When you’re expecting, all kinds of strange (and wonderful) things happen to your body. But what about brown discharge in pregnancy? Is this normal?

First of all, don’t panic. While it may be scary (not to be mention a bit icky!), it’s quite common. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong.

Here’s everything you need to know about experiencing brown discharge when you’re pregnant – including what causes it and when you should be concerned.

A common pregnancy symptom

Bleeding, or spotting, is quite normal in pregnancy and happens to quite a number of women. But some of us might also find a charming brown (and possibly pink) discharge on our next toilet visit. If this is you don’t worry. In the majority of cases you and your baby aren’t in any danger.

So, what exactly is it?

Well, as women we all experience vaginal discharge from time to time (also known as leukorrhea). And it can be a number of different colours. But when we’re pregnant, any discharge we have is thicker and heavier thanks to all those pregnancy hormones.

Then when the discharge also appears brown or pinkish brown, this is just the result of normal discharge mixing with a bit of blood. The reason it looks brown is because the blood is old and has taken a little while to leave the uterus. (When blood is old it turns brown).

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Yikes! What causes it?

There are a number of different factors which might cause brown discharge during pregnancy. The most likely ones include:

  • Implantation bleeding – If your pregnancy is still in the very early stages there could be some light discharge around week four, related to your fertilised egg implanting in your uterine wall. You would most likely have to be looking for signs that you might be pregnant to notice this however.
  • Cervical irritation – Your cervix is the lower part of your uterus which expands and opens during labour. When you’re pregnant there are more blood vessels in that area than normal which therefore means it can bleed quite easily. Usually this occurs when it’s been irritated, by something such as having sex.

In many cases however, there is no known cause for brown discharge when you’re pregnant. Especially if you’re in your first trimester.

When to be concerned about brown discharge in pregnancy 

But in very rare instances, brown discharge during pregnancy can be a sign of something more serious. It could mean one of the following:

  • Ectopic pregnancy – A pregnancy which occurs outside of the womb, such as in the fallopian tubes, is called an ectopic pregnancy. It’s life-threatening and should be treated as an emergency. Bleeding will occur and may look brown if the blood is old, however there are other symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy outside of brown discharge. These include fainting, dizziness, shoulder pain, pelvic or abdominal pain. If you experience any of these on top of brown discharge, then get to a hospital immediately.
  • Miscarriage – One of the earliest signs of a miscarriage is bleeding (red or brown). However, like an ectopic pregnancy there will also be other symptoms such as cramping, watery fluid discharge, an increase in bright red bleeding, abdominal and lower back pain.
  • Placenta issues – Complications with the placenta, such as placenta accreta when the placenta embeds itself in the uterine wall, might also cause bleeding or brown discharge.

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Brown discharge = baby??

Brown discharge during pregnancy might also be caused by something else – your baby being on its way! If you’re in your third trimester you might be losing your mucus plug because you’re going into labour.

This cervical plug is something which helps prevent bacteria reaching your uterus when you’re pregnant. As your body prepares for childbirth, the cervix softens and out comes your plug which usually looks like mucus. The ‘show’ also appears not long after this, which looks like a bloody discharge and can be red or brown.

So if you’re near your due date and see something brown down below, then get to hospital! Especially if you’re experiencing other signs of being in labour (e.g. waters breaking, back pain or contractions).

The brown low-down

The important thing to remember is that in most cases brown discharge during pregnancy is not a big deal at all. It usually won’t last long and you can simply use panty liners for a day or so.

It’s a good idea to mention it to your doctor however just in case. And if it lasts longer than a few days, or you experience any other symptoms – such as severe pain, fainting or excessive/bright red bleeding – then definitely seek medical advice immediately. 

Want to know more about what happens when you’re pregnant? Here are 11 strange pregnancy symptoms you might not know about, and the deal with weird pregnancy food cravings!


Susan is a Sydney based writer and mum of three highly energetic boys who keep her firmly on her toes (and slightly bonkers). When she’s not writing or trying to keep it all together she’s probably reading, watching Netflix or having a sneaky massage.

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