What are the Common Causes of Brown Blood During Menstruation?

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  • Written By: Caitlin Shih
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2019
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In the vast majority of cases, brown blood during menstruation is simply old blood being dispelled, normally occurring either in the beginning or end of a woman's period. Other possible causes often involve the timing and nature of the brown blood. Spots of brown blood may occur naturally during a woman's ovulation stage, while brown spotting instead of a woman's normal period flow can be an early sign of pregnancy. A woman taking an oral contraceptive pill may experience dark blood during menstruation either soon after taking the pill or shortly after being off of it. In other cases, brown bleeding, especially if accompanied by pain, bloating or other symptoms, can be a sign of a polyp, cervical erosion or similar condition.

Brown blood during menstruation is, in an overwhelming majority of cases, old blood that has taken longer to be released from the body. Residual blood from the prior period may cause a woman to experience brown bleeding in the beginning of her flow. Towards the end, old blood that has not been released will gradually be expelled from the body, leading to brown bleeding for a period of time after a woman's period seems to have ended.


A woman's ovulation, typically mid-cycle, may also lead to minimal brown bleeding or discharge. If a woman experiences brown blood instead of her regular period, however, especially if the flow is lighter than usual, it may be a first sign of pregnancy. Women who are sexually active and have experienced this should take a pregnancy test. If these symptoms are combined with other symptoms, such as a sharp pain her lower abdominal area, it may be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy and a physician should be contacted as soon as possible.

Women taking contraceptive pills are especially subject to significant hormonal changes, and this can often lead to dark blood during menstruation or outside of it. When this occurs anywhere within a month after a woman has started using oral contraceptives, she should generally allocate around six to eight weeks for her hormones to stabilize. If this occurs after recently coming off the contraceptive, it may take much longer for her cycle to return to normal, but if the brown discharge continues for a matter of months, a physician should be contacted to eliminate the possibility of any other medical conditions.

In the most serious cases, brown blood during menstruation can be a sign of infection. This is especially true if it is accompanied by other unusual discharge, such as clotting, and other symptoms such as abdominal pain or bloating. More specifically, a woman may be experiencing a polyp, which is a growth of tissue that can form out of any mucous membrane, including the uterus or cervical canal, and is most common in women who have already been pregnant but have not reached menopause yet. It may also signify a cervical erosion or similar condition, in which the bleeding comes from the infected area. Women who experience these symptoms should consult a physician as soon as possible.


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Post 6

@Fa5t3r-- This is true. I have polycystic ovary syndrome and this was one of the first symptoms I developed. Brown blood can also be a sign of a problem in the cervix or an injury. A tear during sex can also cause brown blood.

There are too many possible causes, so it's better to get checked out.

Post 5

I get brown spotting in between my periods. So when it happened last month, I was not worried, but I did notice that it was more than usual. A few days later, I went to my gynecologist and found out I was pregnant! So brown spotting is an early pregnancy sign!

Post 4

@indigomoth-- I completely agree with you. Talking about this topic shouldn't be a taboo with our mothers and friends.

I guess I was lucky because my mother is a nurse and teacher and she always told me about everything. I first learned about female organs, ovulation and periods when I was in middle school and before I got my first period.

When I first saw brown, odd smelling spotting after my period, I just asked my mom directly. She told me that it's natural and that it was blood that hadn't had a chance to be expelled during my period. It's so great being able to just ask and find out the answer!

Post 3

This isn't always normal and it can be a sign of a problem, so if it happens in a strange way or you have other symptoms, go and mention it to a family planning nurse or a doctor.

Healthy women won't usually have abrupt changes to their periods for no reason. It's always better to have a checkup than to end up wishing you did.

Post 2

@indigomoth - Yeah, the brown period blood and the blood clots during your period can really freak girls out if they aren't explained. I remember my sister thought that she was dying when she found some blood clots on the first few days of her period.

I suspect a lot of women don't even really know what their period is and how it relates to the reproduction cycle, let alone all the little details about it.

I'm not one to romanticize it, but I do think we should explain it properly to young people so they know what to expect and what is actually happening.

Post 1

I really wish that this stuff was taught more clearly in school. I know there are some good books out there for young girls, but in reality most people aren't going to know to even look for them. You can't rely on mothers who were never taught about this themselves to be able to teach it to their daughters.

And I don't remember being taught any of this. I mean, over time, I realized that the brown was just part of the normal cycle and nothing to worry about, but it did scare me when it first happened. And I didn't feel like I could ask anyone about it because everyone treated the menstruation cycle like such a big taboo. It would have been so much better if someone had just explained that it was old blood and why it sometimes shows up at the beginning and the end.

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