For a long time, ads would have had us believe that our period blood was blue. Thankfully, this is beginning to change as companies have begun to use realistic red liquid for advertising period products. However, while our blood isn’t blue, it’s not always red either! In this article we’ll take a look at all the different colours and what they could mean, including when to do something about it.
WHY DOES MY PERIOD BLOOD CHANGE COLOUR?
First things first: it is completely normal for your period blood to change colour! Not only will it change throughout your menstrual cycle, but it can also differ from period to period. The colour can range from bright red to brown, pink and even almost black. Essentially, blood becomes darker when it oxidises (reacts with oxygen). Therefore, the longer that the blood remains inside your vagina and uterus – for example when lying down to sleep at night – the darker it will appear. Different colours aren’t usually cause for concern, but they can sometimes be the sign of an infection or another problem, in which case it’s worth going to get it checked out by a doctor. So, what can the colour of your blood tell you?....
At the beginning of your period, or on your heaviest days, your blood is bright red as it is flowing fast and therefore has less time to oxidise. Often your blood will get darker as your period progresses, but some people may find that their blood remains bright red throughout.
DARK RED, BROWN. BLACK
Dark red, brown or black blood is the same as bright red blood, just a bit older. Dark red blood is common first thing in the morning when you have been lying down all night and blood has had time to oxidise. You will often have brown or black blood at the beginning and end of your period, when the blood is flowing more slowly so also has more time to oxidise.
Blood often appears pink when it mixes with your cervical fluid and becomes lighter as a result. This will happen when your period is light, often at the beginning or end.
However, pink blood can also be a sign of anaemia (low iron levels). This is because it is iron which makes blood appear red.
Pink vaginal discharge can also be a sign of perimenopause, as low oestrogen levels can lead to pink discharge.
Like pink blood, orange blood can simply be a result of cervical fluid mixing with your blood.
However, it can also be a sign of bacterial infection or an STI such as bacterial vaginosis. If orange blood, or abnormal discharge colour, is accompanied by symptoms such as a bad smell, itching, or pain during peeing or sex, it is important to go and see a doctor.
Grey period blood is normally a sign of infection. However, this blood colour can sometimes be harder to identify, so keep a look out for other symptoms listed above, such as a foul smell, itching and burning around the vagina, especially when you pee or have sex. Like orange blood, grey blood is often a sign of bacterial vaginosis, so you should go and see a doctor. It is usually easily treated by antibiotics.
WHAT ABOUT CLOTS?
Clots in your blood are normal, and you will often find them at the start of your period when the flow is heaviest, and the blood is bright or dark red. They are also very common as you approach the menopause. However, they can sometimes be a sign that you have Menorrhagia (very heavy periods).. If you have any of the following symptoms, or are simply concerned in any way, you should go and see a doctor. If they don’t listen or take your concerns seriously, ask to be referred to a specialist:
- Very heavy periods
- Clots larger than a 10p coin
- Periods lasting longer than 7 days
- Needing to change a pad/tampon every 1 or 2 hours
- Feeling tired, short of breath, and lacking energy
WHAT ABOUT SPOTTING?
Spotting is the term for light blood loss, and it typically occurs in-between periods Spotting outside of your period can be a symptom of a number of things, including:
- STIs such as chlamydia
- Hormonal contraceptives
- A tear to vaginal wall during sex
- PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome)
If you are pregnant, spotting – or brownish discharge – can also be a sign of a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.
If you experience any spotting outside of your period you should go and speak to a doctor, and, as ever, if they don’t take your concerns seriously, insist on a referral to a specialist.
SO WHAT CAN MY BLOOD TELL ME?
It’s important to learn what is normal for you, and a period tracking app can really help with this, allowing you to log the colours and texture of your period blood (and discharge) on different days. It is normal for your period blood to vary between bright red and dark brown, and it can also be pink or black with no cause for concern. However, if the colour of your blood is very different to normal, you experience irregular spotting, very heavy bleeding, or your blood is pink, orange or grey whilst being accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to go and get checked out by a doctor.
One of the good things about FabLittleBag is that these sanitary bags are not only super easy to use, but are completely opaque so that no blood whatever the colour – is visible when disposing of your used tampon or pad.