Is My Period Blood Color Normal?
When you imagine the color of blood, it's likely you imagine some shade of red, but when it comes to period blood, red isn't the only color your blood might be.
What's considered a "normal" period is dependent on each individual and their body. Typically, a period occurs every four weeks and tends to last five to seven days, but this can differ based on your cycle. Some people get their periods every three weeks and some people have periods that last only three days, but others may get their periods every six weeks and have them last 10 days.
It can take a while to understand your cycle, and even then it can change depending on a number of factors, such as your weight or lifestyle.
But what happens if your period is abnormal?
"Usually, I say to patients that it depends on what is abnormal for [them], as period blood amount and color can change from woman to woman and at different stages of their lives, such as after giving birth," said Hana Patel, M.B.B.S., a general practitioner and mental health coach in London. "Period blood can range from bright red, red, orange, dark red, pink and even gray."
What does the color of my period blood mean?
Not all of these colors are a good sign, Patel explained.
"Period blood that is orange or gray can be associated with an infection, and if this is not a normal color of period blood for you, then I would always recommend speaking to your doctor about it," she said.
What colors should you expect to see during your period?
Kecia Gaither, M.D., the director of perinatal services/maternal-fetal medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln in the Bronx in New York City, explained what the typical colors of your period blood should be and what they mean:
- Pink. "At the start of menstruation, the color of your blood will be pinkish, reflecting a mix of vaginal discharge and the bright red blood of your menses," Gaither said.
- Bright red. "The uterus is actively shedding its lining and, therefore, bright red blood is exiting the uterus and vagina," she said.
- Dark red or brown. "This is blood that had been retained in the vagina for a few days and, therefore, towards the end of the cycle, the blood is darker," she said.
However, the color of your period blood can also change based on any medications or supplements you take, Patel warned.
"Painkiller medications that some women may be taking for period pains, such as NSAIDs or ibuprofen or naproxen sodium and also some hormonal contraception, may also cause changes to the period blood color," she explained.
When should I be worried about my period blood?
As mentioned by Patel, orange- or gray-colored period blood could be an indicator of an infection and would need further investigation by a general practitioner. But the color of your blood isn't the only sign that something may be wrong.
Gaither explained there might be other warning signs to look for if you suspect something is not right.
"You should consult a physician if you have prolonged and painful periods with what you deem as excessive bleeding, experience dizziness during your period, experience the passage of large blood clots, you have intermenstrual bleeding [bleeding outside of your period], or your vaginal discharge had a foul odor or is abnormally colored compared to usual," she said.
Keeping track of your periods and paying particular attention to the consistency and color of your blood can be especially helpful.
Zoya Ali, B.Sc., M.Sc., a reproductive health scientist and sex educator in the United Kingdom, explained why.
"Unfortunately, many [women] weren't taught anything about menstrual health," she said. "Our menstrual cycles are controlled by our hormones and are easily affected by things like stress, diet, exercise, sleep cycles, overall health, medications; they essentially give us great insights into what is happening in your body. Your periods acting up could be a sign that something is going on, and it is important to get it checked out by your doctor.
"Tracking cycles is a great way to understand our body, what is normal for us and pick up on potential signs that something is off quicker," Ali added. "It can encourage people to seek help sooner. This information will also help them better explain what is going on to their healthcare provider."
Video visits with a provider have become a viable option for most people, and more physicians have added them as a service. Giddy telehealth makes it easy to get connected to a qualified healthcare professional who can help with a variety of conditions and get the conversation started.