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Period blood colour – what does it mean?

Pink, red, black, brown, orange or grey? Nope, not a new kind of rainbow, it’s the spectrum of colours of period blood you might see at different stages of your cycle. But what’s normal, and which colours are cause for concern?  

We’ve dived into the colour wheel to give you the flowdown:  

If your period blood is BLACK  

While it sounds pretty scary, black blood can be pretty normal. It’s usually just old blood (also brown), or blood that’s taking its sweet time leaving your uterus, which means it gets oxidised and becomes darker. If you’re getting black or brown discharge or bleeding between cycles, or if the dark bleeding or discharge persists or is accompanied by pain, odour or itching, book in for a check-up with your GP to determine the cause.  

If your period blood is BROWN  

Brown blood is ‘old’ blood which changes colour from red to brown on its way down as it is becomes oxidised. The most common times to see brown blood are when you have a slow flow, when there’s blood left from your previous period, and towards the end of your period when the bleeding slows to more of a ‘spotting’. 

A much more unusual cause of dark brown spotting or bleeding is a ‘missed miscarriage’. Unlike most cases of miscarriage which are associated with bright red bleeding, a ‘missed miscarriage’ can occur when a foetus has stopped developing but isn’t expelled from the uterus for several weeks.  

If your period blood is DARK RED  

Dark red bleeding is often seen when you first wake up in the morning (or get up from a super-long streaming sesh), or towards the end of your period as your flow slows down (on its way to becoming brown). This is because the blood isn’t as fresh because it’s been sitting (or lying down) in your body overnight.  

If your period blood is BRIGHT RED  

For many people, bright red blood is the first sign of their period every month. Bright red is a sign of fresh, fast-flowing blood, and while it might stay this way for some for their entire period, for many the flow will darken and then brown as your period goes from start to finish. The heaviest bleeding (usually at the beginning of your period) is often bright red. 

Of course, if you see bright red bleeding (or any colour really) in between your periods, you should check in with your doctor as it could be a sign of an infection or something else going a little awry with your cycle. 

If your period blood is PINK  

Pink period blood is common at either the very start or towards the end of your period, especially if you’re ‘spotting’. Pink blood is often the result of blood mixing with cervical fluid.  

Pink spotting in between periods can be associated with low oestrogen levels which can be caused by many things ranging from contraceptive choices to perimenopause and more so if it’s happening, go get it checked out. 

Some people experience pink spotting mid-cycle around ovulation, but as always, if you’re not sure, get some expert medical advice.  

Others also mention pink spotting at the time of suspected implantation in pregnancy – so around 10 to 14 days after conception – so if you have spotting around this time that’s not expected, a pregnancy test run to the pharmacy might be in order.  

A sudden ‘gush’ of pink fluid can be a sign of miscarriage if you’re pregnant. This could be accompanied by cramps and other symptoms, but if you’re pregnant and it happens, contact your midwife or doctor right away, just in case.  

If your period blood is ORANGE  

Orange blood or discharge is usually just a variation on pink blood or discharge as a result of blood mixing with cervical fluid – so the causes are also the same – as above.  

If you’re bleeding is an orange-ish colour and a different consistency, or has a bad smell, it could be a sign of an infection or STD so check in with your doctor pronto.  

If your period blood is GREY  

Grey isn’t a typical period blood colour so grey-looking blood or discharge are a reason to visit your doctor to check for signs of an infection, such as bacterial vaginosis. Other infection red flags include itching, pain, odour or fever.  

If you’re passing grey tissue from your vagina it could be a sign of a miscarriage, so again, get it check out.  

If your period blood is FULL OF CLOTS 

If you have heavy periods, or menorrhagia, it’s pretty common to see small blood clots as your uterus sheds its lining, but if you’re passing a lot of clots, or they’re bigger than a 5c coin, it’s worth getting a check up.   

If your period is ALL KINDS OF COLOURS  

Your period can change colour from the first day to spotting in the last days, and this is all normal and especially common in the first couple of years when your cycle is getting established, or in perimenopause when things become less regular again. The range of colours in the ‘healthy’ range is pretty wide but it’s important to ask your doctor if anything changes from your usual cycle, if your periods last longer than usual or stop altogether, if they become much heavier or lighter for no known reason or if you have bleeding or spotting in between periods.  

Basically, if you’re not sure or something changes – ask!  
 

Always seek help from a medical professional if you are unsure. 

 

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