What's in a Color
Your period isn’t always the same color. It can change throughout your period, from one cycle to the next, or even at different life stages. It’s kind of like a mood ring for your overall health.
Black Period Blood
Why it normally happens: Black blood is older blood that’s oxidized. You’ll typically see it at the beginning or end of your period.
When it’s a cause for concern: Black blood could mean a blockage in your vagina. See your doctor if you have other symptoms, including smelly discharge, fever, trouble urinating, or vaginal itching or swelling.
Brown or Dark Red Period Blood
Why it normally happens: Similar to black blood, brown or dark red blood is a sign of old blood, and usually occurs at the beginning or end of a period. Brown blood can also be an early sign of pregnancy called implantation bleeding. Right after you give birth, brown or dark red discharge is called lochia and is the body’s way of flushing out excess blood and tissue from the uterus. Lochia typically starts as bright red and then transitions into darker colors.
When it’s a cause for concern: If you’re pregnant, brown blood could indicate an issue with your pregnancy, such as a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, and you should speak to your doctor.
Bright Red Period Blood
Why it normally happens: Bright red blood is fresh blood. Your period may start with bright red blood and darken as your period goes on, or you may have bright red blood throughout your period.
When it’s a cause for concern: If you have unusual bleeding or spotting between menstrual cycles, you may have an STI. If your flow is abnormally heavy, you may have growths in the uterine lining. Bright red bleeding can also indicate cervical cancer. Other signs of cervical cancer include heavier or long periods; bleeding after intercourse; smelly discharge; pain in the lower back, pelvis, or legs; loss of appetite; and unexplained weight loss.
Pink Period Blood
Why it normally happens: Pink blood happens when cervical fluid mixes with blood. Low estrogen levels, such as from hormonal birth control or perimenopause, can lead to a lighter, pink flow. After day four of lochia, your blood may be pink.
When it’s a cause for concern: Pink blood may also be a result of significant weight loss, poor diet, or anemia. If you’re pregnant and experiencing cramps and pink discharge, see your doctor.
Orange Period Blood
Why it normally happens: Orange period blood may happen when cervical fluid mixes with blood, and could be implantation spotting.
When it’s a cause for concern: Orange blood/discharge could mean an infection, such as bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis, so it’s a good idea to see your doctor. Other signs may include vaginal itching, discomfort, or smelly discharge.
Why it normally happens: Gray discharge is not normal.
When it’s a cause for concern: Gray discharge is usually a sign of bacterial vaginosis, and you should see a doctor, who may prescribe antibiotics. Other symptoms include itching, smelly discharge, and painful urination. During pregnancy, gray discharge with clots could be a sign of a miscarriage.
In addition to changes in color, the texture of your period may vary as well. Clots are normal, but if your clots are larger than a quarter in size, or accompanied by heavy bleeding, let your doctor know.
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Sources: MedicalNewsToday, Healthline