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What Are the Causes of Brown Spotting?

By Lindsay Boyers ; Updated December 05, 2018

A normal menstrual cycle differs between women, but on average, menstrual bleeding occurs about every 28 days. The bleeding associated with the menstrual cycle usually lasts four to seven days, says MedlinePlus from the National Institutes of Health. Brown spotting is defined as abnormal vaginal bleeding that occurs independently of the regular menstrual cycle.

Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding

In theory, a woman will release an egg from her ovaries every month in order to prepare for fertilization. During a normal menstrual cycle, levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone rise and fall in accordance with the release of the egg. Occasionally, a woman will not release an egg from the ovaries and hormone levels will remain high for an extended period of time. This results in hormonal imbalances that cause dysfunctional uterine bleeding, which is defined as abnormal bleeding from the vagina. Dysfunctional uterine bleeding appears as brown spotting, heavy menstrual periods, late menstrual periods or prolonged menstrual periods. In addition to abnormal bleeding, a woman may experience hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness and excessive hair growth. MedlinePlus notes that if too much blood is lost, it can result in anemia, which causes fatigue.


Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chlamydia is the most commonly reported bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the United States. Chlamydia can be passed through vaginal, oral and anal sex and also from a mother to her baby during childbirth. Symptoms of chlamydia generally appear one to three weeks after infection and can include brown spotting, abnormal vaginal discharge, pain during urination, abdominal and back pain, pain during sexual intercourse and fever. If left untreated, chlamydia has the potential to cause infertility in women.


The endometrium is the tissue that normally lines that inside of the uterus. In women with endometriosis, the endometrial cells travel out of the uterus and the endometrium grows on the outside of the other reproductive organs, including the ovaries, fallopian tubes and pelvis. Although it is growing abnormally, the tissue acts as it normally does and thickens and sheds regularly. Some of the shed tissues becomes trapped in the body, causing the surrounding areas to become irritated. Other tissue leaves the body through the vagina. Symptoms of endometriosis include brown spotting, pelvic pain, pain during menstruation, pain during sexual intercourse, heavy periods and pain during urination. Endometriosis may also cause infertility.

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