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.
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
- 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:
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:
Women's Conditions Resources
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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."