When 27-year old Ankita Desai witnessed a trace of brown discharge during pregnancy, she was scared out of her wits. This was her first pregnancy and she feared that the discharge may be a sign of miscarriage.
Unsure of what to do next, she immediately called Dr. Payal Chaudhary, Consultant Obstetrician – Gynecologist at Sitaram Bhartia Hospital in Delhi .
“You should always consult your doctor if you notice brown discharge or bleeding during pregnancy,” advised Dr Payal.
What does Brown Discharge mean?
“Brown discharge during pregnancy is nothing but vaginal discharge tinged with old blood which means that bleeding inside the uterus (from placenta), cervix or vagina happened a while ago but started flowing out later,” Dr. Payal explained.
“You should consult your doctor as soon as you spot brown discharge during pregnancy.”
Ankita was glad she had done just that. She didn’t want to take any chances and asked the doctor the various reasons behind brown discharge during pregnancy.
What Could be the Cause of a Brown Discharge During Pregnancy?
- Brown Discharge in First Trimester
- Brown Discharge in Second Trimester
- Brown Discharge in Third Trimester
“If you spot some bleeding or a brown discharge during early pregnancy, this could be because of implantation bleeding, threatened miscarriage or a local growth on the cervix or vagina,” continues Dr. Payal.
Implantation bleeding generally occurs 10 to 14 days after conception. Implantation is the term used when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterus lining.
This type of bleeding is a normal phenomenon and is no cause of concern.
The other reason for brown discharge during early pregnancy is cervical congestion or trauma which can happen due to sexual intercourse and also any growth on cervix or vagina.
“Either way you should consult your healthcare provider if it happens,” said Dr. Payal.
Another cause for vaginal bleeding or brown discharge can be an ectopic pregnancy, which happens to 1 in 1000 women. This type of pregnancy takes places outside the uterus and is a life-threatening situation if not detected on time
“What can be the reason behind brown discharge during second trimester?” Ankita asked worriedly since she was about to enter her second trimester.
One reason for having brown discharge during this time is a miscarriage.
It starts with a brown discharge but gradually turns pinkish red.
“If you are experiencing discharge for which you have to use a sanitary pad and it is accompanied by abdominal cramps and back pain, then you should go to a doctor immediately,” advised Dr. Payal.
Other causes of Brown Discharge
Preterm labour and placenta previa are other causes of concern if you are experiencing brown discharge around your second trimester.
Preterm labour can happen anytime between 24 to 37 weeks and results in a premature birth.
“Earlier the preterm labour, the greater the health risks for the baby,” explained Dr. Payal.
Placenta previa, on the other hand, is the condition in which your placenta is lying unusually low in your uterus and covers your cervix. This can lead to excessive bleeding and may turn serious if the bleeding continues.
After a vaginal swab examination and an ultrasound, Ankita was relieved to know that her baby was doing just fine. There was no apparent cause of the brown discharge.
“We decided to wait for the discharge to stop on its own,” said Dr. Payal.
Brown Discharge During Pregnancy In Third Trimester
Vaginal discharge in the last stages of pregnancy could be a sign that the body is ready to deliver.
Dr. Payal explained, “A couple of days before the woman goes into labour, the mucus plug (thick plug of mucus and cells from the cervix) blocking the uterine opening is ejected from the vagina. This usually has a streak of blood which gives it a slightly brown colour.”
This is commonly known as a blood show.
Brown discharge due to Placental abruption
A major cause of concern of brown discharge in later pregnancy is when there is a placental abruption or bleeding under the placenta.
It occurs when the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus. This can reduce the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the baby.
“Consult your doctor if you spot brown discharge during pregnancy in the third trimester because it endangers both mother and baby.”
How To Prevent Brown Discharge During Pregnancy
There are no particular precautions to prevent brown discharge in pregnancy but if it happens, your doctor may ask you to avoid heavy exercise and sexual intercourse at this time.
Ankita was relieved that her pregnancy was proceeding well.
“It’s a good thing that I did not take it lightly and went to see the doctor immediately. Now I know that there is no need to worry,” exclaimed Ankita after the consultation.
This article has been written with inputs from Dr. Payal Chaudhary, who has over 15 years of experience as a Gynecologist with focus on urogynecology conditions like urinary incontinence, stress incontinence, prolapsed uterus and other bladder problems
Dr. Payal Chaudhary, MBBS, Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi (2000), MD Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi (2005), Observership Minimally-Invasive Surgery, Magee Women Hospital, Pittsburgh
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