Period blood guide: What means what?

Your period is basically a free health check that your body provides you with on a monthly basis. So if you know what different colours, textures and consistency are telling you, you are on the best way to become your very own period whisperer.

First off, changes in colour, texture, and consistency of your period blood are perfectly normal. The blood at the end of your period might be totally different to the one you saw at the start. There’s no cause for concern though, even if your period varies greatly from month to month or at different times throughout your life. Whether it is dark or light, thick or thin, clump or smooth – we have the answers for you here.

What different colours mean

Dark Red, Dark Brown, and Black

Dark red to brown blood is likely to make an appearance at the beginning or the end of your period. This is generally when your flow is a little slower and the blood takes longer to leave your body. While it’s sitting there in your uterus the blood has time to oxidise, changing its colour from bright red to dark red or brown. So basically, if your period is as it always is, dark red to brown blood is nothing to worry about – just a sign that your body is taking it a bit slower.

Sometimes you will see blood that appears to be black and we know just how worrying it looks. But don’t worry, it’s generally no cause for concern. If your blood is black, it’s often the blood that hasn’t made it out of your uterus while it was still a dark red or brown colour. Your body has been taking some extra time, so to speak! This means that the extra oxidisation of the blood has turned it from brown to black – and that’s all there is to it.

If your black discharge comes with other symptoms, however, it is best to go see your doctor. These symptoms can include a foul smell, itching and swelling in and around the vagina, fever, and having trouble peeing. If any of these symptoms are present, you might be experiencing some type of vaginal blockage. Get it checked out by a professional!

Bright Red

If the blood is super fresh, it is likely to be bright red. This is why you’ll likely see a bright red colour on the days where your flow is quick and strong, and the blood hasn’t had the chance to oxidise. For some women, the blood will stay bright red for their entire period but in many cases, it will turn darker as your monthly bleed comes to an end. You might have also noticed that your blood appears to be a brighter colour when your cramps are bad. That’s because your uterus is contracting, leading to a quicker flow.

If, all of a sudden, your periods get super heavy when you never had really heavy periods before, it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor. Uterine fibroids or polyps could be the cause of this. Simply put, they are noncancerous growths in the uterus and can potentially also cause symptoms like pressure and pain. Additionally, bright red blood can point in the direction of chlamydia and gonorrhoea – especially if you’re bleeding when you’re not supposed to. So if that’s the case, call your doctor or gynaecologist and let them check what’s going on in your body.

Pink

At the start or end of your period, especially when the bleed has turned into spotting, you might see pink coloured blood. The pink colour pretty much only means that the blood exiting your body has mixed with cervical fluid, turning the red colour into more of a pinkish hue. Sometimes it might happen somewhere in the middle of your cycle. That can simply mean that you’re ovulating, and that’s caused a tiny, little bleed. It’s pretty common for some women, so don’t worry if it happens to you!

If during your period you suddenly spot more pink than red or brown blood, this might be an indicator that your estrogen levels are a little low. This can be caused by progesterone-only birth control or the perimenopause. So if you’re reading this and what we’re writing just sounds all too familiar, grab your phone, call your doctor, and get it checked out.

At other times, you might spot some pink-ish smears when you’re sitting on the toilet for the obligatory pee after sex. If the fun was a bit rougher or you were just a little bit too dry, penetration can cause tiny tears in your vaginal canal or your cervix, causing it too bleed. The blood mixes with your vaginal fluid and you’ll discover it as a pink smear on a piece of toilet paper or your panties.

Orange

Your period blood doesn’t always look pink when it mixes with your cervical fluid – it might appear orange instead. So sometimes, orange and pink blood are happening for pretty much the exact same reason. However, as opposed to pink blood, orange can sometimes indicate that there’s an infection going on. So if you get other symptoms like vaginal itching, general discomfort in your downstairs area, or foul-smelling discharge, we’d advise that you make an appointment with your doctor – you might be suffering from bacterial vaginosis (BV) or trichomoniasis.

Grey

Grey is probably the most disconcerting of all possible colours as it often points towards an infection, commonly bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is caused when the balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria in the vagina gets knocked off. Grey discharge is generally not the only symptom you will experience, though. In addition to grey or off-white discharge you might also experience a nasty itch in or around your vagina, foul-smelling odour – people often describe it as “fishy” – and it might burn when you pee. If any of those a true, you should get yourself down to your GP to get it checked out and get the necessary treatment.

If you happen to be pregnant and you are passing grey-coloured clots, it is unfortunately possible that you’re experiencing a miscarriage. Please go see your gynaecologist as soon as possible, so they can take a look at what’s going on.

Texture & Consistency

Just like the colour of your period blood, the consistency and texture of it can change multiple times during your period or between one period and the next. So whether it’s thick, thin, watery or sticky, there’s no immediate cause for concern. Here’s what’s normal and what you should be looking out for.

Clots

It is perfectly normal to pass the odd blood clot during your period, and there’s no reason to be worried. They usually happen as your uterine lining separates and leaves your body. You should keep an eye on clots if they suddenly start to appear more regularly and are bigger than the ones you usually pass during your period. Often, if the size of the blood clots you pass has increased suddenly, you will also experience a much heavier flow. Whereas it can be a potential sign for a medical condition like uterine fibroids or menorrhagia – a fancy word for very heavy bleeding – it might mean absolutely nothing. It might just be a change in the way your body works. Ultimately, as with everything, if you are concerned about anything happening in your body, it’s worth checking in with your GP.

Consistency

Whether your period blood is watery and thin or thick and sticky, it’s all within the range of a perfectly normal period. The consistency can, and likely will, change throughout your period or from one period to the next. Bear in mind though, that there’s no such thing as a “normal” period as “normal” will be different for everyone. Whereas some women start their periods off with thicker blood, others start theirs with a runnier and smoother consistency.

Watery & thin

Often, period blood that’s watery and thin is simply a sign of a lighter flow.

Thick & clumpy

Thick and clumpy period blood is a common occurrence at the start of your period and on your heavy days. It’s appearance ranges from dark red to brown and is often accompanied by blood clots.

Jelly-like

If your period blood appears jelly-like and somewhat slippery, it simply means that it’s been mixed with a lot of cervical fluids. This is perfectly normal and nothing for you to worry about.

Stringy

When your period blood is stringy, it is generally older blood that has been sat in your uterus for a little while. That’s why it often appears in a dark red or brown colour.

Bottom Line

Periods can, and should, be used to check in with yourself and see how you’re doing. And now that you’ve read all of this, you’re basically a pro in knowing what your period blood is tell you. Always keep in mind though that, although there are general rules of thumb, your period is very much an individual thing. So what’s normal for someone else might be super unusual for you.

And, most importantly, if something has changed and you are worried or concerned about it, grab your phone, call your doc and get it checked out. 'Cause nothing beats being on the safe side!

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