The vagina releases normal secretions to keep it clean and healthy. The color of the discharge ranges from clear to cloudy white or yellowish.
There are times when you may get a black fluid before periods, in early pregnancy, or when on birth control.
The color of the vaginal discharge may vary according to various factors such as the food being consumed, birth control pills being used, the menstrual cycle, and pregnancy.
If it is different from the color spectrum stated, there could be a disease or an infection of some kind. Some of the main causes of the black discharge include the following:
1. Cervical cancer
Cervical cancer occurs when cells on the cervix grow out of control. The cervix is located at the upper end of the vagina and it opens into the uterus. When its cells grow out of control, the process of contracting cancer will begin as a dysplasia (precancerous condition).
Slowly, the cancerous cells would grow into full blown cancer if not detected. Early in the developmental stages of this disease, there are usually no symptoms of any kind. The one way one can know if they have cancer in its early stages is the presence of a black discharge accompanied by a foul-smelling odor.
The main cause of cervical cancer is the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV). Other causes include;
- Having many sexual partners
- Starting sex at an early age
- The use of birth control pills
- A weak immune system
However, before you fret about your black vaginal discharge being a sign of cervical cancer developing, you should consider the following reasons and especially the advice of a trained medical practitioner. Other symptoms of cervical cancer include;
- Pain during sex
- Pain in the pelvis it the lower belly
2. After LEEP
LEEP is Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure. This is a process that entails using a wire loop that has been heated using an electric current in removing abnormal growths in the lower genital tract. It is one of the ways of diagnosing and treating cancer in women.
In the testing phase, the wire is used to cut out a sample of the genital growth for lab testing. The treatment phase requires cutting off the given genital growth before it grows further. This process is carried out after a Pap test has identified the presence of abnormal cells. The LEEP procedure can also be used to treat or diagnose other cases such as;
- Genital warts
- Polyps (which are benign growths)
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure which occurs in women with mothers that took DES.
The cutting process, although done using an electrical current, is still a cut hence will bleed. The bleeding will not be heavy although it will depend on the size of the cut. While it is an internal bleeding, it can be seen as a black vaginal discharge which can occur at any time including before, during and after periods.
However, you should not make the assumption that having a vaginal discharge is caused by the LEEP procedure. Generally, the risks associated with LEEP include;
- Scarring in the cervix due to tissue removal
- Preterm birth
- Difficultyin getting pregnant
- Low birth weight of babies.
To avoid any issues from this procedure, you need to see a doctor if you see or feel any of the following after this procedure;
- A foul-smelling discharge from the vagina
- Bleeding with clots
- Severe pain in the abdomen
- Fever with chills
3. Birth control
The use of birth control pills can also lead to a black or brown vaginal discharge when used for a while. Whatever the amount of the discharge, it is a sure sign that birth control pills are not fully effective on their own and thus need a second method to provide maximum safety from unwanted pregnancies is needed.
Among the reasons why one can experience black or brown discharges include the following;
- Old blood from the last period before taking the birth control pills
- A missed chance to take the pills upsets the endometrium hence the discharge of some blood
- Breakthrough bleeding from the disturbance of hormones
- Using a lower than needed amount of birth control pills i.e. under-dose
Always stick to the prescriptions of each drug to ensure maximum effectiveness. Even with that, there are times when the discharge and side effects are visible.
4. Black menstrual blood clots
In normal menstruation, the blood should be of a light color to show that one is healthy. However, there are times when the discharge is of a black color or a brown one.
It is not unusual to have a heavy period with a black color. What happens in such cases is that the body releases anticoagulants that prevent the blood from clotting during menstruation. If, however, the amount of the anticoagulant released is not enough to take care of all the blood released, clotting will happen. The blood clots will thus come out with the menstruation.
You should not be concerned as far as the black discharge is concerned when on period. However, there is cause for concern when the menstruation is too heavy since it can cause anemia.
Other issues that may contribute to blood clots in menstruation include;
- Fibroids; also referred to as fibromyomas, these are non-cancerous cells in the womb. While they do not grow as such, they can lead to heavy menstruation and even black vaginal discharges especially during period.
- Miscarriage; following a miscarriage, you will also likely experience a dark discharge or blood clots during menstruation owing to the wound in the womb. Seek medical advice immediately you see this color of discharge.
- Hormonal changes; when the balance between estrogen and progesterone is disturbed, the body may respond by developing an unusually thick uterine wall. When the wall is shed, it will be a heavy flow occasionally defined by dark blood clots. The reason for these hormonal changes include menopause, drug side effects (steroids for example), and drastic loss of weight.
- Obstruction of the menstrual blood; the thickness, color and clots of a menstrual flow are affected negatively by any obstruction of the passage from the uterus to the outside. The most common causes of obstruction include benign polyps and during the onset of menopause.
- Large uterus; after the uterus is stretched by a pregnancy, it may fail to contract and return to its normal size. In such a case, it will take a while before the blood from all around the uterine wall is passed out of the vagina. This time is enough for it to clot and lead to a dark discharge with large clots.
- Endometriosis or adenomyosis; both cases affect the position of the uterine tissue in the womb. They both cause heavy menstrual flows and may lead to clotting and a black vaginal discharge during your period.
5. Dark discharge after abortion
Having an abortion may also be the reason why some women will see a dark discharge from their vagina. While abortion procedures are quite safe nowadays, the process of healing is still the same.
On the technical part, the pregnancy under nine weeks is made up of two main tissues mainly the decidua and the gestational sac. The gestational sac is the one filled with fluid while the decidua holds the gestational sac in place while lining the cavity of the uterus.
When a women has an abortion whether by surgery, emergency contraception or Plan B, they will have the gestational sac completely removed from their body.
However, the decidua is not removed in totality. This tissue will take several weeks or even months to come out on its own.
And it comes out as a black or brown fluid similar to the one seen after childbirth.
Medically, this kind of discharge, which is made up of placental tissues, mucus and old blood is known as Lochia. The average period for experiencing Lochia is between 4 to 6 weeks after the abortion. To better understand Lochia, here are its three stages;
- Lochia rubra; this is the first discharge which has a red color due to the large amounts of blood it has. Lochia rubra will rarely go beyond 3 to 5 days following the abortion procedure.
- Lochia serosa; Lochia serosa is the second stage of the discharge and its color varies between brownish to pink since is has cervical mucus, leukocytes, erythrocytes, serous exudate and decidua. It begins from the 2nd or 3rd week after the abortion.
- Lochia alba; the last stage of the Lochia is signified with a yellowish white or white vaginal discharge which is close to normal. It has less red blood cells and is made up of mucus, fat, cholesterol, epithelial cells and leukocytes.
If you went for an abortion and see the three stages of the vaginal discharge in the order given above, there is nothing to fear. As long as you are taking the medication prescribed by the doctor, you are on the safe side. However, if you experience any of the following, see your doctor as soon as you can;
- Temperature of around 100.4 or more
- Dizziness or chills or both
- A foul-smelling discharge
6. Foreign body or lost tampon
Our bodies have been made to naturally respond to foreign bodies by rejecting them. It is the same reason why organ transplants only work between compatible people.
If you are experiencing a black discharge from your vagina with a foul smell, then chances are that you could be having a foreign body inside you.
Those who use tampons are at a high risk of lost or stuck tampons. If you forgot to remove a tampon and it has led to a black discharge, you will likely need the help of a doctor to remove it and get rid of the black discharge. The matter may get complicated if the vaginal discharge is accompanied with fever or the toxic shock syndrome.
Always make sure you remember to remove the tampons you use or any other foreign bodies you insert in the vagina either for medical or other purposes.
7. Implantation bleeding
Implantation occurs between 6 and 12 days following the fertilization of the egg. For those on their second or subsequent pregnancies, this is the first sign of pregnancy. The process involves the fertilized egg attaching itself to the walls of the uterus. It also involves some burrowing by the egg with the result of some bleeding.
Most women will experience very little bleeding but even this small amount of bleeding will often turn black or red in color. The normal color of the implantation bleeding is pink. However, when the blood takes a while to go out of the body, it will appear dark brown or dark in color. Unless there are other complications, this is perfectly normal.
Why do I get a dark discharge between periods and sometimes a dark discharge instead of period?
Rather than seeing your menses, or days before your periods are due, you may see a black or brown fluid. There are several reasons as to why this may happen including the following:
- Delayed period or partial periods: The uterine wall which is expelled as the period may not be expelled completely in each menstrual cycle. The body may expel the remnants at any time as a black discharge.
- Hormonal imbalance: Premenstrual spotting can also occur when you suffer an imbalance in hormone levels. The use of contraceptives and the perimenopause or menopause stages also come with occasional dark to brown colored fluid.
- Ovulation: The bleeding can be due to hormonal changes or the egg leaving the follicle. It is perfectly normal and not a concern.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is a disorder of the endocrine system common in women between the ages of 19 and 45. The syndrome is caused by an enlargement of the ovaries with a brown discharge being one of the symptoms. It should be treated early since it can cause problems with fertility.
- Endometriosis: The endometrium should grow in the inside of the uterus. When it grows elsewhere such as in the vagina or cervix, the bowel tissue or around the ovaries, it is a condition called endometriosis. One of the symptoms of endometriosis is a black or brown discharge before period, and sometimes even after period.
- Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs) or cervical cancer: diseases such as Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases (PID), vulvovaginitis, genital warts (HPV), gonorrhea, chlamydia and cervical cancer are often accompanied by a dark to brown vaginal discharge before period.
At the end of the period, there can also be traces of brown or black discharges from the vagina. This is a normal condition that should not worry you since it is simply old blood which has taken longer than usual to come out.
Also, the case may be that old period blood will stay long enough to mix with normal discharges turning them to a brown or black in color. If this occurs shortly after the period, it is normal. However, if it occurs a few days afterwards, it could be something different. Consult your doctor about this.
The black fluid can also occur during pregnancy due to several reasons. Among them are;
- Old blood may have stuck around too long and when it comes out, it will have a black or brown tinge. In this case, it is perfectly okay.
- Hormonal changes may lead to some blood being shed off by the uterine lining.
- Pelvic exams or other medical procedures may also lead to a dark discharge during pregnancy.
- Sexual intercourse can also excite the endometrial wall leading to some blood being shed.
What to do
When should you see a doctor? While some black discharges are normal, it is not encouraged to have them on a frequent basis. The best way to keep them at bay would be to take some measures which are basically parts of healthy living.
Combine regular exercise with the right amounts and types of food to stay healthy. Working out should be done at least thrice a week. The food to be eaten should be packed with enough calcium and magnesium and includes foods such as;
- Sesame seeds
- Leafy green vegetables
Regular sex ensures that the body releases enough hormones to clean the body especially the uterine wall.
However, even with these activities and diets, do not expect to fully get rid of occasional appearances of black discharges from the vagina. It all depends on the condition of the individual as far as their health is concerned.