Brown Discharge During Pregnancy: 10 Top Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Vaginal discharge during pregnancy is normal but what happens when you have a pink or brown discharge during pregnancy.

A discharge that is pink or brown is a sign that your cervical mucus is mixed with blood.

This could be worrisome for you, if you are expecting a baby.

What Does Brown Mucus Discharge Mean

A brown discharge means that you vaginal discharge is mixed or tinged with old blood. Brown spotting is a light vaginal bleeding that is common in early pregnancy. Brown blood during pregnancy is caused by a variety of reasons and it could be normal depending on the cause and which trimester you are in.

A brownish or pinkish discharge is normal if it is not a heavy bleeding or contains blood clots like your menstrual period.

A heavy or bright red blood like period with clotting is bad while pregnant it may mean a miscarriage. You should see your doctor immediately for an ultrasound.

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What causes Pinkish - Brownish Discharge During Pregnancy

1. Implantation Bleeding

Spotting in early pregnancy around week 4 is one of the first signs of pregnancy. This bleeding occurs when the fertilized egg burrows through the uterus lining to implant itself around 6-7 days after conception.

Only a few women notice very light spots of blood in their underwear during the implantation process. Implantation spotting usually occurs few days before your next period.

This is why many women mistake this light bleeding for a light period.

The color of implantation bleeding or spotting can be light pink, pink, orange, light brown, Dark brown or reddish brown discharge.

A pink blood discharge during implantation means the fertilized egg now known as blastocyst just burrowed through the endometrium( thick uterus lining) causing a mild bleeding or blood loss to some blood vessels in the uterus lining. The pinkish color means it just happened so the blood is still fresh.

Some women also notice a bright red blood at this time but the bleeding is not heavy to soak a pad or a tampon like a period.

A brown blood or dark discharge means implantation happened a while a go. And the body is just getting rid of the old or retained blood.

Normal Signs of implantation are:

  • Spotting pinkish brown to dark brown color
  • On and off spotting not a flow like your menstrual period
  • Mild, faint or light lower abdominal cramping known as implantation cramping
  • Headaches
  • Scanty bleeding or spotting to last for hours or up to 2 days.

Take a pregnancy test (urine test or blood test) if you think you are pregnant. Or if you notice an implantation discharge

2. Ectopic Pregnancy

In very few cases a pink-brownish discharge is caused by ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancy is also known as tubal pregnancy and it occurs when the fertilized egg ​implants itself outside the uterus usually in the fallopian tube.

This is a wrong implantation and the embryo is unable to develop properly.​

Tubal pregnancy occurs one in 100 pregnancies and it is one of the most common cause of bleeding in the first trimester.

Ectopic pregnancy should be treated as an emergency situation as it is life threatening condition.

Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancies are:

  • Vaginal spotting or heavy bleeding
  • Dark brown or watery vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Vomitting, lightheadedness, fainting or dizziness
  • Pain at the tip of shoulder caused by internal bleeding
  • Pain during intercourse or during pelvic examination
  • Sharp or sudden intense tummy pain or ache on one side of your abdomen.

These symptoms are usually noticed during the 4th to 12th week of pregnancy.

Some women don't realise the are pregnant and the mistake this abnormal bleeding for their regular period.

If you have a missed period, positive pregnancy test, signs of pregnancy, see a healthcare professional immediately if you have any of the abnormal pregnancy symptoms above.

Who is at risk of ectopic or tubal pregnancy:

You are more likely to have a pregnancy that is ectopic if:

  • Previously had an ectopic pregnancy
  • You are over the age of 35 and trying to conceive
  • You suffer from pelvic inflammatory disease(PID) caused by chlamydia
  • You smoke tobacco alot especially before you got pregnant
  • You have an history of sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as chlamydia and gonorrhea
  • You have infertility problems
  • You got pregnant with an intrauterine device(IUD) in place.

3. Cervical Irritation (cervicitis)

Having an irritated cervix is a common reason why women bleed when pregnant. The cervix is the neck of the womb(uterus). It's a narrow organ that connects the cervix to the top of the vagina.

When pregnant the cervix becomes vascular (contains a lot of blood vessels) which can easily cause it to bleed. The cervix also contain more blood in pregnancy due to the increasing level of the estrogen hormone.

During pregnancy, many women experience changes in their cervix including the mucus secretion and cervical position.

Irritated cervix and spotting is common in early pregnancy especially when 7 weeks pregnant (first trimester).

The cervix can also become inflamed. Inflammation of the cervix is known as Cervicitis.

Signs and symptoms of cervicitis during pregnancy are:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods
  • Pale yellow vaginal discharge or greyish mucus discharge
  • Pain during and after sex
  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Painful and frequent urination
  • Fever, pelvic or abdominal cramping

Inflammation of the cervix is usually caused infections, HPV, yeast infections, herpes, abortion, hormonal changes allergies, physical and chemical irritations.

If cervicitis is left untreated during pregnancy it can lead to miscarriage and preterm labor.

4. Miscarriage

A brownish-pink discharge during pregnancy can be an early sign of miscarriage.

Miscarriage usually starts with cramping, spotting or light bleeding then it becomes bright red period blood as it gets heavier. It also contains large bloodclots and tissues.​

For some women a miscarriage can start as spotting and then become an heavier flow of dark red blood.

Other signs of miscarriage are:

  • Cramping and passing bloody tissue through the vagina
  • White-pink mucus
  • Watery discharge
  • Lower back pain or persistent dull backache
  • Bright red period-like blood
  • Loss of pregnancy symptoms
  • Nausea and vomiting

See your healthcare provider if you notice a clot-like material with blood at any point in your pregnancy period.

5. Mucus Plug

Mucus plug or bloody show is one of the common reasons for a brown mucus discharge during the third trimester of pregnancy.


A mucus plug is a plug made of thick mucus that develops during pregnancy. The role of the mucus plug is to protect bacteria, germs and pathogens from entering into the cervix, uterus(womb) to hurt the developing and growing baby.

Bacteria and unwanted pathogens can enter into the cervix during sex or routine vaginal examinations.

The mucus plug can be clear, white, pink, greenish or brown in color.

The loss of this thick plug is a sign that your body is preparing for labor. But the truth is labor can start within a few hours, days or even weeks.

Most women lose this plug around week 36-week 42 of pregnancy.

Losing your mucus plug is a sign that your cervix is dilating (opening) or effacing (thins out).

Many women confuse the mucus plug with the bloody show. The bloody show is a brown stringy mucus. It is basically a blood tinged mucous that is seen during vaginal examinations when pregnant.

While the mucus plug is a thick, jelly-like or gelatinous discharge that could be a brown-colored discharge or mostly off white color with streaks of blood in it.

6. Molar Pregnancy

The most common symptom of a molar pregnancy is a vaginal bleeding that ranges from dark brown to light red in color.

A molar pregnancy can also causes heavy bleeding during pregnancy.

Molar pregnancy occurs when ​there is a genetic error during fertilization. It is an abnormal placenta tissue growth in the uterus.

There are two types of molar pregnancies

Symptoms of molar pregnancy:

Complete molar pregnancy: Occurs when a sperm fertilizes an egg with no genetic information from the mother. This means the egg has no maternal chromosomes. This means the fertilised egg only contains chromosomes from the father. An ultrasound will show that there is no fetus only placenta is present in the womb or uterus

Partial molar Pregnancy:​ Occurs when a healthy egg is fertilized by two sperm. In a normal fertilisation only one sperm is allowed to penetrate an egg. This results in excessive paternal chromosome 46 chromosomes instead of 23 from the father). This means the embryo develops abnormally due to the excessive chromosomes from the father. The placenta will grow into an abnormal mass of tissue.

Symptoms of Molar pregnancies are:

  • Vaginal bleeding in second and third month of pregnancy
  • Uterus that is larger than normal
  • Missed period
  • Morning sickness
  • early pregnancy symptoms
  • Vaginal discharge that is shaped like a grape.
  • Irregular heartbeat and sweating a lot
  • Early preeclampsia (high blood pressure)
  • Larger amount of HCG levels

7. Sexual intercourse

When pregnant, the cervix becomes very sensitive and tender than usual, this may cause some pregnant women to bleed during or after intercourse.

There are lots of tiny blood vessel and an increased blood supply around the cervix during pregnancy.

This can lead to a light blood loss during intercourse.

If spotting or bleeding after sex while pregnant, see a doctor first before continuing in sexual intercourse with you partner

Although, it is unlikely for sex to harm your baby or cause a miscarriage.

Also avoid rigorous sex while carrying a baby especially in late pregnancy.

8. Cervical Polyps

Cervical polyps are small, elongated growths or tumors on a woman's cervix. And the are non-cancerous(benign growths).

The root cause of this condition is still unknown but it may be caused by an increase in estrogen hormone.

Symptoms of cervical polyps are:

  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding
  • White mucus or yellow mucus from vagina.

9. Abnormal placenta

Abnormalities in the placenta can lead to conditions such as placenta abruption or placenta previa. Which can cause brown spotting or bleeding.

The placenta is blood rich and it provides oxygen and food to nourish the growing foetus.

In placenta previa, the placenta is close to or cover the the cervical canal opening)

In Placenta abruption, the placenta separates prematurely from the uterus.

Symptoms of Abnormal placenta are:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Decreased fetal movements
  • Nausea
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Uterine contraction without relaxation

10. STD (sexually transmitted disease)

A bloody or brown, itchy, foamy, yellow or greenish yellow discharge may mean you have a sexually transmitted infections(STI) such as chlamydia, genital herpes, Gonorrhea, Heppatitis B, HIV/AIDS, HPV(Human Papillomavirus, syphilis, Trichonomiasis.

Yeast infection can cause a cottage cheese discharge that is itchy and odorless, while bacterial vaginosis causes a itchy and smelly brown watery discharge with fishy odor.

Trich causes a whitish, yellowish or green discharge with an unpleasant smell.

See your gynaecologist when you notice a foul smelling, itching or an abnormal vaginal secretion.

Types of Brown Vaginal Discharge

1. Light Brown: usually caused by implantation spotting and STDs

2. ​Dark Brown vaginal discharge: Usually caused by ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages

3.​ Pinkish Brown: caused by implantation, ectopic pregnancy and cervical sensitivity.

Other types are:

  • Brown smelly discharge
  • Brown stringy discharge
  • Brown bloody discharge
  • Brown thick discharge
  • Black discharge
  • Blackish-Brown discharge

Brown Discharge During First second and Third Trimesters of pregnancy

A brown looking discharge can happen at any time when pregnant. It can also happen in other times such as during ovulation or anytime in your menstrual cycles.

Brown-Discharge in pregnancy First Trimester

Brown spots of blood in the first trimester is mostly caused by implantation bleeding, cervical sensitivity, ectopic pregnancy or molar pregnancy and early miscarriage.

The first trimester consist of week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4, week 5, week 6, week 7, week 8, week 9, week 10, week 11 and week 12.

Brown blood Discharge in pregnancy second Trimester

Spotting or bleeding In second trimester is most times caused by routine check up or examination, irritation of the cervix, yeast infections, STDs, sexual intercourse and late miscarriage.

The second trimester consist of week 13, week 14, week 15, week 16, week 17, week 18, week 19, week 20, week 21, week 22, week 23, week 24, week 25, week 26, week 27, week 28.

Consult your Doctor immediately if you have yeast infection or STD.

Brown Mucus Discharge during pregnancy THIRD Trimester

Brownish mucus in third trimester is most times caused by Mucus plug or bloody show, routine examinations, intercourse, or a sign of labour.

The third trimester consist of week 29, week 30, week 31, week 32, week 33, week 34, week 35, week 36, week 37, week 38, week 39 and week 40.

A bloody show in late pregnancy means the tiny blood vessel in the cervix are beginning to rupture which will cause dilation. You could go into labour in a few days, hours, or weeks.

Let your midwife or doctor know once this happens.

How To stop Brown discharge while Pregnant

Any abnormal or excessive discharge should be reported to your doctor immediately to help keep your baby safe.

Remember a little blood-tinged discharge is normal and common in first trimester.

Here are a few tips to help:

  • Avoid rigorous sex
  • Do not douche
  • Limit exercise or physical workout
  • Keep your vaginal clean but don't overwash
  • Do not lift heavy objects
  • Destress and relax

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