Brown smelly discharge

A vaginal discharge is normal and all women have it on a regular basis. However, there are types of discharges that can be extremely alarming and warrant immediate medical attention. They could indicate an infection, a sexually transmitted disease, and even cancer.

There are different types of vaginal discharges and each of them has an implication on your health. A vaginal discharge can be clear and watery, clear and stretchy, yellowish to green, or brown/bloody. (1, 2, 3)

In this article, we are going to discuss brown smelly discharges. Is a brown discharge a sign of pregnancy? Is it a sign of infection? Is it a sexually transmitted disease? Or is it something more serious like cancer?

The answer to this question lies on when you have such brown smelly discharge. If you have it right after your menstrual cycle, then it is just a normal occurrence. However, if it occurs during the usual time of your period and you had sexual contact without protection, then it could be a presumptive pregnancy sign.

A word of caution though; a brown smelly discharge can indicate an advanced cervical cancer. It is one of the reasons women are highly encouraged to get yearly Pap smear. (2, 3, 4)

A brown smelly discharge usually takes place after your menstrual period image photo picture

Image 1: A brown smelly discharge usually takes place after your menstrual period.
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There are instances when you have brown smelly discharge after having a sexual intercourse image photo picture

Picture 2: There are instances when you have brown smelly discharge after having a sexual intercourse.
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Brown smelly discharge after period

The vagina has a distinct smell, which is pretty natural. A slight variation in the smell does not necessarily mean that there is an infection. It could be secondary to hormonal changes, especially if you are about to have a menstrual period.

The smell of the vagina can also be affected by the foods you eat. However, a strong or disturbing vaginal smell can indicate a yeast infection, a sexually transmitted disease, or of other causes. A brown smelly discharge is most of the time linked with problems in the reproductive system. (3, 4, 5, 6)

What could be possibly the causes of brown smelly discharge?

Hormonal reasons

Your hormones can fluctuate secondary to your menstrual cycle, which sometimes leads to brownish discharges or spotting.

Birth control use

A small amount of uterine bleeding (breakthrough bleeding) characterized by brownish vaginal discharge can be secondary to birth control use. It is usually common in women taking birth control pills (low dose and progestin-only pill), depot shots, and hormonal intrauterine device.

Sexually transmitted disease

What STD gives you a brown discharge? The most common ones are chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and gonorrhea.

Minor vaginal abrasions

During sexual intercourse, there is a possibility that a woman will have a minor vaginal abrasion leading to brownish spotting. It is common in women with vaginal dryness.

Uterine/cervical cancer

A smelly brown discharge could indicate a serious problem such as uterine or cervical cancer. Most of the time, the condition is already in the advanced stage because uterine/cervical cancer is asymptomatic in the early stage.


As the initial bleeding subsides, there could be some brownish and sometimes smelly discharge, which is common in women who have had a miscarriage.

Placenta problem during pregnancy

If you are pregnant and you notice some brownish or reddish discharge, then you need to see your doctor the soonest time possible as it could indicate a problem in the placenta.

Tampon use

Many women sometimes forget to remove their tampon which could lead to brownish and sometimes smelly discharges. If it has been there for a few days, there is a possibility of infection, which explains why the smell is somewhat disturbing.

Bleeding disorder

Women who have bleeding disorders can experience brownish vaginal discharge. The same thing goes for women who are on a blood thinning medication. (5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Brown smelly discharge treatment

Wiping the vagina after using the bathroom from front to back helps prevent the spread of infection image photo picture

Photo 3: Wiping the vagina after using the bathroom from front to back helps prevent the spread of infection.
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Make sure you visit your doctor regularly and have a regular Pap smear, which is every year image photo picture

Image 4: Make sure you visit your doctor regularly and have a regular Pap smear, which is every year.
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The treatment for brown smelly vaginal discharge depends on what’s causing the problem. If the doctor detects that it is caused by a yeast infection, then it should be treated with antifungal medication. If the cause is bacteria, then it will be treated with an antibiotic. If it is cancer, then a long-term course of treatment is needed.

Home remedies for brown smelly discharge

Brown smelly discharge can be prevented and remedied the natural way. Here are the following ways to treat brown smelly discharge naturally:

  • Make sure your vaginal is clean all the time. You don’t need to use an expensive vaginal wash. All you need is a clean water and mild soap. As much as possible, you have to avoid using scented products on your vagina.
  • After using the bathroom, make sure you wipe your vagina from front to back and not the other way around. By doing so, you can prevent the bacteria from getting into your vagina.
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes and as much as possible, you should wear cotton underwear.
  • Do not use douches as they can get rid of good bacteria.
    Practice safe sex and other methods to prevent sexually transmitted disease. (6, 8, 9, 10)

What to keep in mind?

The occasional brown smelly discharge does not indicate a serious medical problem. However, there are instances when it signals an underlying infection. So, it is best to see your doctor, especially if you are uncomfortable with the odor down there.

The most crucial part of having a bad odor and brown vaginal discharge is cancer. Uterine or cervical cancer are asymptomatic in the early stage. They will only show symptoms if they are already in the advanced stage. It is the very same reason why health care professionals stress the importance of regular Pap smear to detect any abnormalities at an early stage.

The more you need to consult your doctor if aside from a smelly brown discharge, you are also suffering from pain in the abdomen, fever, increased frequency of urination, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. The doctor will conduct a physical exam and pelvic exam.

The doctor will also ask for past medical and surgical history as well as other things that have something to do with your health condition. These include the symptoms, details of your menstrual cycle, and sexual habit. If the doctor is suspecting cancer, he/she will scrape tissue in the cervix and sent to the laboratory for further testing.



Published on July 19th, 2018 by under Pregnancy.
Article was last reviewed on July 19th, 2018.

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