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Bothersome Brown Discharge and Birth Control: The Relationship that Afflicts Many Women

After four years of taking birth control pills, she is experiencing brown vaginal discharge. This is despite her otherwise healthy lifestyle: smart food choices, regular exercise and a monogamous relationship. The culprit is imbalanced hormones as a result of extended birth control use.

Case #: 891


I’ve been on birth control for about four years now, and I’ve been noticing some brown discharge! There are no signs or symptoms of STDs, but I’m concerned. I do eat a very healthy diet, and I exercise every day. I’ve had the same sex partner for the past two years, and we use protection. I just would like to know what’s going on.


It’s hard to recognize what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to vaginal discharge. It probably seems like this organ shouldn’t expel anything, particularly nothing of color. But the vagina is a self-sustaining organ that uses discharge to clean itself. The liquid you see expels toxins, bacteria and dirt from the vagina to prevent infection. Given this perspective, discharge is beneficial and should not be cause for worry.

This does not mean all secretions are made equal. Abnormal discharge is that which varies in color and quantity from what you typically have. All women have some discharge –clear or milky white means the vagina is healthy. But secretions that resemble cottage cheese, smell foul or are accompanied by itching or pain suggest illness. Colors to look for include grey, yellow and green.

The Mechanics of Birth Control

At this point, you’re probably asking about the brown discharge you have. This is separate from both the normal and abnormal categories because it’s neither. Brown discharge is, however, quite common in women who take oral contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. The cause rests in how birth control pills disrupt natural hormone levels.

Birth control prevents pregnancy on several different levels. Many varieties contain synthetic blends of estrogen and progesterone that stop ovulation. The pill also causes cervical mucus to become thicker so sperm cannot easily travel through a woman’s reproductive system. Finally, birth control changes the lining of the uterus so it is hostile to embryos. This means if an egg did become fertilized within a woman’s body, it would have no place to go for growth and nourishment.

Brown Discharge and Your Hormones

Brown discharge is usually referred to as breakthrough bleeding or spotting. It is composed of the same elements as your period: the uterine lining your body did not use for pregnancy. Many health care professionals explain that spotting is normal in the first several months after starting birth control. In your case, however, you’ve been on birth control long enough that the culprit is imbalanced hormones.

In the early part of a woman’s menstrual cycle, the ovaries product estrogen to stimulate growth of a thick lining in the uterus. This is done in preparation for pregnancy. During ovulation, which occurs about mid-cycle, one ovary releases one egg. Progesterone levels then begin to increase to further prepare the lining for embryo implantation. When pregnancy does not take place, hormone levels drop and the lining is shed during menstruation.

Birth control interrupts this entire process with synthetic hormones that cause natural hormone levels to rise too high or drop too low. In your case, estrogen isn’t high enough to grow a thick and healthy uterine lining. Its thin consistency causes it to drift and shed throughout the month, which explains your brown discharge.

Stop the Discharge

You may need to stop or adjust the dose of birth control you currently take. You also need to metabolize the hormones currently in your body to restore them to balance. A detoxification formula can help you do just that with a natural blend of herbs designed to cleanse the liver.

A significant portion of your body’s hormones are metabolized by the liver. This organ can, however, become fatigued when synthetic hormones are added to those already naturally produced by the body. Ingredients like Bupleurum Chinese and Fenugreek improve beneficial flora in the vagina and reduce the quantity of discharge. (SEE: Relief for Vaginal Infection) They also improve liver function so your body can operate the way it’s intended.

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