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This blog post was written by our self-care and and period pal Blume.
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Period blood is always a fun conversation topic right? But it’s such an important topic to talk about because the color of our period blood can give us health insights if we just pay a little more attention. Blood makes people squeamish, so we understand not wanting to pay more attention to any type of blood than you have to. But the color of our period blood, when we experience bleeding, and the amount of blood lost during menstruation are helpful signs in order to better understand our body and health.
What colors can period blood be? It depends. It can range from bright red to dark red, orange, pink and more!
First let’s get back to basics: When you’re menstruating, your body sheds the lining of the uterus (womb). 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 vagina, not from the same place where pee comes out (the urethra).
If this is news to you, don’t feel bad. It was news to us (ladies, we have three holes). Girls and women often don’t know enough about their own reproductive system and anatomy, and that's why educating and creating a conversation surrounding menstrual health is so crucial. For additional information, you can also check out our period glossary.
Let’s talk about the different colors of your period blood.
Sometimes at the beginning or ending of your period, the blood might change color. Instead of the usual red as the blood color, it might be brown or dark red (some might even say it’s rust colored). Brown menstrual blood near the beginning or end of your period is normal, and is just a sign that the discharged blood is older.
Certain girls and women experience brown period blood in between periods. However this is more common in younger girls who are just starting to have their periods, women starting birth control or women nearing menopause.
Bleeding after your menstrual cycle ends, in between periods or bleeding after sex can be a concern in certain cases. It’s always good to see a doctor to make sure it’s not a symptom of a health condition.
Period flow typically becomes heavier on the second or third day of the cycle as the uterine lining sheds faster. Bright red period blood is newer blood, so it doesn’t have time to darken before it exits your body.
Orange period blood can be the sign of period blood mixed with cervical fluids. However bright orange menstrual blood can also indicate an infection so you may want to consider seeing a doctor.
But often, it can be an early sign of a vaginal infection. And this may change the color of your ordinary discharge and creates a bright orange color that smells unpleasant.
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 according to some people.
You may also have 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. 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.
If your discharge is a grayish color, talk to your doctor asap as this can be the sign of an infection or even 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, call your doctor ASAP.
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.
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!
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