What is a period?
Also called a period, menstruation occurs when the lining of a female's uterus is shed through a flow of blood. It's a crucial part of the menstrual cycle, which is a normal and healthy process that prepares your body for a potential pregnancy.
The hormone-driven menstrual cycle typically lasts 28 days. The first day is when you begin your period (bleeding), which usually ends after about three to five days. This time in your cycle is also referred to as menses.
Somewhere around day 14 is when you ovulate. If an egg doesn't get fertilized after this stage, your hormone levels drop and the egg begins to dissolve around day 25.
In addition to bleeding, other signs of menstruation include:
It's normal for women to sometimes experience brown discharge before, during, or after menstruating. It may appear as spotting, which is the presence of blood during the wrong stages of your cycle. This darker discharge is usually a thicker consistency and slower flow than typical menstruation, and is usually caused by old blood coming from your uterus.
In rare cases, brown discharge before your period may be cause for concern. If you're experiencing abnormal vaginal bleeding of any kind, it's best to reach out to your doctor so they can rule out any underlying conditions.
Signs of abnormal vaginal bleeding
Abnormal vaginal or uterine bleeding occurs when you bleed:
- Between periods
- For too long of a period (hypermenorrhea)
- For too short of period (hypomenorrhea)
- Too much (menorrhagia)
One sign of abnormal vaginal bleeding is getting brown discharge before your period.
Causes of brown discharge before period
There are multiple causes of bleeding between periods. If you're experiencing brown discharge before your period, it may be due to any of the following:
1. Birth control
It's common to experience irregular bleeding during the first few months of being on a form of hormonal contraception, or birth control, such as:
- The combination contraceptive pill
- The contraceptive patch (Ortho-Evra)
- The progestogen-only contraceptive pill
- The contraceptive injection (depot medroxyprogesterone acetate)
- Contraceptive implants
- The vaginal ring (NuvaRing)
Bleeding between periods is a common side effect of all forms of hormonal birth control, which may include brown discharge. Although it can be worrisome, this bleeding is rarely dangerous and should subside after three months.
With birth control pills, you may experience irregular bleeding if you don't take it at the same time everyday. Other side effects of hormonal birth control may include:
After one of are some blood vessels that break down. For some women, this can lead to brown discharge consisting of old blood. As opposed to a regular period, bleeding from implantation is light and only lasts a couple of days.
3. Uterine fibroids
Uterine fibroids are nonmalignant (non-cancerous) growths of muscle and tissue that grow on your uterus. Many women who have fibroids have no symptoms, and may only be found by a doctor during a pelvic examination. In rare cases, fibroids can grow out from your uterus, twist, and cut off the blood supply. This can cause pain and brown vaginal discharge.
4. Vaginal infections
There are several different vaginal infections that may cause brown discharge before your period:
Bacterial vaginosis causes an overgrowth of bacteria in your vagina.
Trichomaniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a parasite and is spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
Vulvovaginal candidiasis is an infection that causes vaginal soreness and abnormal vaginal discharge.
The brown discharge before your upcoming period may just be blood leftover from your last period. Blood that's stayed in your uterus for a while turns a brownish color. It's common for it to come out at the very end of your period. However, it may not show up until before your next period. Brown blood is more common with lighter flows, as it takes longer to leave your body.
Tests for brown discharge before period
If you see your doctor to address brown discharge before your period or any other kind of abnormal vaginal bleeding, they will likely have you take some tests. The testing they choose will depend on your age and whether or not you're pregnant.
To find the cause of your bleeding, your doctor may perform an ultrasound exam of your pelvic area to look at your uterus and ovaries. They may also perform an endometrial biopsy, which is a test of your uterine lining to check for a change in cells, such as cancer. A hysteroscopy, a procedure involving inserting a camera into your uterus, is another option.
If your bleeding is heavy, your doctor might also check your blood count to see if there's been significant blood loss.
Treatments for brown discharge before period
Brown discharge before your period may be due to normal causes and may not require any treatment. If your doctor decides to treat your abnormal bleeding, they may:
- Place an intrauterine device (IUD)
- Put you on birth control pills
- Perform a dilation and curettage (D&C)
- Perform a hysterectomy
- Perform an endometrial ablation
- CDC Warns of Potentially Fatal Bacterial Illness on U.S. Gulf Coast
- Helping Others as Volunteers Helps Kids 'Flourish': Study
- FDA Approves Pfizer's RSV Shot for Older Adults
- What to Do When Tough-to-Treat Lymphoma Strikes During Pregnancy
- Rate of Pregnant U.S. Women Who Have Diabetes Keeps Rising
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Diseases Characterized by Vaginal Discharge."
Center for Young Women's Health: "I don't think I have "officially" had my period yet, but I recently had 3-4 days of brownish black discharge. I didn’t see any blood in the discharge, but could this have been my period?"
Center for Young Women’s Health: "Menstrual Periods."
Familydoctor.org: "Abnormal Uterine Bleeding."
KidsHealth: "PMS, Cramps, and Irregular Periods."
Memorial Care: "What Color Is Implantation Bleeding? Experts Explain."
Michigan Medicine: "Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding."
Mount Sinai: "You Asked It: Help! My Period Blood is Brown."
National Health Service: "What causes bleeding between periods?"
Womenshealth.gov: "Uterine fibroids."
Top Why Am I Getting Brown Discharge Before My Period Related Articles
Tips to Ease Menopause SymptomsWhat happens during menopause? At what age do menopause symptoms start? Women in their 40s or 50s may begin to have hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep problems as they enter menopause. See what triggers some menopause symptoms. Get tips for relief through treatment.
What Are Causes of Yellow Discharge and What Does It Mean?What is yellow discharge, and what could it mean? Learn the common causes of yellow discharge and when it is necessary to see your doctor for treatment. Normal vaginal discharge is typically thin, clear or white. Vaginal discharge during pregnancy that is yellow, green, gray, red or frothy could be a sign of infection and may require medical treatment.
Early Pregnancy Symptoms Before Missed PeriodPregnancy symptoms vary from one woman to another. Women could have none of the symptoms but can still go on to have a perfectly healthy pregnancy. Usually missing a period after conception is considered a sign of pregnancy.
25 Hormone Imbalance Symptoms and SignsHormone imbalance involves changes in estrogen, progesterone, and other hormone levels. Hormonal imbalance in women may cause symptoms like weight gain, hot flashes, fatigue, and acne. Hormonal changes happen in menopause and at other times. Women with hormone imbalances can seek treatment from medications like triptans and SSRIs.
How Late Can a Period Be Before You Know You’re Pregnant?What is a late or missed period, and what can cause it other than pregnancy? Ovulation occurs between days 12 and 20 of your cycle and you are most likely to get pregnant during this fertile window. Learn the early signs of pregnancy and when to take a pregnancy test to get accurate results.
How Late Can Your Period Be Without You Being Pregnant?A regular period — or menstrual cycle — is an essential part of a woman's reproductive system. If you test negative for pregnancy seven or more days after a missed period, there may be other medical reasons for your skipped period.
What Are Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Symptoms?Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), also known by the name Stein-Leventhal syndrome, is a hormonal problem that causes women to have a variety of symptoms including irregular or no menstrual periods, acne, obesity, and excess hair growth. Treatment of PCOS depends partially on the woman's stage of life and the symptoms of PCOS.
PMS SlideshowPremenstrual Syndrome (PMS) can cause from mood swings, munchies, and more. Learn about the symptoms, causes and treatments of PMS.
25 Ways to Relieve Menstrual CrampsMenstrual cramps happen when prostaglandins force the uterus to contract. Dysmenorrhea, or period pain, may be relieved by heating pads, ibuprofen, and other measures. Endometriosis may cause severe cramps during the menstrual cycle. Luckily, women have many options for period pain relief.
What Are the Side Effects of Having Irregular Periods?Having irregular periods is a common issue that affects many women. Learn the side effects of having irregular periods, the symptoms of irregular periods, what causes irregular periods, how doctors diagnose irregular periods, and what you can do to treat irregular periods.
Spotting vs. PeriodMenstruation (a female's "period") occurs due to the shedding of the lining of the uterus. Menstrual bleeding lasts about three to five days, and the bleeding is heavy the first couple of days and then it lessens. Spotting is vaginal bleeding between periods.
What Are Signs Your Period Is Coming?Knowing the signs of a period can help you deal with your menstrual symptoms. Learn how to identify the signs of a period, know when to see a doctor, and find treatment for your period symptoms. Pregnancy is the time when a baby develops in the womb. A period is the time in a woman's monthly cycle in which she bleeds and sheds uterine lining. Early pregnancy symptoms may be confused with period symptoms because they can be similar.
What Can Cause Amenorrhea Other Than Pregnancy?Amenorrhea is a common issue that affects some women even when they're not pregnant. Learn the signs of amenorrhea, what causes amenorrhea, how doctors diagnose amenorrhea, and what you can do to address amenorrhea.
What Can Spotting Before Your Period Mean?Spotting before your period can have many causes. Find out what signs to watch for, the causes of spotting between periods, and how it can be treated.
Women's health is an important topic area to guide a woman through the stages of her life, as well as knowing the conditions and diseases that may occur. Educating yourself so that the transitions into different phases of life is key to a healthy, happy, and productive life.