Perimenopause Brown Discharge: 7 Causes & Solutions

Last updated 01.06.2024 | by Sabrina Johnson | 8 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


Brown discharge isn’t as scary as it sounds. When you spot a brown discharge a day or two before or after your periods, there isn’t much to panic.

During an online discussion, a doctor, who is also one of my readers, told me that the brown discharge one sees before one’s period is perhaps the old blood in the uterus that has remained since the previous period. Whereas brown discharge right after menses indicate the remaining blood which is making its way out through the vagina.

Now, that was about brown discharge and periods. But what about the time when you are transitioning into menopause? Is brown discharge common, then, as well? Many women have mentioned having brown, clumpy discharge at a time when they weren’t having their periods. Could you attribute this to the hormonal imbalances? Or, is there any other reason behind the same? Read on to know the reasons for brown discharge in menopause, alongside the ways to manage them. I covered it all in this article.

What Changes Does Your Menstrual Cycle Go Through In Perimenopause?

With the fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone, the menstrual cycle is immensely affected in the menopause transition period. Ovulation is unpredictable, and the length between your cycles could be shorter or longer.

You could even go without periods for some months. Early perimenopause has started if your menstrual cycle is preponed or postponed by seven days. When there is a 2-month gap between your periods, it means you are in late perimenopause. One of the significant issues I had while I was transitioning into menopause was with my menses, particularly the flow. In some months, I would bleed heavily, while on specific cycles, the flow would be scanty, to my surprise.

What is the Normal Color for Vaginal Discharge? How Does it Change in Perimenopause?

Vaginal discharge isn’t uncommon for women. You could experience a clear, white fluid secreted from your vagina. It helps in lubricating the vagina and fighting off bacteria alongside other infections. However, the texture, color, and odor of vaginal discharge help to determine if it is normal or if there is a sign of infection. If there aren’t any signs of infection, and if you aren’t in the perimenopause phase, the vaginal discharge mostly appears:

  • Watery, sticky, or gooey
  • Milky-white, off-white or clear
  • Mucus-like discharge
  • Mild but not foul or fishy odor

However, when you are in your 40s and nearing menopause, you could find a change in the vaginal discharge’s color and texture. The discharge may appear: 

  • Brownish
  • Watery or thin
  • Clumpy or thick

7 Causes for Brown Discharge in Perimenopause

7 Causes for Brown Discharge in Perimenopause

Most of the symptoms women experience in perimenopause are because of the fluctuating hormone levels. The brown discharge isn’t an exception. Estrogen and progesterone are functional in controlling the amount of vaginal discharge.

The function of estrogen is primarily to ensure that the vagina is secreting a clear and normal discharge. In this way, it contributes to sound urethra and vulva health. Let’s look at the reasons why you could have brown discharge when around menopause:

Fluctuating Estrogen Levels

Brown vaginal discharge means that it is the old blood that has taken time to leave the uterus, as mentioned already To explain it in detail, when there is a fluctuation and drop in the estrogen levels, there is a breakage in the uterine lining. The blood remains in the uterus for a while and isn’t expelled. This causes it to become old and turn brown, resulting in brown blood and discharge.

Other Reasons

Perimenopause isn’t the only reason for brown discharge. There could be severe health issues as well. You must watch out for other symptoms if you are in your 40s and constantly have brown discharge before or after your periods.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

PID, or pelvic inflammatory disease, occurs due to an infection of the uterus, cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tube. If you are experiencing this condition, you may have a brown discharge. There are other symptoms also mentioned below:

  • Pain in the pelvic and lower abdomen area
  • Pain during sex
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Fever
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Painful periods
  • Heavy periods

Desquamative Inflammatory Vaginitis

This condition is a kind of vaginal inflammation, though unrelated to infection. It will affect you when the cells lining the vagina become inflamed, irritated, and red. The inflammation can lead to increased vaginal itching and discharge. Here are some of the signs you may experience when you have this condition:

  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Yellowish-green or brown vaginal discharge
  • Burning or itching sensation in the vulva or vagina
  • Redness in the vulva area
  • Pain and bleeding during or after sex

Sexually Transmitted Infection

When you have contracted a sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia or gonorrhea, you will likely have brown discharge alongside other symptoms. These include:

  • Smelly discharge
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Painful sex

So when you are sexually active and have brownish discharge, getting tested for STI is better.

Foreign Body in the Vagina

If there is a foreign body stuck in the vagina, like condoms, tampons, or contraceptive rings, then you could experience brown discharge with a foul odor.

Cervical Cancer

In the most unlikely situation, the brown discharge could be because of cervical cancer. That’s not the only sign, though. If you are experiencing an increased brown discharge alongside the symptoms mentioned below, you need to contact your healthcare provider immediately. These include:

  • Pain and bleeding during or after sex
  • Longer or heavier periods
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Pelvic pain
  • Smelly discharge

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

If you have PCOS, the body produces increased androgen hormones. In such cases, you will likely have brown discharge between your periods. In fact, there could be a gap of approximately 35 days between your menses in PCOS. Other signs include:

  • Stopped, irregular, or heavy periods
  • Excessive hair on your body or face
  • Oily skin
  • Acne
  • Pelvic pain
  • Dark or discolored skin
  • Having difficulties in conceiving

Solutions for Brown Discharge in Perimenopause

When the brown vaginal discharge is because of perimenopause, you cannot do much to avoid it. It’s all because of the fluctuating hormones. However, there are things to do from your end to relieve yourself from the discomfort.

  • Harsh soaps could irritate the vagina or vulva, increasing your discomfort. So, you must clean the vaginal area regularly with warm water and medicated or doctor-approved non-soap cleansers.
  • Go for cotton underwear instead of the synthetic ones. This is because they are breathable and can absorb the moisture better from the discharge or sweat, leading to minimum irritation. Many women even go for disposable pantyliners, especially if they have heavy discharge. 
  • Avoid hot baths when you have vaginal discharge, as it could disrupt the pH levels of the vagina and intensify the dryness, itching, and inflammation. You should also stay away from scented bathing products.
  • Do not douch, as that could disrupt the natural bacterial and fungal balance of your vagina, triggering an infection.

If brown discharge is a recurring problem, do not delay contacting the doctor.

FAQs

When should you see your doctor for brown discharge during menopause?

If the discharge is due to fluctuating hormone levels, then in most cases, it doesn’t need treatment. However, if you have experienced brown discharge for many weeks or if a foul smell accompanies it, then medical help is required. Also, a doctor’s consultation is necessary if there is cramping, pain, burning sensation, or vaginal itching along with the discharge.

What will be the diagnosis procedure?

Upon knowing your symptoms, the doctor will conduct a pelvic examination. They may even check your vagina for any swelling or redness. If needed, the doctor may even send a sample of the vaginal discharge to the laboratory for further testing.
The pH level may be checked, and the discharge may even be tested with a microscope to check the growth of yeast or bacteria. On the basis of the results, your healthcare provider will decide whether treatment is needed.

Conclusion

If the brown discharge is because you are transitioning into menopause, it will lessen by the time you reach the later half of perimenopause. Moreover, by menopause, it will subside eventually. However, if you have any other alarming symptoms, then do not pass them off as perimenopause woes. Address it right away and immediately contact the doctor.

Ensure to provide the healthcare provider with adequate information, like your last menstrual period, any medications you are on, or even any pain you face in the abdominal or pelvic region.

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.