Black Discharge: 7 Causes, What It Means, How It’s Treated
While most people think of period blood as being red, it’s normal for the color and consistency to change throughout your cycle. The color change is often harmless, but sometimes, it can be a sign of an underlying health condition.
Black-colored blood usually appears at the beginning or end of a person’s menstrual cycle or after pregnancy. It can be a normal indication that blood has taken extra time to exit the uterus. However, black discharge may also be due to other causes, such as a miscarriage or infection.
This article covers black discharge, what causes it, and when to seek medical help.
Discharge vs. Blood
Vaginal discharge is fluid that comes from the vagina. The uterus, cervix, and vagina produce it. The discharge often contains menstrual blood, which flows from the inside of the uterus.
Is Black Discharge Normal?
Black discharge can be normal. It usually means that blood has taken longer to leave the uterus. When this happens, the blood oxidizes, which makes it appear darker in color. The longer the blood stays in your body, the darker it becomes. You may experience black discharge before or after your period, during pregnancy, or right after giving birth.
Though black discharge is often benign, there are times when it can be a cause for concern. Usually, symptoms, such as a foul-smelling odor, itching, pain, or other problems, accompany the black discharge when another medical condition is the culprit.
7 Possible Causes of Black Discharge
Normal discharge is clear, milky, or off-white. However, discharge that contains blood can appear red, pink, brown, or black. Often, if the discharge is gray, dark yellow, or green with a fishy smell, it’s a sign of infection. Several possible causes of black discharge include a forgotten object, implantation, and more.
Beginning or End of Your Period
If black discharge shows up at the beginning or end of your period, it’s probably a sign that blood has taken longer to exit the vagina. This is considered normal, and it just means your body is working to clean itself out. It’s usually not a cause for concern unless you have other symptoms.
Stuck or Forgotten Object
Black discharge could be a sign that a foreign object, such as a tampon, was left in the vagina. Over time, the object can irritate the vagina and cause an infection. In addition to black blood, other signs of an infection due to a foreign object in the vagina include:
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) or Other Infection
Black discharge could be a sign of PID, an infection in the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes. PID is a common complication of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, but it can also develop from infections that aren’t sexually transmitted.
Other symptoms of PID to watch out for include:
Implantation bleeding may be a sign of early pregnancy. It usually happens 10 to 14 days after a fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus. Implantation bleeding is typically lighter in flow than period bleeding and can appear dark brown or black. The bleeding usually goes away on its own and isn’t harmful.
A miscarriage is a pregnancy loss before 20 weeks. When a person miscarries, their uterus contracts and sheds its lining. This can cause bleeding, including black discharge. Other signs of miscarriage include:
Abdominal or low back pain
Fluid or tissue discharge from the vagina
A decrease in pregnancy symptoms
Lochia refers to bleeding that occurs after childbirth. It can last up to six weeks. Some people notice that if the flow is slow, the blood may appear dark brown or even black. Over time, the color of lochia should change to a yellowish-white color before stopping altogether.
Retained menses happens when menstrual blood collects in the vaginal cavity. When the blood is retained, it tends to turn darker in color, which can lead to black discharge. Most of the time, retained menses are caused by a congenital abnormality.
Abnormal bleeding and unusual discharge, such as black discharge, could be a sign of cervical cancer. Other symptoms of cervical cancer include:
What Does Black Discharge With No Period Mean?
Black discharge with no period could be attributed to several causes. Often, the dark-colored discharge is merely a sign that it’s taking blood longer to leave your uterus. If you’ve recently given birth, the black discharge could be lochia. Or, it could be due to an infection, pregnancy implantation, a forgotten object, miscarriage, or cervical cancer.
How Is Black Discharge Treated?
The treatment for black discharge will depend on the cause. Many times, there will be no treatment needed if the blood is due to a person’s menstrual cycle.
If there’s an infection present, healthcare providers may prescribe antibiotics. Foreign objects will need to be removed by a medical professional. Retained menses may require surgery, depending on the situation. People who miscarry may not need any treatment, but in some cases, providers might recommend a procedure to remove excess tissue. Treatment for cervical cancer may involve surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.
When to Contact a Healthcare Provider
It’s a good idea to tell a healthcare provider about any unusual symptoms you have, including black discharge. You should see a healthcare provider right away if you have black discharge that’s accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, cramping, or pain. If you’ve reached menopause and develop black discharge or further abnormal bleeding, you should also see your provider promptly.
Most of the time, black discharge is nothing to worry about. Some people report dark-colored discharge before, during, or after their period. However, if other symptoms accompany the black discharge, it could indicate an infection or an underlying condition, such as retained menses, miscarriage, lochia, and more. Treatment for black discharge depends on the cause. Speak with a healthcare provider immediately if you have black discharge and other symptoms.