The Colour of Your Menstrual Blood and What it Says About Your Health
Uwe Porters - Mid-wife / Pregnancy & Postpartum Expert
Having your period not only means that you are not pregnant, but it also tells you a lot about your hormones and your health. In this article, we will tell you all about the different colors of menstrual blood and what it says about your health.
Is Your Cycle Healthy? Just Look at the Colour of Your Blood
Menstrual blood consists of shed blood and tissue from your uterine lining. Its composition depends on your hormones and any conditions or infections, and therefore the color can differ from person to person and each cycle. What does the color of your menstrual blood say about your health?
Red menstrual blood
Do you have bright red menstrual blood, similar to normal blood from a wound? Great! This indicates a healthy cycle. Your uterus builds up a good layer of endometrium every month and sheds it completely and on time every month.
Dark red or brown menstrual blood
Dark red or brown menstrual blood is likely old, oxidized blood that often occurs at the beginning or end of a period. The color of this blood is dark because it has been in your body for a while.
If you only lose brown blood during your entire period, there may be something wrong. It is best to discuss this with your doctor. For example, women who have irregular periods due to PCOS often have darker menstrual blood.
Breastfeeding women may also have irregular brown bleeding because their periods are not always regular. The blood loss after childbirth (lochia) can also be dark red.
Purple menstrual blood (like frozen blueberries)
If your menstrual blood is purple like frozen blueberries, it could indicate excess estrogen. A higher estrogen than progesterone level can cause various menstrual problems. It is a good idea to talk to a doctor if your menstrual blood is purple.
Light pink menstrual blood
A short period with light pink bleeding may indicate that your body is producing very minimal amounts of estrogen and may be having difficulty ovulating. There are several causes for low estrogen levels. You may not be getting enough vitamins or nutrients, for example due to a strict diet or because you do a lot of intense exercise.
Light pink menstrual blood can also indicate an iron deficiency (iron is responsible for the red color of blood). It can also indicate the beginning of perimenopause.
Interim bleeding (spotting) or blood loss during ovulation can also be light pink in color, because it is a small amount of blood mixed with fluid and mucus.
Intermittent bleeding or spotting is unexpected bleeding between two menstrual cycles. There are many reasons for interim bleeding, such as hormonal disruption or the use of certain contraceptive methods. It can also be a sign of early pregnancy. If you experience regular bleeding between your periods, we recommend that you consult a doctor.
Light bleeding around ovulation usually lasts for a short time. You may also feel some cramping. It can be the result of hormonal fluctuations around ovulation, caused by a sudden drop in estrogen levels.
Your menstrual blood is orange or gray
These colors may indicate a problem or infection. If you have orange or gray menstrual blood, we recommend that you see your doctor ASAP.
The smell of your menstrual blood
Your menstrual blood may smell like iron because it consists of blood. Outside your vagina, the blood comes into contact with bacteria, oxygen, sweat and mucus. That's why it can sometimes smell a little less fresh. Especially if you don't change your menstrual product for a long time or if it is warm.
Did you know that cup users are almost odorless because the blood does not come into contact with the air? Blood only starts to smell when it comes into contact with air.
Older, darker blood may also smell slightly different. Does your menstrual blood smell really strong or bad? Then visit a doctor, because strong-smelling blood can indicate an infection.
And, what about the color of your discharge?
Your cervical mucus, also known as discharge, protects your uterus from invaders, but it also provides a lot of information about your cycle and health.
The color and composition of the mucus tells you which phase of your cycle you are in. Green discharge may indicate an STD or infection. If you notice your discharge is green, we recommend consulting a doctor.
During your period
During your period, your estrogen and progesterone levels are lower so you may have little to no discharge. Even if there is discharge, it is probably not visible because of the blood loss. With a menstrual cup, this is sometimes a little easier to see.
After your period
Shortly after your period you will have little to no cervical mucus. Your vagina may also feel dry. As your estrogen levels rise, the amount of cervical mucus increases. This mucus can be thick, sticky, milky, creamy, or white. When it dries, you may notice a gritty residue in your underwear.
Around and during your ovulation
During ovulation there is a clear difference in your discharge. Your vagina may feel moist and you may see stretchy and clear mucus on toilet paper or in your underwear. It looks a bit like raw egg white or aloe vera slime. It can be quite a lot and can even feel as if it is draining from your vagina.
Before your period
After ovulation, estrogen levels drop and progesterone levels increase. This reduces the amount of mucus. It is no longer as elastic but rather thick, sticky, white, yellowish or grainy. Some days you may have nothing at all.
Want to learn more about your cervical mucus? Read our blog post here.
The smell of your discharge
Your discharge should be odorless, or have a rather faint odor that can sometimes smell slightly saltier or sweeter depending on where you are in your cycle. If your discharge smells strong or very fishy, contact a doctor.
How else do you recognize a healthy cycle?
The frequency, duration and intensity of menstruation varies from person to person and between each cycle. If your cycle doesn't match that of others, that's okay; as long as it suits your body. If you know what is normal and healthy for you, you will notice changes more quickly. The widespread belief that a cycle always lasts 28 days and that ovulation occurs right in the middle is incorrect. In fact, only a minority of women have a cycle like this. How do you recognize a normal cycle?
1. You have regular periods
A normal cycle lasts between 22 to 40 days. If your cycle is shorter or longer, it is irregular and it may be wise to contact your doctor.
2. You don't bleed too much or for too long
'A lot of bleeding' means that you have to change a tampon, cup or pad every one or two hours, or that you have periods for more than a week. Normal blood loss is between 25 and 40 milliliters, max. 80 milliliters.
3. Your periods are irregular or very frequent
If your cycle lasts longer than 40 days, or if its length varies between seven and nine days each month, you may have irregular periods.
Irregular menstruation, or a cycle that is too short or too long, can have various causes, such as obesity, weight loss, stress, hormonal imbalance or conditions such as PCOS. If you are concerned, it is wise to talk to your doctor.
Please note: breastfeeding can also cause irregular or absent periods, because your body produces hormones that suppress ovulation. Generally this is not a cause for concern. We see an average return of your cycle after 11 to 16 months with exclusive breastfeeding.
4. Your period does not hinder your daily activities
Some cramps are okay, but if you can't function normally for a few days every month, something may be wrong. Menstruation should not be accompanied by debilitating pain. If you basically need to curl up in bed during your period, something may be wrong. We suggest speaking to your doctor if your pain is so bad, you have to stop doing our normal activities.
Menstrual blood as a face mask?
You may have heard about it before: on TikTok, influencers have recently talked about a menstruation mask or a moon mask. Yes, a face mask made from menstrual blood.
The influencers thought it would be good for your skin. The idea comes from a study showing that menstrual blood can be a source of stem cells that can repair skin damage.
But in these studies, the blood is not just smeared on your face, but processed. A face mask made from menstrual blood could actually do harm if, for example, you have a fungal infection or if the blood is mixed with bacteria.
So whether you have a healthy cycle or not, we don't recommend putting your menstrual blood on your face. This might be one trend you’ll want to skip!
Menstrual blood is a mixture of blood and tissue. It has a different consistency than the blood that flows through your veins. When it comes out of the vagina, menstrual blood can be pink, red, brown, purple, or even another color. It is important to understand what is normal for you. If you're concerned about changes in your period, contact your healthcare provider or talk to us directly – you're definitely not alone.