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Is Brown Discharge a Side Effect of Birth Control?

Brown discharge isn’t exactly sexy or fun. But the good news is, it’s normal.

For women taking hormonal birth control — such as the pill, ring, shot, or patch — the appearance of some dark discharge is nothing to be concerned about. The discharge, which can also be a side effect of emergency contraception, is just the body expelling some old blood and vaginal fluid.

What Causes Brown Discharge?

Many birth control methods work by altering the level of hormones in a woman’s body, which can cause a number of side effects.

Increased hormone levels cause the lining of the uterus to thin, as a thick uterine lining promotes fertilization and fetal growth. As the body breaks down that lining, some of it can break away and be discharged from the body. The lining can also get trapped, be mixed with blood and vaginal fluid over time, and then be discharged as well. 

Missing birth control pills can increase your chance for brown discharge. Staying on schedule puts the body onto a certain hormonal schedule. Breaking that schedule can induce breakthrough bleeding or brown spotting that can eventually turn into a full-blown period.

How Long Does Brown Discharge Last?

Most side effects associated with starting birth control, including brown discharge, diminish or disappear after 2-3 months.

What if the brown discharge continues? Talk to your medical provider. Ask him or her to rule out less common causes.

In the meantime, monitor the discharge. If it becomes darker or more frequent, share those details with your healthcare provider.

Can Infection Cause Brown Discharge?

Some sexually transmitted infections can cause pink or brown discharge. Common infections that cause dark-colored discharge include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and bacterial vaginosis.

To know whether an STI may be the blame, look for other symptoms. If the discharge has a strong odor, is accompanied by unusual vaginal pain, or comes at unusual times in your cycle, it might be indicative of an infection unrelated to birth control.

Can I Reduce the Risk of Brown Discharge?

While brown discharge due to birth control poses no medical risks, it can still be a frustrating issue for many women. Methods for reducing the chance of brown discharge include:

  • Taking birth control regularly. The most important thing women experiencing brown discharge can do to reduce it is to stick to their birth control schedule. Taking it irregularly can confuse the body and cause unusual bleeding and discharge.
  • Staying hydrated. Water is key for every bodily function imaginable. By staying hydrated, the body can more efficiently expel any unwanted lining and prevent it from building up.
  • Changing birth control methods. If brown discharge is persistent, you might be using a method of birth control that doesn’t work well with your body. Ask our team to help you find a birth control method that fits your needs.

Brown discharge isn’t a big deal, but it is solvable. Be patient. Don’t give up if your first choice of birth control doesn’t pan out.

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