What Might Cause Brown Discharge After Your Period?

Medically Reviewed By Stacy A. Henigsman, DO
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Reasons for a brown discharge after your period could include lingering menstrual blood, ovulation, vaginal penetration, or even implantation bleeding. Brown discharge could also indicate an infection or other problem. In some cases, brown discharge after your period is natural. But if you’re having a recurring brown discharge or other symptoms, speak with your doctor.

This article explains what may cause brown discharge after your period and symptoms. Also, read on to learn what to do if you’re experiencing brown discharge.

What is the difference between your menstrual cycle and period?

there is a person with pink underwear standing on a red bath mat
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Many people use the terms “menstrual cycle” and “period” to mean the same thing, but they are not. As the Office on Women’s Health explains, a full menstrual cycle describes the monthly cycle a female’s body goes through to prepare for pregnancy. Everyone is different, but menstrual cycles generally last 24–38 days. 

Your period, also known as menstruation, refers to the time of the month when the body sheds the uterine lining if an egg is not fertilized. This is when you experience bleeding.

If you’re not pregnant, your uterus sheds the tissue it prepared in anticipation of a fertilized egg. Lasting 2–7 days, most periods follow a set monthly pattern. During your period, you will have days of heavier bleeding and days of lighter bleeding. 

Although most people experience bleeding with their periods, the vagina constantly releases discharge throughout the cycle. Discharge is a combination of fluids and tissues from your vagina and uterus and is your vagina’s way of protecting and cleaning itself.

Vaginal discharge amount, color, and consistency will change at different times in someone’s cycle. For instance, the discharge will typically look clear and resemble egg whites during ovulation, then change to blood as menstruation approaches.

Learn more about vaginal discharge through the menstrual cycle.

Causes for brown discharge after your period

A certain amount of brown discharge following your period is natural. For instance, brown discharge after your period may be old menstrual blood that is still technically part of menstruation. As the blood and tissue get older, it turns brown.

So brown discharge may be a part of your period, even a few days after you thought your period had ended.

Other times when it can be normal for you to have brown discharge include:

You may also have slightly brown-tinged discharge, which is a natural vaginal discharge. The vagina is self-cleaning and produces discharge to clean and flush debris and bacteria. For some people, this may occasionally appear brown.

Symptoms to watch for

While there are many reasons why you may have brown discharge after your period that are not worrisome, some symptoms can indicate a potential problem.

If you have any of the following symptoms along with brown discharge, speak with your doctor.

Causes of abnormal brown discharge after your period

Contact your doctor if you have brown discharge along with other symptoms. The brown discharge could have different causes that may be treatable.

Below are some possible causes for abnormal brown discharge:

Infections

Some infections can cause a brown discharge. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), yeast, or an overgrowth of natural bacteria in the vagina can lead to an infection. 

Some STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, can cause brown discharge. If you have an STI, you will likely have other symptoms such as vaginal itching, soreness, and stomach or pelvic pain.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), inflammation of a female’s upper reproductive tract caused by an infection, may also lead to brown discharge.

Learn more about STIs.

Structural causes and conditions

Structural abnormalities of the female reproductive tract can lead to brown vaginal discharge, such as:

  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can cause breakthrough bleeding outside your expected period.
  • Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths in the uterus that can lead to pink/brown discharge.
  • Endometriosis occurs when the uterine lining grows outside the uterus, causing symptoms such as pelvic and stomach pain, pain during sexual intercourse, heavy periods, and breakthrough bleeding.

Other possible causes of brown vaginal bleeding could be stress, abnormal hormone levels, or thyroid issues.

Cancer

Cancers of the reproductive tract can also cause abnormal vaginal discharge.

Cervical cancer and uterine cancer can cause a brown discharge after your period. Again, brown discharge can be very typical, so it is most important to speak with a doctor about your symptoms.

How to stop brown discharge after your period

Speak with a doctor if you experience unusual symptoms.

Also, make sure you’re practicing good hygiene. Avoid washing the interior of your vagina and wash only the folds of your labia with either just water or a very gentle cleanser. Avoid harsh irritants like perfume, washcloths, or rough toilet paper that may irritate the vaginal area.

Also, avoid douching. When you douche, you force bacteria from your vagina up into your uterus. The bacteria can then cause an infection. Doctors advise you not to douche. 

Staying hydrated and eating a well-balanced diet may also help reduce brown discharge.

If you are uncertain about your vaginal discharge, always seek advice from a medical professional. 

When to seek professional medical care

Always talk with your doctor about any new or abnormal symptoms you are experiencing, including brown discharge after your period. In particular, contact a doctor if you’re having any of the following symptoms:

  • excessive worry about your symptoms
  • discharge that causes pain or itching
  • foul-smelling discharge
  • a fever
  • pelvic or abdominal pain
  • if the discharge is unusual for you

Frequently asked questions

Here are some commonly asked questions about discharge. Stacy A. Henigsman, D.O., has reviewed the answers.

What if I have a pink/brown discharge 2 weeks after my period? 

If this is a small amount, this could be caused by either the release of an egg from your ovary (ovulation) or by a fertilized egg implanting in the lining of your uterus. These are both natural causes. If the brown discharge two weeks after your period comes with any other symptoms, please speak with your healthcare professional. 

My brown discharge the week after my period is rubbery. Is that normal?

A brown discharge right after your period can be rubbery. When the last bit of blood from your period mixes with your usual discharge, it can sometimes appear rubbery. Also, ovulation discharge may appear thick and rubbery, like the consistency of egg whites.

If the brown discharge after my period is abnormal, how will my healthcare professional treat it?

Treatment of abnormal discharge will depend on the cause. For instance, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics for an infection or recommend medications like birth control for bleeding caused by PCOS.

Summary

Brown discharge after your period can be a usual menstrual cycle. For instance, leftover menstrual blood, ovulation, implantation bleeding, or even a recent pelvic exam or vaginal sex could all cause brown discharge after your period. Occasionally, the brown discharge can be abnormal. If you experience any unusual symptoms along with the brown discharge, you should seek the advice of a medical professional. 

Regular gynecological exams by your healthcare professional are important to help you learn what is typical for you. If you have brown discharge, your doctor can test you for abnormalities and conditions such as PCOS or infections that may be causing your symptoms.

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Medical Reviewer: Stacy A. Henigsman, DO
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 31
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