All You Should Know about Brown Vaginal Discharge
What is a Brown Vaginal Discharge?
At one time or another every woman has asked questions about a female discharge. A brown vaginal discharge is a thick or thin fluid-like substance that exits the body through the vagina and is often identified on one’s underwear. It is brownish in color. The vaginal discharge may be light brown or dark brown.
What Causes a Female Discharge?
The body is designed wonderfully, especially the female reproductive tract. Inside the vagina are glands that secrete fluid. The fluid sweeps away any bacteria and dead cells regularly and becomes a discharge. It’s normal to have a discharge and it’s usually clear to white unless menstruating when it’s red.
During different times in your menstrual cycle, the nature of the discharge changes. Because a female discharge is composed of old cells, it can become light brown if you’re at the end of your menstrual period when the cells slough off the walls the most and mingle with normal glandular fluid. Irregular menstrual cycles may also cause this.
If the old cells that slough off are diseased in any way, this can also potentially cause a female discharge. Thus, a sexually transmitted disease could cause a discharge that is brown, yellow, greenish, cloudy, yellow, cheesy or gray.
During love-making, the cells are sloughed off faster and the act of sexual arousal creates more fluid from the glands. Thus, the amount of female discharge you have will increase temporarily.
Vaginal discharges may increase due to hormonal changes in the body from breast-feeding and during ovulation. Hormone imbalances can also change the type of discharge you have. A female discharge can also smell differently depending on whether or not you are pregnant, lack of hygiene or if you have an infection.
Every organ in your body has a particular combination of bacteria called probiotics that line that organ. Your vagina has natural flora that protect your reproductive tract from disease. If this bacterial mixture changes, it’s possible to get a brown vaginal discharge. A normal female discharge can also change to brown if there is an infection in the reproductive tract because the increasing number of bacteria that cause the infection give off their own waste products.
Symptoms of Vaginal Discharges Vary Depending on Cause
With an understanding of how the body works, it’s easier to see how any of the following causes will cause a vaginal discharge:
Causes Related to Bacteria Content Changes
• Taking antibiotics (the discharge now contains greater numbers of killed bacteria)
• Bacterial vaginosis, an infection of the reproductive tract seen often in women with multiple partners
• Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease
• Gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease
• Pelvic inflammatory disease, often caused by an E. coli infection
• Yeast infections
• Trichomoniasis, an infection parasitic in nature but spread through sexual contact
Each one of these causes is associated with its own particular type of female discharge, as mentioned previously.
Causes Related to Cells Sloughing Off and Hormonal Changes
• The use of frequent douches
• Vaginal changes during menopause
• Cervical cancer or endometrial cancer
• Birth control pills
A brown vaginal discharge (or any other colored one) may be accompanied by no symptoms or symptoms such as bleeding between menstrual cycles, pain in the pelvis, vulva or while urinating, itching, redness, pain with intercourse, urinary incontinence or abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Treatment of Brown Vaginal Discharge
Your doctor is well versed in how to differentiate the different causes of a brown vaginal discharge.
Before treatment, your doctor will ask you questions such as:
• When did the brown vaginal discharge start?
• Do you notice any smell?
• What type of symptoms do you have along with the discharge?
• How often do you douche?
• How many sexual partners do you have?
The results of these questions determine the type of further tests that will be done. For example, a sample of the discharge, a Pap test, or a blood test may be taken during the office visit. The results are often back in the doctor’s office within a week.
Treatment depends on the confirmation of the test results. If the brown vaginal discharge is caused by a bacterial infection, yeast infection or a parasite, then the treatments may be antibiotics, anti-fungals or creams/gels to insert in the vagina for a specific amount of time.
Prevention of Infections That Cause Abnormal Female Discharge
To prevent an abnormal discharge, it’s important to monitor yourself on a daily basis. When you start noticing something is different, consider the information above. Have you just experienced ovulation or just finished your period? Have you changed your oral contraception method? Have you had a new sexual partner?
Here are some general recommendations to prevent self-induced infections that can cause discharges:
- When you urinate, always wipe front to back. This prevents the introduction of bacteria from the colon to the vagina. If a bowel movement is messy, wash the entire area, including the vaginal area. Use gentle, mild soap.
- Tight-fitting underpants or pants can increase the temperature of the groin area, making it possible for bacteria to multiply rapidly. If you must wear tight pants, do so only for a few short hours.
- Avoid feminine sprays and especially scented douches.
- Avoid scented panty pads.
- Avoid bubble baths, which can contain harsh chemicals that irritate the vaginal area.
- Eat yogurt with Lactobacillus strains on a regular basis, or take probiotics.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
It’s easy to rationalize reasons for a female discharge and important to always use intuition to guide you to seek a medical professional. Always contact a health professional if you have symptoms that accompany a brown vaginal discharge and if the length of time you have the discharge exceeds a few weeks.