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Brown Discharge During Pregnancy

Reasons Behind the Occurrence of Brown Discharge During Pregnancy

Brown spotting during pregnancy is usually considered to be an early sign of a miscarriage. In some unfortunate cases, it may be true, but quite often, it is considered to be normal. A few causes of this particular discharge are elucidated in this article.
Kanika Khara
Last Updated: May 31, 2018
Side View Midsection Of Pregnant Woman With Hands Holding Tummy
Pregnancy puts a major strain on the body, and as the baby grows, the added pressure on the muscles, joints, ligaments, and surrounding organs can lead to cramping, discomfort, and spotting in many women. It is observed that, in most cases, the vaginal discharge increases as the pregnancy progress, and quite often, it is normal and happens due to various reasons. Since the cervix (neck of the womb) and the vaginal walls become tender during pregnancy, the vaginal discharge increases to keep any kind of infection--traveling up the vagina to the womb--at bay.
Although brown discharge during pregnancy is not uncommon, the first thought that comes to mind is that something might be wrong. However, this is not always the case, as many women experience some kind of vaginal discharge that varies in color from red to brown during the first trimester of their pregnancy.

This experience is normal as long as the discharge isn't heavy with cramping or red-like menstrual blood and blood clots. It can be due to various reasons, of which, some can be mild while some may be worrisome.
Reasons for Brown Discharge
Discharging Old Blood
The most common cause for experiencing a brown discharge during pregnancy, especially in the latter half of the first trimester, is that the body is getting rid of the older blood remnants in the cervix. As the baby grows, the original blood which is used to protect the womb is no longer required.
Vaginal Ultrasound or Sexual Intercourse
Since the cervix becomes very sensitive, spotting a brown blood discharge is quite normal after a vaginal ultrasound or sexual intercourse. The irritation of the cervix causes a little tear, which results in brown discharge for two to three days.
Implantation Bleeding
This is another cause for the discharge during pregnancy, which occurs for nearly two weeks after conceiving and four weeks since the last menstruation. It basically occurs when a fertilized egg gets implanted in the uterus, that causes spotting or light bleeding, in many women.
Genital Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
The discharge could be a symptom of genital HPV, which occurs due to increased estrogen production and greater blood flow to the area around the vagina.
Cervical or vaginal infection
Infections like Verruca Virus, that primarily affects the vaginal area and causes burning and itching, might lead to a brown discharge.
Molar Pregnancy
Though rare, this is a serious cause for brown discharge. In a molar pregnancy, the embryo doesn't grow properly, and there are abnormalities in the cells that grow to form a placenta.
Ectopic Pregnancy
Similar to molar pregnancy, this is another cause which occurs when the fertilized egg is planted outside the uterus. In most cases, the egg settles in the Fallopian tubes and so it is also known as tubal pregnancy. However, both molar and ectopic pregnancies should be removed as early as possible, for the mother's safety.
This is an unfortunate cause in which the body dispels the fetus, often for unknown reasons.
Treatment Options
Consult a Doctor
If you see any kind of bleeding or spotting, immediately consult your gynecologist to diagnose the right cause. He might conduct an internal or pelvic exam, and once he has ascertained the cause(s) of the discharge or bleeding, he will refer you the appropriate treatment. If further examination is needed, a Doppler ultrasound scan may be required to find the baby's heartbeat and position of the placenta.
Seek Medical Attention
In severe cases like excessive loss of blood with abdominal pain and cramping, or a miscarriage, hospitalization would be needed to manage your condition, and control the pain and bleeding. Brown discharge can be a sign of either a major or a minor problem, so till the time you get medical attention, sit or lie down with your feet up, and relax as much as you can.
Dos and Don'ts During Pregnancy
The Dos
  • Inform your gynecologist, if you notice any sudden changes.
  • Wear pantie liners, only if you are comfortable in it.
The Don'ts
  • Self-treat yourself presuming that it is a vaginal infection.
  • Use tampons as they tend to invite new germs into the vagina.
  • Douche, as this would disturb the normal pH balance of the vagina and may lead to an infection.
It is always beneficial to be on the side of caution if you spot bleeding or experience a brown discharge when you are pregnant. Hence, a quick phone call or a visit to your midwife or doctor will put your mind at rest, as the less worked up or stressed you are during pregnancy, the fewer complications you will experience.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.