation, you may notice some light spotting during early pregnancy. This is known as implantation bleeding. It is the bleeding that occurs after the fertilized egg attaches to the highly vascular lining of your uterus. The implanted egg causes a rupture in the surrounding blood vessels, which leads to bleeding. This type of bleeding may last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

The experience of implantation bleeding is very similar to regular spotting or menstrual flow. The best way to tell the difference is to take a pregnancy test. To know more about distinguishing between implantation bleeding and periods, head to this blog.

  • However, consult your gynecologist immediately if you notice the following symptoms:
  • Heavy bleeding or bleeding that lasts more than three days Painful cramps accompanied by fever or dizziness

2. Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy happens when the implantation occurs outside your uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube. An ectopic pregnancy can also lead to bleeding during pregnancy. The blood is usually brown, like the color of dried blood.

Ectopic pregnancy is a potentially life-threatening condition. The fallopian tube may burst as the pregnancy progresses, resulting in severe internal bleeding. Reach out to the nearest emergency department if you experience bleeding along with symptoms, such as:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Extreme dizziness
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain, especially on one side

3. Miscarriage

Most miscarriages occur during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Miscarriage is one of the biggest concerns in the first trimester of pregnancy. However, bleeding during the first trimester does not always indicate a miscarriage. Other symptoms typically accompany miscarriage bleeding to help you identify what you are going through. The symptoms may include:

  • Intense cramps in the lower abdomen
  • Mild to severe back pain
  • Increased bright red bleeding
  • Tissue with clot-like material may pass from the vagina
  • A gush of fluid or watery discharge

Consult your gynecologist immediately if you notice the above symptoms. Your doctor will advise blood tests to check the levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a pregnancy hormone. A lower level of hCG indicates miscarriage.

You may not even know you were pregnant if the miscarriage happens very early on, and may end up confusing it with your regular menstrual cycle. Here’s a guide to help you know the difference between a miscarriage and period.

4. Placenta Previa

The placenta is a vital organ that supports the growth of your fetus during pregnancy. The fetus draws nutrients and oxygen from the placenta and is connected to it through the umbilical cord. The position of the placenta is determined early on in pregnancy when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall. It can be located at the front of the uterus (anterior), the back (posterior), at the top (fundal), or the bottom (low-lying).

The placenta will shift away as your uterus grows and stretches during pregnancy. In early pregnancy, the placenta is usually located low in the uterus. As the pregnancy progresses, however, the placenta moves to the top of the uterus. The placenta should be at the top of the uterus by the third trimester, allowing the cervix (opening of the uterus) to open for birth. Sometimes, the placenta grows in the lowest part of the uterus and partly or completely covers the cervix. This is called placenta previa.

You may bleed during your pregnancy and delivery if you have placenta previa. The lower portion of the uterus thins during the third trimester of pregnancy, resulting in bleeding. This causes bleeding from the area of the placenta over the cervix if a large portion of the placenta covers the cervix, the risk of bleeding increases.

A brown vaginal discharge during pregnancy is common with placenta previa. Consult your doctor if you have placenta previa and are experiencing heavy vaginal bleeding.

5. Molar Pregnancy

When the placenta does not form properly, molar pregnancy occurs. In this case, a tumor develops in the uterus, causing the placenta to grow into a collection of fluid-filled sacs known as cysts. This complication renders the pregnancy non-viable.

In all likelihood, this type of pregnancy will not endure since the placenta cannot nourish or develop a baby at all.Dark brown to bright red vaginal bleeding is seen during the first trimester with this condition.

Other Causes

There can also be various other causes for brown bleeding during pregnancy, including:

  • Cervical Irritation:Cervical irritation can occur due to sex, a cervical check by your doctor, or an infection. This can occur at any point during your pregnancy. It leads to discharge that is usually brownish-pink in color.
  • Cervical Polyp:These are harmless fingerlike growths that develop on your cervix. The polyps can rub against nearby tissue around your cervix and can cause bleeding, which appears later as brown discharge during pregnancy.
  • Mucus Plug:It is a mucus layer that forms a plug at your cervix and protects your baby throughout pregnancy. At the end of the pregnancy, this mucus plug dislodges and causes vaginal bleeding.

Is there a way to reduce brown discharge during pregnancy?

Though we have told you seeing some brown discharge during pregnancy is generally not a cause for worry, you may still avoid it altogether. The best way to avoid brown discharge is to understand why you have it.

For most women, this is a normal part of pregnancy; but, in some cases, treatment may be required. There are no particular precautions to prevent brown discharge during pregnancy – if your body feels the need to release it, it will. If you are worried, you can always consult your doctor for an assessment.

Meanwhile, here are some steps you can take to ensure an overall healthy pregnancy and, in the process, avoid recurring discharge:

  • Avoid strenuous exercises if you have a low placenta
  • Get some rest to prevent high blood pressure
  • Don’t lift heavy objects as it may increase the chances of miscarriage during early pregnancy
  • Avoid sexual intimacy if you have placenta previa
  • Take your prescribed medications on time

Brown discharge during pregnancy: When should you be concerned?

Do not panic if you have brown discharge during pregnancy. Keeping track of the appearance, quantity, and odor of the brownish discharge seen during pregnancy will give you a better idea of your own health.

There are a few symptoms that accompany brown discharge during pregnancy that indicate serious underlying issues. Keep an eye out for:

  1. Heavy discharge:If your discharge during pregnancy necessitates the use of a sanitary pad, this is a warning sign of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
  2. Foul smell:Heavy discharge with a foul fishy odor may indicate a vaginal infection. If you experience it, consult your gynecologist immediately.
  3. Watery discharge:Discharge followed by watery fluid or lumpy substance may indicate a miscarriage.
  4. Duration of discharge: Discharge that lasts more than a week after sexual intercourse or a medical checkup may indicate a yeast infection.
  5. Fever and discharge:Discharge accompanied by fever and chills may indicate a dangerous infection of the uterus or kidneys, which should be treated right away.
  6. Intense pain with discharge: An ectopic pregnancy may cause discharge accompanied by dizziness, severe pain, and abdominal cramps.


1. Bleeding During Pregnancy. acog.org. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/bleeding-during-pregnancy. Published 2022. Accessed March 16, 2022.

2. Vaginal bleeding. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/vaginal-bleeding/. Published 2022. Accessed March 16, 2022.

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