Brown Smelly Discharge

It is normal and even healthy to produce a white, clear discharge from your vagina. The neck of the womb or cervix produces mucus. The color of this discharge may change throughout your menstrual cycle, but it is usually brown by the end of your period. Healthy discharge will be white without any bad smell. Many women end up witnessing brown smelly discharge and they wonder if that's normal or not. Keep reading to learn more about it.

What Causes Brown Smelly Discharge?

You may notice brown discharge anytime during your menstrual cycle. You don't have to worry about it if you experience it before period, especially if you're on contraceptive pills. It may also be the outcome of implantation bleeding which means pregnancy, but when the brown discharge is accompanied with bad smell, it can indicate vaginal infections. Smelly discharge usually indicates a problem in reproductive system of a woman, and this could be due to the following causes:

  • Gonorrhea: This highly infectious sexually transmitted infection will make you produce a green-yellow smelly discharge. You may even experience lower abdominal pain. You have up to 90% chances of developing this infection if you have sex with someone who already has it.
  • Trichomoniasis: Caused by the infection of the Trichomonas vaginalis, it can cause a yellow-green, strong smelling discharge. You will also notice the affected area become itchy and sore. It is common to experience pain when passing urine.
  • Bacterial Vaginosis: Anaerobic bacteria can invade your vagina and disturb its natural balance. It kills lactobacilli that may result in itching and burning along with an increase in your vaginal discharge. You will notice a brown smelly discharge – it will have a fishy odor, especially after you are exposed to menstrual fluid or semen.
  • Cancer or Inflammation: You may notice brown smelly discharge due to pelvic inflammatory disease or cervical cancer. Pelvic inflammatory disease will cause pain in pelvis or lower abdomen, fever, painful urination and discharge with unpleasant odor. 
  • Forgotten Tampons: You may experience an increase in natural discharge due to 'lost' tampons'. Many women forget about removing the tampon at the end of a period. When left inside your vagina for another couple of weeks, the tampon will fester and produce a foul-smelling discharge.

Other Causes

In addition to the causes mentioned above, you may also experience brown smelly discharge due to several other causes. For instance:

  • You have just started taking a new supplement
  • You have started using new laundry soap
  • You're eating too much of spicy foods
  • You are sensitive to latex condoms, pads, and tampons
  • You have human papillomavirus
  • You have missed your birth control pills or hormonal pills
  • You are under too much stress lately
  • You have cervical polyps or fibroids with infection 

Due to different underlying causes, the amount and smell of discharge may be different for every woman. Any color from clear to a milky white appearance is normal. The volume may increase if you're breastfeeding, ovulating, or sexually aroused. The smell may change as well during pregnancy.

Yeast Infection May Not Be the Cause

More than 75% of women experience a yeast infection in their lifetimes. Known as candida Vaginitis, it refers to the overgrowth of yeast found naturally in your vagina. You will notice a thick white discharge that looks more like cottage cheese and causes severe itching as well. However, this infection does not cause your discharge to be smelly. You may also experience itchiness and pain when urinating.

How Do I Know If My Discharge Is Unhealthy?

You may have a vaginal infection if your discharge changes its color, consistency, or smell suddenly. Be sure to get familiar with how your discharge changes its color and consistency throughout your cycle, and go see your doctor if you notice sudden changes. A sudden bad smell, a sudden change in color, and itching outside your vagina with pain in your tummy usually indicate infections.

What to Do About Brown Smelly Discharge

It is important to visit your healthcare provider to identify the underlying cause of any change in your vaginal discharge. Even if it is normal, you will still have to take some steps to manage things better. Here's what you can do about brown smelly discharge:

  • Wear cotton panties to make sure you provide your vagina with some breathing space. This will prevent sweating and buildup of odor-causing bacteria.
  • Be sure to wear loose fitting clothes and change your underwear daily to prevent buildup of sweat that causes smell.
  • Keep your vagina clean to avoid infections that produce an unpleasant smell. Maintain proper hygiene and wash your vagina gently every day. Use mild soap for cleaning and make use of a handheld shower to reach hard-to-clean areas. Be sure to clean the labia and inner folds as well. Avoid douching though because it puts you more at the risk of developing vaginal infections.
  • Use apple cider vinegar (ACV) for cleaning or simply take an ACV bath. Add some ACV to your bathtub and soak in it for some time. It helps because ACV helps restore pH level in your vagina that improves the vaginal flora. This will reduce your risk of infection.
  • Add organic, unflavored yogurt in your diet. Eat yogurt to provide your body with more lactobacillus that maintain proper balance in the vagina. This will also protect you against yeast infections.
  • Consider eating or inserting garlic in your vagina to kill odor-causing bacteria. Garlic is an extremely effective antibiotic and helps clear bacterial infections. Simply take a peeled garlic clove and insert it into your vagina for a few hours. This will work amazingly well to relieve an infection and reduce brown smelly discharge. 
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