Why does the colour of my period blood change? And what does it mean?

tampons in a circle

Have you ever noticed that the color of your period blood sometimes looks different? Or different from what you see in magazines/on the internet? You might also notice that the color changes as your period progress. Today we are going to talk about the different colors you might see during your period. What is normal and what might warrant going to a doctor?

What is my period made of?

First of all, we should start with what our period actually is. We probably all know it is made up of blood, but what else is in there too?

So our periods are actually made up of blood, cells from the inside of the uterus/womb (endometrial cells) and mucous (a bit of a gross word but just describes the gooey stuff that our cervix produces to keep itself healthy).

What should the color of my period blood look like?

The way that these things all mix together is what dictates what the color of our period blood looks like. And this can change from person to person, throughout our lives or even during a single period. Things like infection, recent pregnancy, new medication or big life changes can also change how things look.

“Fresh” blood also looks different from old blood. Blood that has been sitting in the uterus (womb) for longer before coming out has time to react with oxygen (oxidize) and will look darker than blood that has just appeared.

Also, remember that everyone is different. And “normal” for you might not be the same as “normal” for someone else. We all need to pay attention to our own bodies so that we know what they usually do and can notice if something has changed.

The color of period blood

There are lots of different colors you might see during your period. Some of them are normal, some of them mean you should probably go and see a doctor.

Black

Black (or very, very dark) blood is old blood. It is usually blood that has been sitting in the uterus for a little while before it comes out. It is sometimes seen right at the end of a period.

Black blood can also mean there is something blocking the vagina (and making it harder for the blood to leave your body). One cause of this is a retained tampon – a tampon that you forgot to remove at the end of your last period. It is important we take our tampons out because they can cause infections if left in there too long.

Brown or dark red

This is usually at the beginning or at the end of a period and is also a sign of old blood. When your bleeding is slow (for example at the beginning or end of your period) then it takes longer for the blood to leave your body. This means it has more time to oxidize and appears darker.

Other times you might see dark blood is just after you have a baby (this bleeding is called lochia) or if you have bleeding during pregnancy.

NOTE: Always call your doctor or midwife if you are experiencing bleeding during pregnancy. Bleeding in pregnancy is not always a sign that there is something wrong but it is always a reason to get checked.

Bright red

Bright red blood is fresh blood (same as if you cut your finger). This is usually in the middle of your period when your flow is heavier.

NOTE: Bright red bleeding between your periods (when you aren’t due to be bleeding) might be a sign of an infection, miscarriage or polyps or even cervical cancer. If you have irregular periods then this article might be useful for you.

If you are having bleeding between your periods or after sex then see a doctor and get this checked.

Pink

Pink period blood (or lighter red) can sometimes just mean there is less blood and more cervical mucous. It often appears at the beginning or end of your period when the blood is mixed in with your normal vaginal discharge.

Pink blood can also be seen after pregnancy (lochia) or can be associated with low estrogen levels. This means that if you are approaching menopause then you might notice your period blood becoming more pink, or if you are using a progesterone-only form of hormonal birth control (contraception).

Orange

Orange period blood is sometimes similar to pink (it is blood mixed with discharge). It can also indicate an infection. If orange period blood is not something you usually see then it is a good idea to get checked for infection. Your GP or a sexual health service is usually the easiest way to do this.

Grey

Grey period blood or vaginal discharge usually indicates an infection – especially if it is associated with an unusual smell. If you notice grey discharge and feel unwell with pain or fever then please see a doctor urgently.

If you are pregnant, grey discharge can also be a sign of a miscarriage.

We are all different

Hopefully, the different colors you see in your period blood make a bit more sense. Remember that what is normal for you is the most important thing. If you notice a change or are worried then please talk to a doctor.


Disclaimer: This website does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Posted By  : Katherine Maslowski

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About the author

Katherine Maslowski

Katherine Maslowski

Katherine is a junior doctor from New Zealand who has experience working in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and is currently studying an MSc in Women’s Health. She is passionate about women’s health and empowering women to learn about their bodies and understand how they work. She is particularly interested in sexual and reproductive health and helping women to make educated, informed choices about their health and wellbeing.

About the author

Katherine Maslowski

Katherine Maslowski

Katherine is a junior doctor from New Zealand who has experience working in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and is currently studying an MSc in Women’s Health. She is passionate about women’s health and empowering women to learn about their bodies and understand how they work. She is particularly interested in sexual and reproductive health and helping women to make educated, informed choices about their health and wellbeing.

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