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Is Brown Discharge A Sign Of Labor? Here's What You Need To Know

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As a woman, you're probably all too familiar with vaginal discharge. Seeing different types of discharge expelled from your vagina is normal bodily process, but what about during pregnancy? Is brown discharge a sign of labor? While you may have noticed different amounts and colors of discharge throughout your pregnancy, seeing brown secretions late in the game can be startling.

As the due date for my first born approached, I found myself looking for any signal that my body was preparing to evict my little guy. Keeping my eyes peeled for signs of labor was basically all I did throughout the end of that pregnancy, so some brown-tinted discharge had me all worked up that either something was wrong or that labor might be approaching. Luckily, it was the latter.

Vaginal discharge is a completely normal and natural part of womanhood, but knowing what different types of discharge can say about what your body is doing is extremely important, especially during pregnancy. Discharge during pregnancy can appear to be a variety of colors and thicknesses with the main reason being that your hormones are working to grow a baby in your uterus, according to What To Expect — it's all just part of the process.

"It is not uncommon to experience all sorts of discharge near the end of pregnancy," Megan Davidson, a Brooklyn-based doula and author of Your Birth Plan, tells Romper. "The mucous plug, for example, can begin to come out as discharge when your cervix is starting to change in preparation for birth. I’ve had clients lose parts of their mucous plug for weeks before labor and this is normal."

The impending birth of your baby is something that you have roughly waited nine months for, so toward the end of those long months, you'll likely be on the lookout for clues that the time has finally arrived just like I was. One of these clues can definitely be the color or amount of your discharge. This is especially true if your mucous plug (the collection of mucous at the entrance to your cervix blocking bacteria from entering your uterus) beings to descend into your vagina, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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So, what does it mean when your discharge is brown? Typically, brown discharge is the appearance of blood in the discharge that has been inside of your body for a while, per What To Expect. This is definitely the case with your mucous plug, as it has been blocking the entrance to your cervix for many months. As your body begins to prepare for birth, your mucous plug can make an appearance outside of your body in the form of increased discharge and can bring with it a multitude of colors and textures, according to Healthline.

"If you notice small amounts of brown, pink, or red blood mixed with the mucous, this is normal," Davidson tells Romper. "If you are concerned about any discharge you notice, check with your care provider to confirm that it is normal."

While brown discharge may be a sign that labor is near, this is not always the case, according to Davidson. It could just mean that your doctor has recently checked your cervix for signs of progress. "If you’ve recently had an internal exam, the exam can cause cramping, discharge of mucus, and small amounts of bleeding — but this is not necessarily the beginning of labor," Davidson tells Romper.

"It’s also normal to not notice any mucus prior to labor," Davidson notes. So, don't be shocked if you don't see any discharge — brown or otherwise — before your water breaks or contractions hit.

Experts:

Megan Davidson, PhD, labor doula, childbirth educator, and chest/breastfeeding counselor of BrooklynDoula. Author of Your Birth Plan: A Guide to Navigating All of Your Choices in Childbirth.

Edit note: This post has been updated from its original version.