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Black Discharge: 9 Possible Causes & Treatments

Black Discharge: 9 Possible Causes & Treatments

Witnessing a vaginal discharge that is unusual in colour, texture, or consistency can cause you to hit the mental panic button. However, not all ‘unusual’ discharges are a reason to worry. The colour of your menstrual blood can vary greatly, and barring a few situations, most colours don’t warrant concern.

One of the most common variations of menstrual blood is the black discharge. This post will explore what it is, why it is caused, and whether (and when) you should seek medical help.

What causes black discharge and how is it treated?
What causes black discharge and how is it treated?

Is black discharge normal?

A black discharge is quite normal in most cases despite seeming alarming at first. The black colour of the discharge results from oxidation of the blood that has taken too long to exit the uterus. As the blood sits in the body exposed to oxygen, the hemoglobin-the red pigment in your blood gets oxidized and changes from a bright red to black colour.

What does the colour of your period blood mean?

When menstruating, your body throws out many things, including blood and bits of tissue from the endometrial lining. Several factors can impact the appearance of the menstrual flow, including hormones, the intensity of bleeding, the age of the blood, and even your diet.

As the menstrual cycle progresses, the colour of the menstrual blood gradually changes from bright red in the beginning to almost brown by the last day of your period. During the first two days of your period, the uterus sheds its lining rapidly, and there is no time for the released blood to get oxidized in the uterus.

If you are concerned with the colour of your menstrual discharge, it is best to seek medical advice.

What are the causes of having a black discharge?

There can be several reasons for seeing a black discharge. In comparison, some reasons are normal, while others warrant further investigation.

Black discharge before a period

It is normal for many women to see black spots before their period starts. The black colour comes from the blood that might have been left over from your last period. As the blood sits in your body for long, it might get completely oxidized, turning it into a darker colour.

When menstruating, your uterus and vagina are trying to clean themselves. As the discharge flow is slow in the beginning, it gives any left-over blood a chance to oxidize as it leaves your body.

Black discharge after a period

Sometimes, you might see a black discharge at the end of your period, which is also quite normal. As the menstrual phase of your cycle ends, the blood flow reduces, and it takes longer for the blood to leave the body. As the blood gets exposed to oxygen and other elements, it gets oxidized and changes its colour from bright red to dark brown and even black.

Something stuck in the vagina.

Sometimes, an obstruction in your vagina can also result in a black discharge. The story of a forgotten tampon is far too common. Other objects can also be forgotten in the vagina and can create an obstruction. Sex toys, condoms, diaphragms, and sponges can easily get stuck and forgotten about in the vagina.

As these foreign objects sit in your vagina, they can trigger an infection resulting in black, bloody discharge that is usually accompanied by

  • Discomfort,
  • Itching
  • Pelvic pain
  • Difficulty in urinating
  • Fever

If you are experiencing black discharge and some of these symptoms, it is wise to seek immediate medical attention. If not addressed promptly, it might lead to a life-threatening infection such as Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Retained period blood

Another reason for black discharge is the menstrual blood that cannot leave the body for any reason. The retained blood, also called hematocolpos or retained menses, can fill up the vaginal canal and get darker as it sits there.

Having retained menses is a congenital condition that results in pelvic anatomy issues. Doctors can diagnose it during early adolescence. In some cases, surgical complications have also led to retained menses.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including gonorrhea and chlamydia, can result in unpleasant discharge, pain, and burning sensation. If the condition is left untreated, the infection can spread from the vagina and cervix to the upper genital tract and is called PID at this point.

One of the classic symptoms of PID is a black discharge with a foul smell. If you experience any symptoms of an STI, seek immediate medical help. PID is one of the leading causes of infertility among women in Australia.

Should I wear a pad for black discharge?
Should I wear a pad for black discharge?

Implantation

Implantation is the process in which the fertilized embryo implants itself in the wall of the uterus. Some women experience spotting or light bleeding during this phase of early pregnancy. If the blood released during implantation takes longer to leave your body, it might oxidize, turning dark brown or even black.

You should keep in mind that all women do not experience implantation bleeding, but get a medical opinion if you experience it along with early signs of pregnancy.

Lochia

Bleeding after giving birth, also called Lochia or post-partum bleeding, is similar to menstrual flow. Post-partum bleeding usually lasts for four to six weeks and contains blood along with pieces of the endometrial lining, bits of tissue, and even white blood cells.

The appearance of Lochia changes over time. It starts as bright red colour and changes to pink or brown as time elapses. In some cases, if the flow is very slow, it might turn dark brown or even black.

Miscarriage

Noticing a black discharge can also be a sign of early miscarriage. Unfortunately, about 10-20% of pregnancies in Australia result in miscarriages. In some cases, if the miscarriage has occurred during the very early stages of pregnancy, there might be no other signs apart from the black discharge.

Silent miscarriages happen when the fetus has stopped developing, but the body is yet to realize the loss of pregnancy.

Cervical cancer (Very rarely)

A black discharge might signify cervical cancer, although it is a very rare occurrence. Other symptoms usually accompany black discharge in cervical cancer include irregular bleeding after sex or bleeding between periods.

Advanced stages of cervical cancer also come with a battery of other symptoms, including weight loss, fatigue, pain in the pelvic and abdominal region, and difficulty in urinating.

How is black discharge treated?

If the black discharge is a part of your menstrual bleeding, treatment is unnecessary. If you are experiencing other symptoms along with black discharge, it would be best to seek medical help.

The line of treatment depends on the underlying cause of the black discharge. A plan of action for treating a vaginal obstruction would be different from that for a miscarriage, for example.

When should you see a doctor?

If the black discharge is not a usual occurrence for you and if other symptoms accompany it, you should seek medical advice. A black discharge can point to some serious underlying issue, as we have seen above. Hence, if you suspect that there is something off, you should consult your OBGYN.

Some of the symptoms that can be a reason for concern when accompanying black discharge include-

  • Foul smell
  • Vaginal discomfort, itching
  • Havier-than-usual discharge
  • Pain, fever, or severe cramping

If you have a black discharge incident outside your menstrual cycle window, you should immediately seek medical attention.

Tracking your period can be of great help in such situations. Learning the patterns of your discharges over the past few cycles can help you understand and cope with the situation better.

Why do I have dark discharge and im not on my period?
Why do I have dark discharge and I’m not on my period?

FAQs on black discharge and period blood

Why does period blood vary in colour?

Period blood can vary in both colour and texture. Several factors can determine the colour and consistency of the period blood, including lifestyle, diet, and hormones. The colour of the discharge can indicate several things about your reproductive health.

Why is my discharge black?

Black discharge is usually due to the blood that has taken longer to come out of the uterus. As the blood spends a longer time in the body, it oxidizes and turns into a dark brown or black colour.

Can stress cause black discharge?

The effects of stress on your fertility and reproductive health have been thoroughly documented. As stress can lead to hormonal imbalances, it can cause irregular periods and occasionally cause black discharge.

Can dark brown or black discharge indicate pregnancy?

Although black discharge can be an early sign of pregnancy, it is not observed in most women. It is a result of what is known as implantation bleeding. As the embryo implants itself in the endometrial lining of the uterus, a small amount of blood may be discharged.

Again, you don’t need to notice implantation bleeding if you are in the early stages of your pregnancy. One of the best ways to know whether you are pregnant or not is by using Fertility2family’s affordable and scientifically accurate pregnancy test kits.

To conclude

Seeing a dark brown or a black discharge can be alarming, but it is not always a bad sign. However, if you are experiencing other symptoms such as discomfort, itching, cramps, or fever, it might be best to see your doctor to rule out any complications.