We’ve always associated blood with the color red, but how come the rules are different with menstrual blood? As you change your pad or tampon, you may notice the blood changes color all the time.
But don’t worry, because just like how it’s normal for your discharge to have different consistencies, it’s also normal for your period blood to be in various hues.
The question now is, what does your period blood color mean?
Find out everything you need to know about period blood color in this post.
Why Does Period Blood Have Different Colors?
Period blood color can be a source of vital health information. It can tell you of your state of reproductive health—whether you’re healthy or you got an infection or hormonal imbalance.
But most of the time, the color just tells you how long the period blood has been in the uterus.
What is the Normal Period Blood Color?
There is no single standard color for period blood. It can vary daily during menstruation and even across your whole cycle.
Here’s what the different colors of your menstrual blood may mean:
Black fluid resembling coffee grounds coming out of your vagina may sound alarming, but not when it’s period blood.
As surprising as it may be, black period blood is actually normal. It just means the blood has had time to be oxidized, giving it a darker color.
Think of it as apple slices left to air out. Its color may change, but it’s still okay. But sometimes, black blood can also indicate a blockage to menstrual blood flow.
Consult your healthcare provider if you’re also experiencing a foul-smelling discharge, fever, itching or swelling, or difficulty in urination on top of your black blood.
Like black blood during menstruation, brown period blood is also nothing to worry about. It can happen for the same reason.
But between the two, brown blood is relatively more common. Apart from oxidation, you may also experience it at the beginning and end of your period.
When your period is about to end, the flow slows down, so it takes longer for your body to expel all the blood.
If your body doesn’t get rid of all your menstrual blood, it can also appear as brown blood at the beginning of your next cycle.
Brown blood may also be a sign of a “missed miscarriage,” where the fetus stops developing but doesn’t pass from the uterus for about four weeks. In such cases, you may not experience heavy bright red bleeding but simply dark brown spotting or light bleeding.
Dark red period blood means it has been sitting in your uterus for a while, but it hasn’t oxidized yet. You can say it’s a transition color from bright red to brown blood.
This means that you’ll most likely see this color at the tail end of your period as well.
Can you remember the last time you’ve gotten a papercut? You’ll notice the color of your blood is always the same: bright red.
Bright red blood means it’s fresh! Your uterine lining has just started shedding, so the blood is flowing quickly. This gives it zero time to oxidize.
After giving birth, you may also experience lochia—postpartum vaginal discharge lasting for approximately ten days. It begins with bright red heavy bleeding, turning to brown or pink blood after a few days.
You may experience a sudden gush of bright red blood afterwards, especially after breastfeeding. However, if bright red spotting reappears after your lochia has already lightened, check in with your healthcare provider.
But don’t let your guard down just yet. Bright red bleeding or spotting happening outside your period may also indicate infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia.
If you have polyps or fibroids—unusual growths in the uterine lining—you may experience heavy bright red bleeding as well. It is usually accompanied by pain and pressure.
Sometimes, this can also signal cervical cancer. Be on the lookout for the following accompanying symptoms:
- Periods lasting longer than normal
- Heavier bleeding during periods
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Lower back, legs, or pelvic pain
Pink menstrual blood usually happens at the beginning and end of the cycle. When your period blood mixes with cervical fluid, it can result in a pink discharge.
It may also happen during ovulation, as the blood from your uterus mixes with clear cervical fluid.
Light pinkish flow can also indicate low estrogen levels—usually a result of using hormonal birth control. If you suspect this, you may try various natural remedies, like changing your diet.
Small tears in the vagina or cervix caused by sexual intercourse may also cause a pink discharge. Blood mixes with vaginal fluids, thus creating a pinkish hue. Other possible reasons for pink period blood include anemia, significant weight loss, and an unhealthy diet.
You may see orange blood during your period for the same reasons you see pink blood.
But that doesn’t rule out infection just yet, as orange blood can also signify trichomoniasis or bacterial vaginosis.
Monitor yourself for any sign of bacterial or sexually transmitted infections—like foul odor, itching, and painful sex and urination—just to be on the safe side.
Off-white or gray period blood color should have all your alarm bells ringing. This is definitely a sign of infection. On top of this, you may also be suffering from other symptoms, like fever, pain, and foul-smelling discharge often described as “fishy.”
If you’re expecting a child, this may also be a sign of miscarriage. So go to your doctor immediately at the first sign of gray blood.
Generally, black, brown, and dark and bright reds are simply period blood at different oxidation states. Meanwhile, pink and orange blood are usually period blood mixed with cervical fluid.
Is It Normal for Period Blood to Change Color?
Yes. As we’ve discussed in the previous section, your menstrual blood will never be just one color for the entire cycle, so color changes shouldn’t raise a red flag.
At the start of your period and during your heaviest days, your period is likely to be bright red because the blood has no time to oxidize. When you lie down for a long time, you may notice dark red blood on your pads or tampons because it has oxidized a little.
But certain colors can also be a sign that something’s wrong, especially when it’s accompanied by other symptoms.
Knowing when to go to the doctor is important to keep yourself healthy and prevent potential health complications.
When Should You See Your Doctor?
Black, brown, and shades of red are nothing to be worried about. As we’ve mentioned, the color of your period blood varies depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle.
But for orange and gray discharge, seek the advice of a healthcare provider immediately because it may indicate some form of infection.
You should also be concerned if you’re experiencing bleeding after your period. Pay attention to these symptoms as well:
- Blood clots at least the size of a quarter
- Excessively heavy menstrual bleeding that may come with blood clots
- Prolonged bleeding for days during periods
- Thick gray or white vaginal discharge
- Foul-smelling discharge
- Itching around the vagina
- Bleeding for an entire month
- Bleeding after menopause
- Extremely painful cramping during periods
- Heavier or lighter menstrual flow
- Missing three or more periods
- Irregular periods (when you were fairly regular before)
Your doctor will rule out potential problems to try to zero in on a diagnosis.
First, they’ll ask about any medical conditions you have and the medications you’re taking. They may also recommend a transvaginal ultrasound to see if abnormal growths may be causing issues.
Depending on their assessment, your healthcare provider may also run further tests and propose a treatment plan to address the diagnosed problem. But unless you’re exhibiting serious symptoms, chances are you’re only experiencing a regular menstrual cycle.