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Brown Discharge During Pregnancy: What Does It Mean?

last month7 min read
Last updated: Jan 23 2023

Brown discharge during pregnancy is usually nothing to worry about, but there are a few cases where you should call your doctor.

Brown Discharge During Pregnancy

When you’re pregnant, seeing brown discharge on your underwear or toilet paper can send you into a panic.











But don’t worry — most of the time, brown discharge during pregnancy is nothing to worry about.

We’ll look at possible causes and whether you might need to call your doctor.

In this article: 📝

  • Is it normal to have brown discharge when pregnant?
  • Is brown discharge the start of a miscarriage?
  • Brown discharge during pregnancy: The bottom line

Is it normal to have brown discharge when pregnant?

When you’re pregnant, hormone changes make your discharge a little different than normal.

For example, in the first trimester, you might see an increase in discharge that seems almost watery.

You might also notice more discharge as you get closer to delivery.

Most of the time, this discharge will be clear or milky white.

But there are times when it can be different colors, including brown.

If your discharge is brown, it’s getting that color from blood that is traveling from your uterus or cervix and mixing with your normal pregnancy discharge.

We know, blood in your discharge sounds super scary, but rest assured, it is almost always completely normal.

That said, there are a few cases where brown discharge could signal potential problems.

We’ll take you through everything you need to know.

Read on to learn about the causes of brown discharge during pregnancy.

But know that if you’re ever worried, there’s no harm in calling your doctor.

That’s what they’re there for.

Implantation bleeding

One cause of brown spotting during pregnancy could be implantation bleeding.

This can actually be one of the first signs of pregnancy.

It happens at what doctors would consider week four of your pregnancy, or a few days or weeks after conception.

It’s just the impact of the embryo attaching to the uterine lining, which can cause a bit of bleeding.

Many women mistake implantation bleeding for a normal period if they don’t know they’re pregnant because it can happen at the time you’d expect your normal cycle.

But it’s usually much lighter than your period.

Implantation bleeding is nothing to worry about.

You can mention it when you call your doctor to make your first prenatal appointment, and they will tell you if they’d like to do an exam to rule out any issues.

Irritated cervix

When you’re pregnant, your cervix will have a higher blood circulation because of all the activity that’s going on in the rest of your reproductive system.

This increased sensitivity can make it easier to irritate.

Sometimes after sex or a cervical exam at your doctor’s office, your cervix may bleed slightly, meaning you’ll see brown or even pinkish discharge.

Like implantation bleeding, light brown discharge during pregnancy due to an irritated cervix is nothing to worry about.

Keep an eye on it to see if the blood gets heavier or turns a bright red, as this could indicate a problem.

Mucus plug

During pregnancy, mucus collects in your cervical canal to prevent bacteria and other infections from reaching your uterus.

Brown discharge during pregnancy in the third trimester could mean that this plug is coming out in preparation for labor.

If you’re 36 to 40 weeks pregnant and notice an increase in discharge with chunkier bits of mucus, sometimes tinged with brown or pink, then this could be your plug being released as your cervix widens in preparation for childbirth.

It can come out slowly or in one big chunk.

The tricky thing about losing your mucus plug is that it can mean labor is about to start, BUT it’s also common to lose your mucus plug a few weeks before delivery.

If you’re before 37 weeks and you think you’ve lost all or part of your mucus plug, it’s a good idea to call your doctor just in case.

Bloody show

This is another sign that your baby is on the way!

Bloody show is often confused with losing your mucus plug, but they’re not exactly the same.

Bloody show is blood that appears as a result of your cervix dilating and can happen at the same time as the mucus plug is lost or afterward.

At this time, you might notice some brown or pink in your discharge or even actual red blood.

Bloody show is a more reliable indicator than losing your mucus plug that labor is very close.

If you think you’re experiencing bloody show, give your doctor a call.

Is brown discharge the start of a miscarriage?

So like we said, most of the time, brown discharge is a normal part of pregnancy.

But, less commonly, there are some cases where brown discharge can signal a medical issue that should be checked out by your doctor.

Let’s look at some possible causes.

Cervix or uterus infection

If you notice brown discharge regularly (even if it only happens after you have sex), this could be a sign of infection in your cervix or uterus.

This is more likely if you experience other symptoms like itching or odd-smelling discharge.

If you have these symptoms, check in with your doctor to see what might be going on.

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus — often in the fallopian tube, but sometimes in the cervix or abdomen.

This pregnancy cannot proceed normally and is dangerous for the mother.

Early symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Brown discharge or even light bleeding
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Lower back pain

You should speak to your doctor or midwife as quickly as possible if you have any of these symptoms.

An ectopic pregnancy can rupture your fallopian tube and require surgery.

If this happens, you’ll see heavier bleeding, feel more severe abdominal pain, and likely feel weak and dizzy from blood loss.

An ectopic pregnancy can be an emotionally difficult time.

You can speak to other women who have experienced one via the Peanut community, especially this support group.

Pregnancy loss

Pregnancy loss is a very difficult thing to experience or even think about.

But it’s important to look out for the signs so you can get medical attention if necessary.

Brown discharge can be one of the early signs of pregnancy loss, often followed by more bleeding that will look more like your period.

You also might have stomach cramps, tenderness, and slight contractions.

If your miscarriage has gone unnoticed, you might lose weight or find that your other pregnancy symptoms disappear quickly.

If you’ve experienced pregnancy loss, it’s important to know that you’re not alone.

Please reach out to the Peanut Community to connect with people who know exactly what you’re going through.

Brown discharge during pregnancy: The bottom line

Brown discharge during pregnancy can be scary, but it’s almost always nothing to worry about.

Of course, if you’re ever worried for any reason, don’t hesitate to call your doctor.

If you’re wondering how to stop brown discharge during pregnancy, unfortunately, there’s often not much you can do.

Hot tip? If you’d like, it’s okay to wear unscented panty liners during pregnancy to protect your underwear.

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