What Does the Colour of Your Period Mean?
Ever noticed how your flow changes colours throughout your period? According to research collected by period product subscription company DAME, across their lifetime, people spend an average of 3,500 days menstruating. This equates to about ten years. That’s a long time and a lot of periods. Which is why it’s important to pay attention to the colour of your period blood since it can reveal a lot about your overall health and where you are in your menstrual cycle. It's pretty common for period blood to look a spectrum of colours, and there's a simple explanation for it, too.
Why Does Period Blood Change in Colour?
During menstruation, the body sheds tissue and blood from the uterus through the vagina. 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 long enough will react with oxygen (oxidise). Blood that has had time to oxidise appears darker. Hormonal changes and health conditions can also affect the colour and texture of period blood.
Pink blood is often seen at the time your period starts. At this stage, some of the fresh, bright red blood may mix with vaginal discharge causing the colour to lighten and look pink. Vaginal discharge is a mix of fluid and cells shed by your vagina to keep your vaginal tissues healthy, moist, and free from infection or irritation. If your periods are light, the blood may also appear pink.
Other possible reasons for pink blood include:
Several factors can cause spotting including:
- A tear to the vaginal wall during sex
- Sexually transmitted infections, like chlamydia
- Hormonal contraceptives
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Fibroids or polyps (non-cancerous growths in the womb)
- Cancers of the cervix, uterus, vulva or vagina
Bright red blood
As your uterus starts to actively shed blood during your period, you may notice that the colour is bright red. This just means that your blood is fresh and has not been in the uterus or vagina for some time.
Dark red blood
Dark red blood is simply blood that has been in the vagina for longer. It can even be seen with blood clots. Clotting is also considered normal unless the clots are larger than the size of quarters.
Brown or black blood
These are colour variations seen in blood that has taken longer to exit the vagina. Black blood can be dark red or brown-colored blood that appears black. Sometimes, as your period comes to an end, the dark blood can mix with vaginal discharge and end up looking brown.
Blood may appear orange after it mixes with cervical fluid. You may see orange-colored blood for the same reasons you see pink blood. Still, any abnormally colored or unusual discharge may also be a sign of bacterial infection or sexually transmitted infection.
If you see grey or off-white discharge, call your doctor. Grey blood is associated with infection. Other signs of infection include fever, pain, itching, or a foul odour. If you’re pregnant, a gray discharge may be a sign of miscarriage.
Why is it important to keep an eye on the way periods look?
As it's been painfully shown by the UK Government’s recent research – which has highlighted the gender health gap — female health has been significantly undervalued, overlooked and under-researched for too long. By understanding their cycles, women and people who menstruate can proactively take care of their health. For example, it's really important to track your period to spot signs of abnormal menstrual bleeding.
Signs of abnormally heavy bleeding include:
- Bleeding that lasts more than 7 days
- Bleeding that soaks through one or more tampons or pads every hour for several hours in a row
- Needing to wear more than one pad at a time to control menstrual flow
- Regularly bleeding through to your clothes or on your bedding
- Avoiding daily activities, like exercise, or needing to take time off work because of your periods
- Menstrual flow with blood clots that are an inch / the size of a 10p coin or larger
If you have questions or concerns about your period, always speak to your GP.