Brown discharge and pregnancy
Bleeding, including brown discharge, can occur during and after pregnancy. There are a variety of pregnancy related causes, including:
- ectopic pregnancy
- lochia (post-pregnancy)
- bleeding related to an abortion
- implantation bleeding (usually 10-14 days after conception)
- interference with cervix during sex or vaginal examination
Brown discharge is not always a cause for concern in pregnancy but you should contact your doctor or midwife immediately so they can examine you and check why it’s happening..
Miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy
Brown discharge during pregnancy can be a sign of a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is where a fertilised egg implants itself into the fallopian tubes, ovary, abdomen, or cervix. In cases of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, brown discharge is often accompanied with other warning signs, including:
- abdominal pain or cramps
- shoulder pain
- feeling dizzy, weak, faint, or lightheaded
- diarrhoea or vomiting
- passing urine more frequently or pain passing urine
- tissue, blood clots, or heavy pink fluid coming out of your vagina
If you have a positive pregnancy test and any of the above symptoms you should contact 999 or attend A&E immediately to make sure you get urgent medical treatment.
A discharge called lochia can appear after you have a baby. It can vary in colour and may contain some small blood clots. Seek the advice of your GP or midwife if you have discharge or bleeding after giving birth.
Brown discharge can also occur after an abortion. If you have brown discharge having recently had an abortion, contact your GP or the abortion clinic.
Brown discharge can be an early sign of pregnancy. If you are actively monitoring yourself for pregnancy, you may notice a small amount of bleeding, sometimes referred to as “spotting”. This can appear brown, red, or pink, and usually occurs in the first few weeks of pregnancy. This discharge can often have a stringy or gummy texture because it is old blood mixed with cervical mucus. This could be implantation bleeding, which occurs when a fertilised embryo embeds into the lining of your uterus.
However, every pregnancy is different, and not everyone gets implantation bleeding. If you suspect you have implantation bleeding you should contact your GP so they can rule out other causes.
Interference with cervix during sex or vaginal examination
Brown discharge can occur during pregnancy as the result of interference with the cervix during sex, or after a vaginal examination.
Brown discharge is not always a cause for concern during early pregnancy. However, the NHS advises that you should call your midwife or GP immediately if you have any bleeding from your vagina during your pregnancy.
Brown discharge during pregnancy trimesters
Bleeding, including brown discharge, is not uncommon in the first trimester of pregnancy. For instance, a study in the USA found that as many as 25% of women reported bleeding in the first months of their pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, bleeding happens in the first trimester in 15 to 25% of pregnancies. There are many reasons for bleeding, and it is not always known why bleeding occurs. However, it is not an uncommon occurrence for pregnant women in their first trimester and does not always indicate a more serious health concern.
During both the second and third trimesters, brown discharge can occur as a result of small amounts of blood leaving your body with normal discharge. This is not usually a cause for concern, and often is the result of interference with the cervix during sex, or a vaginal examination.
Usually around 37 to 40 weeks into pregnancy you may begin to lose your mucus plug – a barrier of mucus which protects your baby from bacteria – and notice an increase in discharge that is brownish or pink. When your body prepares to go into labour, it is normal that your cervix releases the mucus plug. The release can happen all at once or in smaller pieces. Sometimes the mucus may appear clear, but it can appear as a brown discharge.
If the release of the mucus plug is accompanied by blood loss, or the mucus plug is very bloody or green or happens before 37 weeks, contact your midwife or GP immediately.
Is brown discharge during pregnancy a cause for concern?
Brown discharge is not always a cause for concern during pregnancy. However, you should always get it checked out.
The NHS advises that you call your midwife or GP immediately if you have any bleeding from your vagina during pregnancy.