Why period blood varies in color
According to the American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, your period may be used as a vital health sign. Anything from the length of your cycle to the textures and colors you see may indicate something important about your health.
You may see colors of blood ranging from black to bright red, brown to orange. Although most colors can be considered “normal” or “healthy,” others may be reason to see your doctor.
What do the different period blood colors mean?
|black||brown||dark red||bright red||pink||orange||gray|
|mid-cycle "ovulation" spotting||✓||✓|
|polyps or fibroids||✓|
What does black period blood mean?
You may be alarmed to see black blood, but it isn’t necessarily a reason to worry. This color is related to brown blood, which is old blood. It may resemble coffee grounds. Black blood is usually blood that’s taking some extra time to leave the uterus.
What does brown period blood mean?
Brown discharge of all shades is typically a sign of old blood. The blood has had time to oxidize, which is why it’s changed hues from the standard red.
Brown blood is associated with:
The beginning or end of your period
When your flow is slow, the blood may take longer to exit your body. When blood stays in the uterus longer, it may become brown in color. The blood may also be left over from your last period.
The bleeding women experience for the first four to six weeks after delivering a baby is called lochia. It starts out relatively heavy. Then from day four onward, lochia may be pinkish or brownish in color.
If you experience spotting during pregnancy, some of it may be brown if the active bleed has stopped. It’s a good idea to call your doctor regardless.
Although miscarriage may be associated with bright red bleeding, some women may experience what’s called a “missed miscarriage.” With this type of pregnancy loss, the fetus stops developing but doesn’t pass from the uterus for at least 4 weeks. You may not experience heavy bleeding or clots, but some women do develop dark brown spotting or bleeding.
What does dark red period blood mean?
You may see dark red blood upon waking during your period or after you’ve been lying down for a while. The deep color may simply mean that the blood has been sitting in the uterus for a while but hasn’t oxidized to the point of turning brown.
Dark red blood is associated with:
The end of your period
You may also see this color blood toward the end of your normal menstrual period as your flow slows.
The bleeding after delivering a baby starts out heavy and may contain clots. It may appear dark red in color for the first three days before changing to different shades and textures. Women who had cesarean sections may only experience this heavy bleeding for the first 24 hours.
What does bright red period blood mean?
Your period may start with bright red bleeding. This means that the blood is fresh and is flowing quickly. Your blood may stay this way your whole period or may darken as your flow slows.
Red blood is associated with:
Bleeding during pregnancy of any color may or may not be reason for alarm. Sometimes, however, it’s a sign of miscarriage. Sometimes women have bleeding and go on to deliver healthy babies. Each case is unique. It’s best to check in with your doctor whenever you see blood during pregnancy.
Polyps or fibroids
These noncancerous growths in the uterus may cause heavy flow during your periods or at other times throughout the menstrual cycle. They can be large or small and cause other symptoms like pain and pressure.
What does pink period blood mean?
Your blood may appear pink in color at the beginning or end of your period, especially if you’re spotting. This lighter shade likely indicates that the blood has mixed with your cervical fluid, diluting its hue.
Pink blood is associated with:
From day four onward, lochia may be pinkish or brownish in color.
Sometimes pink menstrual blood may indicate low estrogen levels in the body. Estrogen helps to stabilize the uterine lining. Without this hormone, you may shed the lining at times throughout your cycle — leading to spotting of various colors, including pink. Some causes of low estrogen include being on a hormonal birth control that doesn’t contain estrogen, or perimenopause.
You may see this color around ovulation time. Again, when blood from your uterus mixes with clear cervical fluid, it may appear to be light red or pink in color.
If you’re pregnant, a gush of clear or pink fluid from the vagina may be a sign of miscarriage. Other signs including cramping, passage of tissue, and loss of pregnancy symptoms.
What does orange period blood mean?
When blood mixes with cervical fluid it may also appear orange. As a result, you may see orange discharge for the same reasons you see pink discharge.
Orange blood is associated with:
Some women report seeing orange or pink spotting around the time of suspected implantation or 10 to 14 days after conception. Not all women experience implantation spotting, but it can range in color. If you have spotting that doesn’t turn into a period, it’s a good idea to take a pregnancy test.
What does gray period blood mean?
Seeing gray or off-white discharge is a reason to call your doctor.
Gray blood is associated with:
This hue may indicate that you have an infection brewing, like bacterial vaginosis. Other signs of infection include:
- foul odor
If you’re pregnant, gray discharge may be a sign of miscarriage. Tissue passing from the vagina may be gray in color as well.
Is it normal for the color to be different at
the beginning and end of my period?
Yes! Your period may change colors from the beginning to the middle to the end. You may even have different colors from month to month or at different times throughout your life. There are a number of factors involved, even when your periods are totally “healthy.”
In most cases, the variation from bright red to dark red to brown has something to do with the flow and time the blood has been in the uterus. Your flow may be faster at the beginning of your period and trail off toward the end. You may have dark red blood after laying down for a long time, too. You may see bright red blood on your heaviest days.
This doesn’t mean that all changes in color are normal. If you see a shade that’s unfamiliar or gray — especially if you have other symptoms — there’s no harm in making an appointment to get checked out. And any bleeding during pregnancy is reason to touch base with your doctor.
What if it’s watery or filled with clots?
Besides color, the texture of your blood may change throughout your period. And your periods from month to month may be different textures as well.
Clots aren’t necessarily a reason for concern. They happen as your uterus sheds its lining. Size matters, though. If you see clots that are bigger than a quarter in size, you may want to let your doctor know. Same goes with clots that accompany heavy bleeding.
Watery period blood is thin and likely new blood flowing quickly from the uterus. Some women may experience particularly heavy flow, which is called menorrhagia. Clots may or may not accompany the bleeding with this condition. Look out for signs of anemia, like fatigue or shortness of breath.
Blood-tinged discharge that happens around the time of ovulation may be mixed with cervical mucus, giving your blood an egg white or gelatinous texture. This discharge may also be described as wet and slippery.
When to see your doctor
You may see a variety of shades and textures with your periods, even if you’re healthy. If your period is lasting longer than seven days or is very heavy — soaking through a pad or tampon every hour or two — make an appointment with your doctor to rule out certain medical conditions.
Other reasons to make an appointment:
- if your cycles are irregular, changing dramatically in length from one month to the next
- if your cycles are shorter than 24 or longer than 38 days in length
- if you haven’t had a period in three months or longer
- if you have considerable pain or other unusual symptoms that accompany your bleeding
- if you bleed between periods
- if you’ve gone through menopause and start bleeding again
If you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor about any bleeding you see. Spotting or bleeding may be a sign of miscarriage. Gray discharge may also indicate miscarriage or even infection, so it’s best to get it checked out, too.
The bottom line
Your period may be used as a vital sign to indicate important things about your health. Young women who have just started their periods may experience great variety in the colors and textures of their menstrual blood for the first several years.
Likewise, women in perimenopause may also experience more irregularity. There are a lot of colors that fall within “normal” or “healthy” ranges, so it’s a good idea to pay attention to changes if they concern you. Always see a doctor if you’re worried or concerned about any changes to your period.