Menstrual Blood: Colors & Meanings
Orange is the New Black. A Study in Pink. Red Dead Redemption. Pop culture references? Or a creative way to introduce the different colors of menstrual blood? You guessed it!
Though red is most commonly associated with menstrual blood, your period can come in many colors, depending on your health. For this reason, it’s helpful to know the different possible period blood colors to feel confident (or very afraid) about your body’s equilibrium.
Period Blood 101
To understand how period blood could come in different colors, you first need to understand the process that creates period blood. Your uterus is lined with endometrium, a specialized vascularized tissue with spiralized arteries that provides blood to the uterus when a fertilized egg is implanted. When this egg fails to be fertilized because of your newfound morals and/or rejection of hot girl summer, the arteries constrict, and the endometrium starts to break away in pieces in a gradual, controlled process.
The actual blood we see during our period comes from broken blood vessels as the endometrium tissue detaches from the arteries. By the time it reaches your underwear, the color is influenced by the amount of time it has had to react with oxygen and oxidize.
That means your period blood will look different as your period progresses since the dead tissue being shed from the deeper layers of the uterus will have more time to oxidize and appear more brown or dark reddish, as opposed to the bright red blood we see during peak period times when the tissue closer to your cervix is being shed. However, there are some colors that suggest problems within your body, so you should have a general idea of what the different colors indicate.
Brown or Dark Red
Period blood that is brown or dark red and carries a certain thickness is totally normal and usually appears towards the beginning or end of your period. The blood takes on this color when it is older and has taken longer to exit your uterus (it had time to oxidize and change from red to brown). Blood clots can also take on this brownish-red color, but that’s also normal for this time of your flow.
Brown discharge or spotting can also be an early indication of pregnancy. Yay! If you’re already *confirmed* pregnant, brown discharge or spotting can indicate a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy when the fertilized egg implants itself in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. Less yay…
Ah, our scarlet friend. The famous bright red color we encounter during our periods is the freshest blood and usually comes into full effect during the second or third day of the cycle. Since it is newer blood, it has had less time to react with oxygen and therefore keeps its bright color when appearing on your menstrual products.
Pink blood or spotting can occur for a few reasons. When taking hormonal birth control that lowers estrogen levels, pinkish blood results from the subsequent lighter flow. Or pink blood can happen when period blood mixes with cervical fluid. It can also be caused by sexual intercourse, in which tiny tears in the vaginal wall bleed a bit. Basically, the blood is not actually pink but just diluted.
However, when pink discharge occurs sporadically outside your menstrual cycle and is unrelated to sexual intercourse, it could be a symptom of cervical cancer.
Orange fluid can occur when blood mixes with cervical fluid, but it can also be a sign of infection, such as bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis. An infection that would cause orange fluid would usually be accompanied by other symptoms, such as vaginal itching, foul-smelling discharge, and general discomfort. If you are experiencing this all-star lineup of symptoms, talk to your doctor.
Misery loves company, and grey period blood can also indicate bacterial vaginosis. Again, this is usually accompanied by itching, discomfort, and foul-smelling discharge and should be evaluated by a doctor.
So there you have it, the color wheel of period blood. Hopefully, this clears up any confusion you might have about your menstrual blood colors and their meanings. If your colorings align with any of the colors listed that could be linked to infection, contact your doctor. If your period blood appears as a color not listed here, such as blue or green, you have bigger things to worry about and may be in a Sci-Fi movie or poorly written TV pilot.