When you go through menstruation, part of the cycle of the period is your body sheds tissue and blood from your uterus through the opening in your vagina.

The blood that you see on your pad, tampon, or in the toilet is a mixture of blood and tissue from the lining of your uterus, thats why the color and thickness looks different from when you get a cut and start to bleed.

The blood from this discharge can be a bright red color, or a dark brown, or even a black, and these colors can help determine your overall health.  In fact, OBGYNs and your Primary Care Doctor use the information that you give them about your period in determining your overall health.

You might see colors that range from bright red to black to orange to brown.  Most of these colors are healthy, but there are others when you might make an appointment with your doctor.

Different hormone conditions will affect the color of your menstrual blood as well as the age of the blood in the uterus.

What’s the deal with black period blood?

The darker the color of your period blood, the older the blood is.  When the blood stays in the uterus for a longer time, it will react with oxygen and thus oxidize, appearing darker.  If you see black blood, you don’t need to be alarmed, it is just the older blood that has been in the uterus longer than usual.

What about brown period blood?

Brown blood is also associated with older blood in the uterus.  It might be some of the blood left over from your last period.

Brown blood can also happen when you’ve just had a baby, this bleeding in the first four to six weeks after delivering is called lochia.  It will start out heavy and may be pink or brown as it slows down.

During pregnancy you might have spotting and it might be brown, but make sure to call your doctor just to make sure you know what is going on.

How about dark red period blood?

Dark red blood generally can happen at the end of your period when your blood slows.  It also may occur right after you wake up or you’ve been lying down for a while.  This blood is the blood that’s been sitting in the uterus for some time but hasn’t turned brown or black yet.

What happens with bright red period blood?

Bright red period blood is generally what you’ll see first in menstruation.  This means that the blood is fresh and flowing quickly out of you.

Make sure to check in with your doctor if you’re spotting with bright red blood between periods because this might mean that you have an infection.

How about pink period blood?

When your period blood looks pink this typically occurs at the beginning or the end of your period.  This color is usually mixed with cervical fluid which dilutes the red blood color.

Pink period blood can also denote lower levels of estrogen in the body.  Estrogen helps to stabilize the uterus lining and without this hormone, spotting may occur.

There’s also orange period blood

The blood from your uterus mixes with cervical fluid and this is when you might see orange period blood.  But orange period blood isn’t very normal, it might be a sign of a bacterial infection or STI, so make sure to consult with your doctor.

What about gray period blood?

There is also gray period blood and if you see this, make sure you call your doctor.  This hue means you likely have an infection or could be going through a miscarriage.  Call your OBGYN if your period blood is gray.

What color is normal for period blood?

It is completely normal for your period blood to be different from the start to finish of your period.  You just want to be aware of abnormalities from period to period and make sure that your period blood isn’t a gray or orange color (although even orange could be ok).

There are so many different factors that make your period blood different colors, but the most common reason for darker colors to light colors is the time the period blood is in the uterus and how long it takes to oxidize.

Besides just looking at the color, you also want to look at the texture of your period blood, clots and clumps will happen as parts of your uterus fall off in a sort of mucus.  If the clots are bigger than a quarter, you want to talk to your doctor.

About the author

Alice Cash is the Marketing Manager for Jubilance by day and an award winning Theatre Director by night.  Leading the podcast Weekly Woman, she loves her candid conversations with women from all over the world about how they live and the amazing things they are doing to make a difference. Alice is also the editor of the bi-monthly newsletter the Jubilee, a blog dedicated to the power of female wellness especially concerning menstruation.  She’s worked in France creating theatre pieces and taught drama and filmmaking to women and children in Haiti.  She graduated from Georgetown University and holds two master degrees from NYU and The New School.  Alice has traveled to  40+ countries, including Tibet.  She is a New Yorker and can often be found in Central Park, searching out the best bubble tea, or directing a play, you never know where she’ll show up. @alicesadventuresinwonderworld
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