By Betsy Hoida, PharmD
Picture this scenario. You are headed out for dinner with your girlfriends. You quickly stop to go to the bathroom, pull down your pants, and….
Ugh. Brownish discharge.
Questions start running rampant. “WHAT is this?” “I didn’t plan for this!” “Am I going to have to rethink my white skirt choice?” Freaking perimenopause…. what next??
And even more anxiety-laden, “Is there something wrong?” “Did I calculate my days for my cycle incorrectly?” Scenarios start running through your mind.
What’s a Savvy Sister to do?
Why Is It Brown?
Although the brown blood looks alarming, it most likely is not concerning. First off, let’s discuss WHY your discharge may be brownish. Menstrual blood that leaves the body quickly is usually bright red. When it stays around inside the uterus, it has a chance to oxidize, turning it a brown or light brown color. Two important details to pay attention to when dealing with brown bleeding are timing and symptoms.
What Are the Common Reasons for Brown Bleeding to Occur?
Tracking your menstrual cycle is a valuable tool for a Savvy Sister. Timing is everything when trying to decipher the magic menstrual cycle. The following list contains times during your period when bleeding may occur.
1.) Bleeding associated with ovulation: Ovulation occurs when your estrogen levels are high. These levels drop after the egg is released. The decrease in estrogen can cause some bleeding and spotting.
2.) Hormonal imbalance caused by perimenopause- Estrogen maintains the lining of the uterus. Menstruation occurs when the lining of the uterus, also known as your period, leaves the body. When estrogen levels are in flux, as expected in perimenopause, this lining may break down at different times, and if it sits around for a while… brown blood results.
3.) Early pregnancy (implantation bleeding): This usually happens a week or two after ovulation and can be brownish in color. It is relatively uncommon, but if you miss a cycle and have other symptoms, you may want to test. “Test, don’t guess” is the mantra in all areas of hormonal changes.
4.) Your body is just doing what it is supposed to: As discussed above, brown blood is blood that is oxidized and hasn’t left the body. Brown blood is frequently prevalent at the beginning and the end of a cycle.
5.) Use of hormonal contraceptives, especially in the first several months: Birth control pills that contain lower levels of estrogen, or only progesterone, are often the culprit for this annoying side effect.
The last reason is not related to your menstrual cycle, but it is a potential cause of brown bleeding.
6.) Cervical irritation: Sometimes, after sex, irritation of the cervix will cause transient bleeding. You can help prevent this by using lubrication and communicating with your partner. If frequent pain accompanies this bleeding, a visit to your healthcare provider may be in order. Sex should be something you should enjoy, not something that causes you pain.
When Should I be Concerned?
The list below contains some symptoms that occur with brown bleeding that could be a sign of a more serious problem and would require a call to your healthcare provider.
Brown bleeding that:
- smells bad
- lasts for several weeks
- is associated with a fever
- is associated with pain and cramping
The Bottom Line:
So, what’s a Savvy Sister to do?
Step 1–> Take a deep breath. You got this.
Step 2–> Keep an eye out for additional symptoms and the timing of brown bleeding.
Step 3–> Consider purchasing “period panties” (maybe of a darker color) to wear or use panty liners. Or buy new ones.
Step 4–> Continue to enjoy life. Women are amazing, adaptable creatures. Switch your white skirt to a black one and carry on, warrior woman.
Dr. Anna Garrett is a menopause expert and Doctor of Pharmacy. She helps women who are struggling with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause find natural hormone-balancing solutions so they can rock their mojo through midlife and beyond. Dr. Anna is the author of Perimenopause: The Savvy Sister’s Guide to Hormone Harmony. Order your copy at www.perimenopausebook.com.
Dr. Anna is available for 1-1 consultations. Find out more at www.drannagarrett.com/lets-