During your period, your uterine lining discharges a combination of blood and tissues. Once your period officially ends though, it’s still possible to have discharge from the vagina.
The color and consistency of vaginal discharge fluctuates throughout your cycle. It’s typically brown right after your period is done for the month.
However, it’s also possible to have discharge that isn’t normal, especially if you notice a yellow or green color. Paying attention to discharge can tell you a lot about your vaginal health. It can also help you determine whether it’s time to see a doctor.
Due to hormonal fluctuations, the type of vaginal discharge you have can fluctuate throughout the month. In some cases, it can also indicate a health condition that may need to be addressed by your doctor. Below are the most common causes:
- Old blood. The most common cause of discharge after your period is old blood that’s still being expelled from the uterine lining. This can occur within a few days after your normal flow has already stopped, and tends to be brownish in color. While you might see a little bit of brown discharge after your period, it’s usually not heavy enough to need feminine products.
- Ovulation. In a typical 28-day cycle, you may ovulate within two weeks after the first day of your period. After your period, you might notice clear to white discharge from your cervix as your estrogen levels start to increase. You may see this type of discharge even sooner if you tend to have shorter cycles each month.
- Birth control pills. Oral contraceptives increase the amount of estrogen and progesterone in the body, which in turn leads to more vaginal discharge throughout the month.
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV). While it’s normal to have a healthy amount of vaginal bacteria, this condition can occur when a bacterial imbalance occurs. BV causes a grayish-colored discharge and is accompanied by pain, redness, and itching.
- Yeast infection. A yeast infection can occur during or after your period, as well as any time of the month. This is caused by an over-production of yeast, which leads to itching, burning, and thick, cottage cheese–like vaginal discharge.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Having an STI can also cause vaginal discharge. However, these tend to be yellow or green in color. They can also cause strong vaginal odors. Possible STIs include chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and gonorrhea.
The color of your vaginal discharge says a lot about your health as well as where you’re at in your monthly cycle. Colors can range from white to pink to yellow. You can always check with your doctor if you have concerns.
Brown discharge following your period doesn’t require any treatment. The same is true for different points in your cycle where you might experience an influx of clear or white discharge. However, you might consider wearing a pantyliner for comfort and peace of mind.
If you have a possible infection, you’ll need treatment to get rid of it. A mild yeast infection may be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) or home remedies and should clear up in 2 to 3 days.
OTC treatments contain antifungal ointments and suppositories. Moderate to severe yeast infections may require stronger antifungal treatments and may take weeks to resolve. You may want to see your doctor if this is your first yeast infection or if the yeast infection does not clear up in two to three days with OTC treatments.
BV and STIs require a doctor’s visit. They’ll first take a sample with a vaginal swab to determine the cause of your symptoms. BV and most STIs are treatable with antibiotics. If you notice symptoms after finishing your prescription, you’ll need to see your doctor for follow-up treatment.
Vaginal odor is also considered normal, and it may be kept at bay with good hygiene practices. These include wearing breathable underwear, taking daily showers, and avoiding scented products. Vaginal douching products aren’t recommended.
Odor that’s extremely strong or fishy smelling could indicate an infection, especially if you experience colored discharge, pain, and itchiness, too.
It’s always a good idea to see your doctor if you’re experiencing unusual changes in your vaginal health. Brown discharge after your period isn’t usually a cause for concern, but you may want to see your doctor if you have any other symptoms, such as pain and itchiness.
Call your doctor if you continuously experience brown spotting. This is one possible sign of cervical or uterine cancers, which should be ruled out.
You should also call your doctor if you notice any of the following:
- colored discharge, especially yellow and green
- bleeding that lasts longer than normal
- redness and swelling around the vulva
- severe cramps or pelvic pain
- pain during intercourse
- painful urination
- heavy discharge
Having discharge right after your period is completely normal. It’s most likely to consist of old blood shedding from the uterus.
Vaginal discharge also fluctuates in color and thickness throughout your cycle each month. Still, you should talk to your doctor if you notice any unusual discharge, especially if it’s accompanied by any other symptoms.