What Does The Colour Of Your Period Flow Tell About Your Health?
Dr. Renuka Dangare

Dr. Renuka Dangare

Mar 22Menstrual health

What Does The Colour Of Your Period Flow Tell About Your Health?

This article is compiled by Sanjana Varma, a freelance writer at Proactive For Her.

The body sheds tissue and blood from the uterus through the vagina during menstruation. The colour of this bloody discharge can vary from bright red to dark brown or black depending on how old it is. Blood that stays in the uterus for a long time will oxidize and appear darker. Hormonal changes and health conditions can also affect the color and texture of period blood. Here, we discuss what the colour of your period blood can say about your health.

What is a normal period blood?

Normally, colours change from the beginning of the period to the middle to the end. You may even have different colours from month to month or at different times throughout your life. There are several factors involved, even when your periods are totally “healthy.” Usually, it is bright red at the beginning of the period and gets darker towards the end as the flow decreases. Cramps increase the red blood flow.

The colours of your flow

The colour and consistency of period blood can provide useful information about a person’s overall health. Your period flow can go from black, brown, bright red, pink and even grey. Here are the 5 hues your period blood can take and what they mean.

Brown : Brown discharge means the blood has oxidised, which is why it’s changed hues from the standard red.

Brown blood is associated with:

  • The beginning or end of your period- If your flow is slow, it takes longer to exit your body. The blood stays in the uterus for long. It may even be the leftover blood from your last period.
  • Lochia- The bleeding women experience for the first four to six weeks after delivery is called lochia. It starts out relatively heavy. Then from day four onward, lochia may be pinkish or brownish in color.
  • Pregnancy- You may experience spotting during pregnancy, some of it may be brown. It’s a good idea to call your doctor regardless.
  • Missed miscarriage- Some women may experience what’s called a “missed miscarriage.” With this type of pregnancy loss, the fetus stops developing but doesn’t pass from the uterus for at least 4 weeks. You may not experience heavy bleeding or clots, but some women do develop dark brown spotting or bleeding.

Red : The deep red colour may simply mean that the blood has been sitting in the uterus for a while but hasn’t oxidized to the point of turning brown. Your period may start with bright red bleeding. This means that the blood is fresh and is flowing quickly. Your blood may stay this way your whole period or may darken as your flow slows.

Dark red blood is associated with:

  • The end of your period- This colour of blood is visible towards the end of your normal menstrual period as your flow slows.
  • Lochia- The bleeding after delivery starts out heavy and may contain clots. It may appear dark red in colour for the first three days before changing to different shades and textures. Women who had cesarean sections may only experience this heavy bleeding for the first 24 hours.
  • Infection- Infections like chlamydia and gonorrhoea, may cause bleeding between periods. If you’re seeing blood before you’re due to start your period, consider contacting your doctor.
  • Pregnancy- Bleeding during pregnancy of any colour may or may not be a reason for alarm. Sometimes, however, it’s a sign of miscarriage. Sometimes women have bleeding and go on to deliver healthy babies. Each case is unique. It’s best to check in with your doctor whenever you see blood during pregnancy.
  • Polyps or fibroids- These noncancerous growths in the uterus may cause heavy flow during your periods or at other times throughout the menstrual cycle. They can be large or small and cause other symptoms like pain and pressure.

Pink : Your blood may appear pink at the beginning or end of your period, especially if you’re spotting. This lighter shade likely indicates that the blood has mixed with your cervical fluid, diluting its hue.

Pink blood is associated with:

  • Lochia- From day four onward, lochia may be pinkish or brownish in color.
  • Low estrogen- Pink menstrual blood may indicate low estrogen levels in the body. Estrogen helps to stabilize the uterine lining. Without this hormone, you may shed the lining at times throughout your cycle — leading to spotting of various colours, including pink. Low estrogen may be the result of hormonal birth control or perimenopause.
  • Mid-cycle spotting- You may see this colour around ovulation time. Again, when blood from your uterus mixes with clear cervical fluid, it may appear to be light red or pink in color.
  • Miscarriage- If you’re pregnant, a gush of clear or pink fluid from the vagina may be a sign of miscarriage. Other signs including cramping, the passing of tissue, and loss of pregnancy symptoms.

Orange : When blood mixes with cervical fluid it may also appear orange, due to dilution.

Orange blood is associated with:

  • Implantation spotting- Orange or pink spotting is a sign of suspected implantation or conception (10 to 14 days after). Not all women experience implantation spotting, but it can range in colour. If you have spotting that doesn’t turn into a period, it’s a good idea to take a pregnancy test.

Grey : Seeing grey or off-white discharge is a reason to call your doctor.

Grey blood is associated with:

  • Infection- This hue may indicate that you have an infection like bacterial vaginosis.
  • Miscarriage- If you’re pregnant, the grey discharge may be a sign of miscarriage. Tissue passing from the vagina may be grey in colour as well.

colour of menstrual period

Is it normal for the colour to be different at the beginning and end of my period?

Yes! Your period may change colours throughout the period. You may even have different colours from month to month or at different times throughout your life. There are several factors involved, even when your periods are healthy.

In most cases, the variation from bright red to dark red to brown has something to do with the flow and time the blood has been in the uterus. Your flow may be faster at the beginning of your period and trail off towards the end. You may have dark red blood after laying down for a long time, too. You may see bright red blood on your heaviest days.

This doesn’t mean that all colour changes are normal. If you see a shade that’s unfamiliar or gray and you experience other symptoms, there’s no harm in making an appointment to get checked out. Any bleeding during pregnancy is a reason to consult with your doctor.

What if the flow is watery or filled with clots?

The texture of your blood may change throughout your period and even from month to month. Healthy period blood can contain visible pieces of the uterine lining. These small pieces of tissue, or clots, in the blood are not a cause for concern.

Clots aren’t necessarily a reason for concern unless it is bigger than a quarter. Clots often accompany period blood, especially with heavy flow. If the clot size is bigger than usual, it is better to seek advice from your doctor.

Watery period blood is thin and is mostly new blood flowing quickly from the uterus.

Talking Heavy Flow :

Some women may experience particularly heavy flow, which is called menorrhagia. Other signs that indicate a heavy period are :

  1. Changing period products under an hour.
  2. Signs of anaemia, like fatigue or shortness of breath Blood-tinged discharge that happens around the time of ovulation may be mixed with cervical mucus, giving your blood an egg white or gelatinous texture. This discharge may also be described as wet and slippery.

When to see your doctor

You may see a variety of shades and textures during your periods, even if you’re healthy. If your period is lasting longer than seven days or is very heavy, make an appointment with your doctor to rule out certain medical conditions.

Other reasons to make an appointment:

The bottom line

Everyone's period is different, and blood can change colour and consistency during a period and from month to month. So, people need to learn what is normal for them.

Your period may be used as a vital sign to indicate important things about your health. It is a natural indicator of your health. Young women who have just started menstruating may experience great variety in the colours and textures of their menstrual blood for the first several years.

If you have cancer of the uterus or cervix, it may cause bleeding and discomfort. Hormonal imbalance can throw your menstrual cycle off balance. The Pelvic inflammatory disease may also affect it. People who take aspirin and other coagulants have reported changes in their menstrual blood,

Women in perimenopause may also experience more irregularity. There are a lot of colours that fall within “normal” or “healthy” ranges, but it is good to monitor the colour of your flow. Always see a doctor if you’re worried or concerned about any changes to your period.

Disclaimer - This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare practitioners before undertaking any changes in your diet or adding supplements.

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