Small amounts of brown discharge during pregnancy are common and usually not of concern. However, it is possible that you will experience other problems, such as infection, pH changes, or cervical enlargement.
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In early pregnancy, low levels of light-colored, mucous-like discharge are fairly typical and usually not of concern, but dark-colored discharge with a foul odor may indicate more serious concerns.
In any case, you should report your findings to your obstetrician. He or she will examine you and order an investigation to determine the cause of the discharge and promptly initiate the indicated treatment.
Main causes of brown vaginal discharge
Fluctuations in vaginal pH can result in small amounts of brown discharge. This is usually not a concern as it usually lasts for 2 to 3 days and heals spontaneously.
Small amounts of brown discharge can also occur in pregnant women, especially after any physical activity (e.g. exercising, climbing stairs with shopping bags, or after moderate household chores such as cleaning).
However, it's important to note whether the discharge is dark, has a foul smell, or is causing burning or itching, as these symptoms can indicate a more serious problem, such as:
- Infection (sexually transmitted infections that pregnant women are at increased risk for)
- Possibility of miscarriage
- Ectopic pregnancy (which is usually also accompanied by severe abdominal pain and bleeding)
- Cervical infection
Large amounts of darker discharge or heavy bleeding, especially in later pregnancy, are more likely to be associated with complications such as premature delivery or a rupture of the amniotic sac. It is important to contact your obstetrician if you see dark discharge, even in small amounts. He or she will likely do an ultrasound to make sure you and the baby are healthy.
When is a brown vagina normal?
Small amounts of brown discharge, ranging from liquid to slimy in consistency, are common, especially in the early stages of pregnancy. It is also normal to have dark discharge after intercourse.
Symptoms that can accompany brown discharge and should not be ignored include vaginal itching, foul odor, and cramping. These signs don't always indicate something serious, but it is better to be careful and contact your doctor.
Dark brown discharge that resembles coffee grounds may indicate loss of old blood and should be reported to the obstetrician immediately. If you are nearing the end of your pregnancy and you notice that the discharge is heavy and light brown with some streaks of blood, it may be a plug of mucus that indicates that you are about to be in labor.
When to see a doctor
Some brown discharge with no other symptoms is common and usually not a cause for concern during pregnancy.
However, a discharge with additional symptoms such as pain, uterine cramps, or fever can be signs of a worrying condition.
Anyone who has changes in vaginal discharge among other troubling symptoms should see their doctor. The doctor can then treat any problems early to avoid complications.