Think of the color of your period blood like a mood ring for your body; your period has its own rainbow of colors ranging from crimson red to brown, rust orange to black. It’s usually no cause for concern, but certain hues can tell you a lot about your body and your overall health (like if your hormones are imbalanced, or if you’re overstressed).
It’s important to remember that what you see on your tampon or pad, or in your menstrual cup or toilet bowl is a mixture of both blood and tissues from the lining of your uterus. The ratio and amount of each affects the color and texture of your menstrual blood, or menses. It’s appearance is different for each person, across different cycles, and even day to day.
It can be confusing (and concerning) to see a color you’re not expecting, but we promise there’s an explanation for all the shades of your menstrual blood. Read on to learn more about these colors and what they mean.
Light red or pink period blood may be the result of a lighter flow of period blood mixing with your cervical fluid, diluting its hue.
Pink period blood may also indicate low estrogen levels. Estrogen helps stabilize the uterine lining, and without this hormone, you may shed the lining at different times throughout your cycle, leading to spotting. If your period is light month after month, it may be an indication of vitamin or nutrient deficiencies caused by extreme dieting or exercise. Take time to assess your diet and exercise regimen, and don’t be afraid to reach out.
Brown period blood is common at the end of your cycle as your flow slows down; the longer the blood has been in your uterus, the darker the color. This happens when your blood has time to oxidize, and darkens in color (just like the dried blood on a scraped knee darkens).
Keep in mind, however, that brownish blood and spotting can be an early sign pregnancy—specifically implantation bleeding that occurs roughly 10 to 14 days after conception. If you’re experiencing mild cramping, swollen breasts, nausea, and vomiting alongside brown blood and discharge, take a pregnancy test and schedule an appointment with your OBGYN.
Bright red blood usually occurs early in your flow when the blood is “fresh” and hasn’t had time to oxidize, passing through your body quickly. While red blood indicates a healthy period and flow, an excessive amount of bleeding can be cause for concern.
If you bleed through multiple pads, tampons, or menstrual cups per hour, you should talk with your doctor about possible causes. You could be experiencing an infection (STI), non cancerous uterine growths known as fibroids or polyps, adenomyosis (which means you have a thicker uterine tissue that causes longer, heavier periods), or, rarely, cervical cancer.
Like pink period blood, orange period blood is usually the result of your period blood mixing with your cervical fluid; the mix of fluids naturally lightens the color of your flow.
Orange blood could also indicate implantation bleeding shortly after conception and, less often, be an indication of infection. If you notice that the consistency or scent is different from your usual flow, orange or rust colored blood could be a sign of a sexually transmitted infection and you should schedule an appointment with your doctor and consider taking a pregnancy test.
Black period blood may appear alarming, but we promise you’re not giving birth to Rosemary’s baby! Like brown blood, you may see black blood at the very beginning or near the end of your period as the older blood takes its time exiting your body when your flow is slow and has time to oxidize. You may also be experiencing vaginal blockage, where the blood and tissue builds up in your uterus and sheds more slowly.
However, black period blood is a cause for concern if accompanied with other symptoms including strong smelling discharge, difficulty peeing, fever, or vaginal itching or swelling as you could have an infection, in which case you should talk to your OBGYN.