Period blood, not something that’s talked about out loud too often. But it is such an important topic because the colour of your blood can give you important health insights about your body. Blood makes me super squeamish (who’s with me?), so I usually don’t want to pay more attention to any type of blood than I have to. BUT the colour of your period blood, when you experience bleeding, and the amount blood lost during your period are all really helpful signs in order to better understand your body and health.
First let’s get back to basics: When you have your period, your body sheds the lining of the uterus. Menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the small opening in the cervix and passes out of the body through the vagina. Note to my 11 year old self: a period is bleeding from the cervix, not from the same place where pee comes out (the urethra).
Let’s get back to the colors. Sometimes, at the beginning or ending of your period, the blood might change color. Instead of the usual red as the color of the blood that flows, it might be a dark brown. If this has happened to you then don’t worry, it’s completely normal and we are going to tell you why.
But what about bleeding after your menstrual cycle ends, in between periods, or bleeding after intercourse and the color is bright orange? This can be a concern in certain cases, and it’s always good to see a doctor to make sure it’s not a symptom of a health condition.
It is always important to recognize and understand the signs and colors of your menstruation to ensure you are a happy and healthy you!
So, what colors can period blood be? It depends. It can range from bright red to dark red, orange, pink and more!
The Different Colors of Period Blood
In order to understand your body and your menstrual cycle, let’s take a look at the different colors of your period blood and what it means for your body.
Brown or dark red period blood
Sometimes at the beginning or end of your period, your blood might be brown or dark red (some might even say it’s rust colored), instead of red. Brown menstrual blood near the beginning or end of your period is normal, and is just a sign that the discharged blood is older. It’s your body’s way of cleaning out your uterus and vagina and preparing it for your next menstrual cycle.
Sometimes, we also experience brown period blood in between periods. Usually, you’ll notice this darker spotting if you’re just starting your period, beginning or changing your birth control, or nearing menopause. Why? Well you can thank your hormones for that. As your hormones change, so does the color of your period blood.
Other reasons why you may be experiencing brown / dark red blood could be due to lochia (bleeding after delivering a baby), spotting during pregnancy, or suffering from a missed miscarriage. If you think this is the case, see your doctor ASAP.
Bright red period blood
Period flow typically becomes heavier on the second of the cycle as the uterine lining can shed faster. Bright red period blood is newer blood, so it doesn’t have time to darken before it exits your body. It may stay this color for your entire period, or it may darken each day.
Other serious conditions of bright red blood may include pregnancy spotting, some infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea which cause spotting or bleeding in between periods, or polyps or fibroids which are non cancerous growths that may cause a heavy flow during your period. Again, if you are experiencing any of these then speak to your doctor!
Orange period blood
Orange period blood can be the sign of period blood mixed with cervical fluids. However bright orange menstrual blood can also indicate an infection, in which case it’s probably a good idea to see a doctor.
But often, it can be an early sign of a vaginal infection. If it is a vaginal infection, the color of your discharge will also change and probably smell a little funky. Often, these infections are bacterial infections or sexually transmitted infections. Treatment will depend upon the infection you have, but to prevent it from returning, be sure to get tested to ensure it’s properly taken care of.
Pink period blood
Spotting is any bleeding that happens outside of your regular period. Some people experience spotting mid-cycle — ovulation bleeding. Bleeding that mixes with fertile cervical fluid can appear light red or pinkish.
Pink period blood may also be a result of low estrogen levels. Especially if it’s accompanied by a lighter-than-usual flow, or if you work out a lot. Studies have found that excessive exercise can lower estrogen levels, which can subsequently mess with your period, sometimes causing it to disappear altogether. It’s common for female professional athletes to stop ovulating.
While this may not seem like a big deal (who hasn’t fantasized about never having to deal with a period at least once or twice?), low estrogen levels can increase your risk of osteoporosis if left untreated, a condition that affects the bones, causing them to become weak and fragile. So if you’ve recently started running, have started working out for the first time in your life, or have upped the intensity of your workouts and you notice that your periods are suddenly lighter in color and flow or less frequent, talk to your doctor.
Gray period blood or discharge
If your discharge is a grayish color, talk to your doctor asap as this can be the sign of an infection or if you’re pregnant, it could a miscarriage. Women who miscarry sometimes notice gray chunks of tissue that look like a “liver,” so if you think there’s a possibility that you’re pregnant or having a miscarriage, make an appointment as quickly as possible.
If it’s an infection, you might be suffering from bacterial vaginosis, which is an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. This is quite a common condition and can be treated with prescription medications. In order to stay clean and prevent BV from worsening, shower and change your underwear regularly!
How much blood loss is too much?
During your period you might also be wondering if you’re experiencing normal menstrual blood loss and if it’s too much blood loss? Well good news, it’s probably nowhere near as much as you think. On average, a woman will lose between 30 to 40 ml of period blood per menstrual cycle.
For reference, 30 ml is only two tablespoons! However, too much bleeding during a period and period blood clots can be a sign of Menorrhagia, which is when a woman’s period flow is more than 80 ml per menstrual period. If you’re soaking through a pad or tampon every hour or two, this could be an indication that your flow is abnormally heavy, and a good time to see a doctor!
A range in period blood color is normal, and doesn’t signify anything serious. But do pay attention to your flow volume, changes in cycle length, and pain as these can indicate underlying conditions. It’s always important to recognize and understand the signs of your menstruation to ensure you’re a happy and healthy you!
We get it. Talking about period blood makes people uncomfortable. But to make sure we all have safe and healthy periods, you have to know what the different colors of period blood are and how they affect you.