Experts share what’s normal and what isn’t when it comes to your menstrual cycle.
By Casey Clark
https://www.huffpost.com-Carol Yepes via Getty Images
Shades of red typically are nothing to worry about — even black can be considered normal in some cases.
Did you know that the color of your period blood, similar to the smell of your pee, has different meanings and can indicate potential health problems?
You might have noticed that period blood changes color over the course of your period from a bright to dark red ― and that’s normal, according to Dr. Jessica Shepherd, an OB-GYN and medical adviser at O Positiv. However, your period blood may also change color when there’s something going on down there.
Below you’ll find the colors of your period blood that aren’t a cause for concern, and those that gynecologists say might warrant a trip to the doctor’s office.
For those with a period, a bright-red color is probably the most recognizable. Whether you noticed a bright-red bloodstain on your bedsheets or through your underwear, it’s typically this color. This is normal and nothing to worry about in most cases during a regular monthly cycle.
Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a gynecologist, medical expert for LELO and co-author of “The Complete A to Z for your V,” added that a bright-red flow is typical during the active, heavier days of the cycle. If you experience red period blood between cycles, that is something you’ll want to take up with your doctor because it may indicate other internal issues.
Bleeding in between cycles (various shades of red) might signify pre-cancer or cancer, uterine anomalies such as a polyp, vaginal growth or pregnancy, Dweck said.
Dark Red, Brown Or Black
If it’s been a while since you’ve last changed your pad or tampon, then you might notice the blood is darker and this is normal.
“Dark brown or black typically suggests older blood,” Dweck said. “The process of oxidation occurs over time and turns blood a darker color, a common finding at the tail end of the cycle.”
The general rule of thumb is the older the blood, the darker the color.
While black period blood is likely a sign of older blood, it could also be an indicator of a vaginal blockage. These types of blockages are usually accompanied by a fever, smelly discharge and swelling around the vagina.
For period blood that is light pink, you might want to take a trip to the doctor to run some labs.
“Very light pink, with a watery texture could signify anemia or low blood count or iron,” Dweck said. “This typically occurs with chronic and excessive flow or in those with iron-poor diets.”
Light-pink color could also be the result of period blood mixed with cervical fluid, along with significant weight loss.
Gray Or Green
Unlike shades of red, gray or green period blood may be a red flag. “Gray or greenish hues might signify infection; this color might be accompanied by an odor, itch or irritation,” Dweck said.
Gray period blood might indicate bacterial vaginosis, for which you’ll want to visit your doctor for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
What Else To Consider
You know your body better than anyone else. If you’ve had a period for a while, then you’re probably familiar with the colors and smells that accompany your cycle.
“Learning your cycle and its consistency, the color, the smell and any other features of it will help when looking for inconsistencies,” Shepherd said.
While changes in color are important for acknowledging potential issues, Murrain says to keep an eye on “heavy bleeding, requiring the need to change pads or tampons more frequently than two hours, lightheadedness or dizziness associated with menstrual cycle, excess fatigue and weakness associated with the menstrual cycle.”
Additionally, be on the lookout for “multiple large clots larger than a quarter, severe cramping associated with a menstrual cycle, bleeding lasting longer than eight days, bleeding in between your menstrual cycles and abnormal discharge with your bleeding,” Murrain added.
If any of these arise, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your gynecologist to rule out any further problems. Getting an annual pap smear and checkup to make sure everything is healthy in relation to your cycle and reproductive health is also critical.
For additional questions about period blood and your cycle, consult with your doctor to keep them updated on your specific issues and observations.