What Causes Brown Spotting?

vaginal discharge in women
What Can Cause Brown Spotting?

Brown spotting refers to a vaginal discharge which women sometimes have at different times in their life. The spotting usually has a thin consistency like blood but is brown in color instead of red.

Spotting Around Period Time

Some girls experience brown spotting a few months or weeks before their first period (menarche). This is usually a sign that their body is gearing up and getting ready for a proper menstrual bleed. It's quite normal and nothing to worry about. See also, when should my periods start? In other instances it might occur on day 4 or 5 at the end of a menstrual cycle. This is the body naturally cleaning out the vagina - old blood can turn brown in color, so it may look brown by the time it is discharged. Again, all quite healthy.

Spotting After 35

As a woman enters her perimenopause years it is common for her periods to become lighter to the point of spotting (although some women simply stop having a period from one day to the next).This usually happens gradually over 5 to 10 years and not all months are the same. She may have what she considers a normal period for 4 or 5 months before experiencing a lighter one; and the cycle is repeated. Gradually she starts to have more lighter bleeds until eventually her periods stop altogether. When a woman has not had a period for 12 months she is said to have reached menopause. Do you have any other menopause symptoms? If you start estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) do be aware that it can cause light bleeding for up to 6 months after beginning therapy. This doesn't indicate a problem, but all bleeding in postmenopause women should be checked by a doctor.

Spotting During Pregnancy

Some, but not all, women experience spotting before a missed period which is known as implantation bleeding. This is where an embryo implants in the womb, usually about 5 to 10 days after conception. Implantation bleeding is usually light red to brown in color and is spotty. It can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. For more, read what are the early signs of pregnancy before a missed period? Light bleeding or spotting that occurs in the second or third trimester of pregnancy is also not usually a cause for concern (it happens to 1 in 5 pregnant women). It can sometimes occur after sexual intercourse due to increased sensitivity of the cervix. If spotting becomes heavy at any time, this might be subchorionic bleeding - that is bleeding caused by the accumulation of blood under the membrane of the placenta. It doesn't usually end up causing any problems and disappears of its own accord. If at any time you have spotting which is accompanied by cramps or lower tummy pain, contact your doctor straight away. He will immediately organize a pregnancy ultrasound scan to check that your baby is ok.

When Spotting Is A Sign Of A Problem

If you experience spotting with any of the following symptoms, talk to your doctor:

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Loss of appetite.
Painful periods and spotting.
Infertility - problems falling pregnant after one year of trying.
Abdominal pain.

Genital Warts (STD)
Genital itching.
Warts or lumps found on the vagina or anus.
Spotting during or after sex.

Gonorrhea (STD)
Brown vaginal spotting.
Burning pain when urinating.
Increased urination.
Sexual intercourse is painful.

Vaginitis
Foul fishy smelling vaginal discharge.
Frothy green, brown or gray colored discharge.
Itchy, burning vulva and vagina skin.
Pain on urination or during sexual intercourse.

Cervical Cancer
A watery blood-stained vaginal discharge which the woman may not even notice.
Spotting between monthly menstrual cycles.
Spotting after sexual intercourse.
Spotting while douching.

Other potential causes of spotting between periods:

1. Oral Contraception: Breakthrough bleeding after starting the contraceptive pill. If you continue to spot between menstrual cycles after 3 months, you may need a higher dosage pill.
2. Uterine Fibroids: Fibroids are more likely to cause heavy periods, but spotting is possible. For more see fibroids symptoms.
3. Endometriosis: Early signs include irregular periods and tummy pain, see endometriosis symptoms.
4. Polyps: Both uterine polyps and cervical polyps can cause spotting which may be accompanied by cramps and unusual vaginal discharge. See symptoms of cervical polyps and symptoms of uterine polyps for more.

Related Questions
How can I relieve period cramps?
I have an important road trip coming up, can I delay my period without taking the pill?
If your menstrual cycle has changed: What can cause a change in my monthly cycle?

• Need more information about periods? See: Guide to Menstruation
• Got another question? See: Womens Health Questions

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