While for many this topic lies pretty firmly in the too-much-information category, many women wonder about changes in period blood colors and texture. Your period is something you can’t really ignore, so it’s only natural to wonder when it changes in some way, shape, or form. The Net is flooded with questions like, “What does dark period blood mean?”, “Why is my period blood orange?”, “What do lots of clots in your period blood mean?” and “What does bright red blood mean during your period?” to prove it. Below you’ll find explanations for various period blood colors and textures to hopefully answer those questions.
Period blood colors:
Bright red period blood: Normal
Bright red period blood was produced by the body recently. During a period, this just means what’s being shed was recently released into your uterus. You may see more bright red blood if you have a lighter flow or frequent periods. Bright red period blood is also common in the beginning of a cycle. Bright red blood outside of your period may be a sign of light spotting from hormonal imbalance or hormonal flux as a result of ovulation or implantation (a sign of pregnancy).
Dark period blood (red or purple): Normal
Dark blood may appear red, or even close to purple, and is essentially older blood. This may mean it’s been stored in the uterus longer and had more time to break down, had begun to coagulate in the vaginal canal, or was exposed to air. Many women notice darker red blood when they first wake up in the morning. This blood may also be clotted.
Brown or Black period blood: Normal
Black or brown period blood colors are even older blood. Most women notice these colors at the tail end of their period or during light spotting at the beginning. It usually isn’t that heavy. This may have been blood that was stuck in folds of the uterine wall, or if you have infrequent periods, was just the first to enter so long ago. Brown blood is also sometimes seen when bleeding is very light and takes some time to make it’s way out, so to speak. Period blood clots also frequently appear darker, but we’ll get to that in a moment. You can read more about brown discharge, rather than actual bleeding, here.
Orange period blood (rusty): Possible infection
Sometimes when bright red blood mixes with cervical fluid it can appear an almost orange color with red flecks or look a bit rusty in color. Bright orange period blood can also be a sign of infection, though. If you see it frequently, it has a foul odor, or it doesn’t also have a slippery consistency, see your care provider.
Pink period blood: Normal
Pink period blood is a result of light bleeding. It’s most common at the beginning or end of a period, but if it’s the only blood you see over multiple cycles, it’s possible your estrogen is low.
Yellow period blood: Normal
Yellow period blood may not actually be blood at all. Cervical discharge that’s exposed to air or has been in the cervix for sometime may appear yellow. Yellow cervical discharge is more common and copious in pregnancy. It can also be a sign of high estrogen.
Period Blood Textures:
Heavy period clots:
Heavy clotting is usually prescribed to heavy periods. As blood is expelled, the body releases anticoagulants to keep it from clotting. If your period is heavy, sometimes the blood flow and speed doesn’t give those anticoagulants time to work, and clots are the result.
Clots can occur in any color of blood, though they are more commonly dark in color. This makes sense, because when you’re expelling older blood it has had time to build up a lining in the uterus as it should. Naturally, a buildup of blood would create a heavier flow than a fresh bleed, which would be bright red in color.
Frequent heavy clotting or clots larger than the size of a quarter can be a sign of a more serious problem and should be evaluated by your care provider.
Slippery and jelly-like period blood:
Menstrual blood that seems almost slippery with a jelly-like texture is mixed with high levels of cervical mucus. Cervical mucus is always present in the vagina, even during menstruation. If your flow is light, it may be sufficient to alter the appearance of blood texture. You may also notice this after a bowel movement when more mucus is pushed from the cervix or if you’ve recently been pregnant. Period blood after a pregnancy is generally quite unique giving off a distinct smell. Blood with numerous small clots, may also be described as jelly-like.
Thin period blood:
Thin blood is being properly prevented from clotting. It is often bright red in color and accompanies a light to moderate flow. Fresh blood will appear thinner as will blood that is light enough that it’s mixing with cervical fluid. In the later case, it may also seem watery.
Tissue in period blood:
If there is what appears to be actual tissue within your period blood it is possible you suffered an early miscarriage.
Miscarriage tissue typically is described as being grey to white in color. It does not look like a common blood clot. Another type of tissue, called a decidual cast may also be shed in cases. Decidua is part of the mucus membrane of the uterus and is often described as looking like “chicken skin.”
Decidual cast passage can be a sign of ectopic pregnancy or hormonal imbalance. In other cases, it just happens once and never happens again. If you have continued pain after passing a decidual cast, you should seek medical attention. You can do an online image search for both types of tissue to get an idea of the difference. Due to the graphic nature of those images I will not share them here.
Keep in mind, that in most cases, changes in period blood colors or texture are entirely irrelevant and don’t suggest any health problem. However, prolonged changes such as frequent heavy periods, odors, irregular periods, short periods, and/or severe pain during menstruation should be evaluated.
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