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What Are the Most Common Causes of Brown Cervical Mucus?

Pregnancy can cause brown cervical mucus.
Birth control pills can cause a hormonal imbalance which may lead to a woman having brown cervical mucus.
Brown cervical mucus might be a sign of miscarriage.
Old blood left from previous menstrual cycles can result in a brown discharge from the uterus.
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  • Written By: Marisa O'Connor
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2014
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Brown cervical mucus is generally old, oxidized blood. It usually is a small amount of blood that turns brown on its way down the vaginal canal. The blood can be caused by many different factors involving menstruation, intercourse, pregnancy, miscarriage or infection.

This type of mucus is common before a woman's normal menstrual cycle. Each month, the uterus is lined with blood to prepare for conception. If conception doesn't occur, the blood is released through the cervix. Brown vaginal discharge shows before regular menstrual blood when there is old blood left in the cervix from the previous cycle.

Ovulation can cause brown cervical mucus. There are a couple of possibilities for why this occurs. The brown mucus might be caused by the hormone changes during ovulation, which can bring about light bleeding. Another possibility is that bleeding is the effect of the mature egg rupturing from the follicle during ovulation.

Sexual intercourse can irritate and tear the cervix. If it's a small tear, a small amount of blood will produce brown cervical mucus. The cervix is especially tender and sensitive during pregnancy. Sexual intercourse during pregnancy often causes brown vaginal discharge.

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Different types of vaginal discharge are produced throughout pregnancy. Usually, the discharge is very healthy. Brown vaginal discharge during pregnancy can prevent infections from developing within the womb, keeping the fetus healthy and safe.

Brown cervical mucus is very common in early pregnancy. It usually is caused by implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding can occur when the fertilized egg implants itself in the uterus.

Sometimes brown discharge occurs during the third trimester of pregnancy. Brown mucus will appear if the placenta is lying low in the uterus, covering the cervix, or if the the placenta separates partially or completely from the uterus. Brown cervical mucus also is a symptom of early labor caused by dilation.

Brown cervical mucus might be a symptom of a miscarriage, particularly If the brown discharge is accompanied by red blood and clots. Ectopic pregnancy often causes brown discharge. An ectopic pregnancy is when the egg is fertilized, implants outside the uterus and starts developing.

Brown vaginal discharge might indicate a hormone imbalance. Hormone imbalances occur for a wide variety of reasons, including stress, diet and birth control pills. Mild menstrual bleeding can be triggered by a hormone imbalance. If only a small about of blood is released, it might show as brown vaginal discharge.

Cervical mucus is sometimes brown the result of an infection. Some infections that cause brown mucus are yeast infections, sexually transmitted infections or bacterial vaginosis. These infections usually show other symptoms, such as an odor or an itching or burning sensation.

Simple lifestyle changes in diet and exercise usually are enough to treat brown cervical mucus. If the mucus is accompanied by an odor or other symptoms, there might be cause for concern. A doctor should be consulted, in case a more serious illness or infection is present.

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shell4life
Post 6

I never knew that the brownish red cervical mucus that comes out right before my period starts was old blood from last month. I always did wonder why it was brown and there was just a little of it.

This is how I know when my period will be coming. My first day is always signified by brown mucus, and the second day will be a full heavy flow of red.

It's nice to know when to pack my purse with tampons. I would hate to get stuck at the office without them.

DylanB
Post 5

@orangey03 – I've heard that it's normal to have brownish cervical mucus during ovulation, but I had never experienced this type of discharge until I started taking birth control pills. It altered my hormones, and I started seeing just a small amount of brown mucus every now and then.

Sometimes, it would only happen for a day, and other times, I would see it several days in a row. A couple of times, I thought I might be starting my period early, but it never arrived.

healthy4life
Post 4

It took a long time for me to figure out that I had bacterial vaginosis, and the brownish vaginal discharge I kept having was a bit disturbing. I wondered if I was bleeding on the inside somewhere, but it was always just a small amount, so I didn't go to the doctor right away.

After reading an article that said that bacterial vaginosis caused a fishy odor, I knew that must be what I had. The article also said that brown discharge might occur, and that convinced me fully.

I went to my doctor for treatment, and soon after, my discharge went back to being clear or slightly white at times. The odor disappeared, and everything returned to normal.

orangey03
Post 3

I sometimes have brown tinged cervical mucus in the middle of the month, when I'm nowhere near my menstrual cycle. At first, I worried that it might be a sign of pregnancy, but after my period arrived, I knew I was in the clear.

It's nice to know that brown mucus during ovulation is normal. This is most likely what I was experiencing. Since I don't keep track of my ovulation schedule, I had no way of knowing for sure, but it makes sense, since I don't have the symptoms of any type of infection.

MissDaphne
Post 2

@dfoster85 - I think you're so right in advising people to call their doctor/midwife. So often, you see forum posts with people asking Internet strangers "is this normal"? That's what you pay your provider for--to tell you if it's normal! I understand wanting to hear from others who've been there, but don't let that keep you from calling.

I also wanted to add another possible cause of bloody mucus, whether pink, brown, or red--in late pregnancy, it could be losing your mucus plug. Not that it means much. It could mean you're already halfway through labor, or that you have a couple more weeks! But it's nice to know what it is.

dfoster85
Post 1

The article is quite right that brown cervical mucus (i.e., spotting) is very common in pregnancy, but there's a difference between "common" and "normal." During pregnancy, spotting of any kind is never considered normal. (Spotting meaning what you're seeing is pink or brown rather than bright red.)

If you see any color of blood whatsoever, you should call your doctor or midwife. They'll almost certainly tell you not to worry (I had spotting with menstrual-type cramping early on, and they still said to just drink some water, rest a little, and not worry). But you can't know for sure until you call, and it will only take a few minutes.

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