Brown Discharge During Pregnancy
A thin, clear or white vaginal discharge (known in the obstetrics business as (leukorrhea) is a normal part of having female parts. Healthy discharge comes in a variety of colors, though changes are usually signs something’s going on inside. And when you’re expecting, all those pregnancy hormones make your discharge heavier and thicker. But one of the biggest worries for pregnant women is brown discharge, probably because the color is so close to blood. The good news is, in the vast majority of cases some brown discharge is a totally normal part of being a woman.
What brown discharge during pregnancy is
As many women guess (and possibly fear, if they’re pregnant) brown discharge is discharge tinged with old blood. For whatever reason, some blood in your uterus took longer to come out — and as it gets older, it turns brown. That means you end up with either brown spotting or a brownish-colored discharge.
What it means
If you’re pregnant, brown discharge more than likely does not mean something is wrong with you or your baby — in most cases, it’s completely harmless. The most common cause is irritation: As you know (or will soon find out), the surge of hormones and increased blood flow to the cervix can make it super-sensitive when you’re expecting. So sometimes, sexual intercourse or a pelvic exam can aggravate your cervix, resulting in a bit of brown discharge or even light spotting.
If you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy, the brown stuff could also be a sign labor is near. A couple of weeks to a few days before you give birth, you’ll lose your mucous plug — a glob of mucous that seals off the opening of the cervix during pregnancy (you may not even notice it happen). Then in the days just before labor, you’ll likely see “bloody show,” or discharge tinged pink or brown with blood, which means your baby’s arrival is imminent. If you suspect you’re experiencing bloody show, call your health care provider immediately.
In very rare cases, brown discharge during pregnancy could be a sign of an impending miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, problems with the placenta or a sign of an infection of the cervix or uterus. If at any time the discharge turns into bright red spotting or bleeding, becomes gray in color, or you experience abdominal cramping or tenderness, rapid uterine contractions or back pain, contact your provider immediately.
Whether you’re pregnant or not, rarely brown discharge can be a sign of more serious issues — though there are usually other symptoms there’s a problem.
What you can do about it
If you notice brown discharge occasionally after sex, it’s more than likely normal — so make a note of it and use a panty liner for a day or two. However if you notice a brown- or blood-tinged discharge after sex more than a few times a month (or for longer than a couple of weeks), or, if at any time the discharge is itchy, has a pungent odor or is accompanied by cramping, contact your doctor, as these could be signs of an infection or other more serious condition. To be safe, the March of Dimes in fact recommends pregnant women contact their healthcare providers any time they experience brown discharge. While it is more than likely not a sign that something’s wrong, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and let your doctor or midwife determine the next steps. She may do an ultrasound and pelvic exam to ensure everything’s OK in there (baby is developing normally and there are no signs of infection). And if she does find any signs of a problem, or if there’s something wrong with the baby, she can take steps to treat you, such as giving you an antibiotic or other medication to clear up an infection, recommending bed rest, inducing labor (if it’s an emergency), or whatever other option she (and, of course, you) feels is best for you and your bab
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