Just when you think your period is done, you wipe and find brown discharge. As frustrating — and possibly alarming — as it can be, brown discharge after your period is pretty normal.

Blood turns brown when it’s been sitting awhile. Brown discharge after a period is usually old or dried blood that was slow to leave your uterus.

Occasionally, brown and bloody discharge could be a sign of a problem when it’s accompanied by other symptoms.

Here’s a rundown of what could cause brown discharge after your period finishes.

Dry period blood

Blood that takes longer to exit your body becomes darker, often brown. It may also appear thicker, drier, and clumpier than regular blood.

The brown color is the result of oxidation, which is a normal process. It happens when your blood comes into contact with air.

You may notice your period blood becomes darker or brown near the end of your period.

Some women experience brown discharge for a day or two after their period ends. Others have brown discharge that comes and goes for a week or two. It really just depends on how well your uterus sheds its lining and the speed at which it exits your body. Everyone is different.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels. Higher levels of male hormones cause irregular periods and sometimes no period at all.

PCOS affects between 6 and 10 percent of women of childbearing age.

Sometimes brown discharge happens in place of a period. Other times brown discharge after a period is old blood from a previous period.

Other symptoms of PCOS include:

Perimenopause

Perimenopause is when your body begins to make the natural transition to menopause. It can begin as many as 10 years before the official start of menopause, usually in a woman’s 30s and 40s.

During this time, your estrogen levels rise and fall, causing changes to your menstrual cycle. Perimenopause periods can be longer or shorter. You may also have cycles without ovulation.

These changes often cause brown discharge after your period and sometimes during other parts of your cycle.

Other symptoms of perimenopause include:

Birth control implant

A birth control implant is a type of hormonal birth control that is implanted into the upper arm, just under the skin. It releases progestin hormone into the body to prevent pregnancy.

Irregular menstrual bleeding and brown discharge as your body adjusts to the hormone are common side effects.

Sexually transmitted infections

Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause brown discharge or spotting outside of your period. These include:

Other common symptoms to look out for include:

If you miss a period, you may have brownish discharge in place of a regular period or have it sometime after your period would have ended. PCOS and perimenopause are common causes.

You may also experience missed periods followed by brown discharge if you’ve recently started using a new hormonal birth control. Sometimes it can also be a sign of pregnancy.

Brown discharge can replace a period or come after a missed period during early pregnancy. Other signs and symptoms of early pregnancy include:

While brown discharge after a period by itself usually isn’t a big deal, it could indicate a problem when accompanied by other symptoms. Here’s a look at what it could mean:

Brown discharge after period and cramps

If you experience brown discharge and cramps after your period, it could be caused by PCOS or early pregnancy.

Early miscarriage could also cause these symptoms. Sometimes the bleeding and cramps caused by miscarriage are mistaken for a period. The blood from a miscarriage can be red, but it can also be brown and resemble coffee grounds.

Brown discharge with odor after period

Period blood usually has some odor, but if you notice brown discharge with a strong odor, an STI is the most likely cause.

Brown discharge can be a sign of a problem when it’s accompanied by other symptoms, such as pain, itching, and a strong odor. Changes to your menstrual cycle, such as missed periods or irregular periods, or heavy periods could also indicate a problem.

See a doctor if you’re worried about your discharge or have a lot of it. Also see a doctor if you think you might be pregnant or have other concerning symptoms, such as:

  • pain or cramping
  • itching
  • burning sensation when you pee
  • a strong odor
  • severe vaginal bleeding

Brown discharge after your period usually isn’t a cause for concern as it’s nothing more than old, dried blood.

If you have other worrying symptoms or there’s a chance you could be pregnant or miscarrying, make an appointment to see a doctor.