How well do you know or understand your period blood? Did this question make you a little queasy? I mean I get it periods and period flow is a sensitive topic for many women. If you combine negative period stigma with poor menstrual health education what do you get? You get a lot of women that are misinformed and uneducated regarding their bodies and their reproductive health. This ignorance, of course, leads to shame and sensitivity when it comes to period talk. But, understanding the difference between healthy and unhealthy periods is important. Especially since period blood provides clear feedback regarding the state of your menstrual and general health. Indeed knowing the various colors, textures, and amounts is a beneficial part of preventative health. So, today I’m going to teach you the basics about period blood, and abnormal changes that may signify an underlying condition. Get your pen and paper ready because class is in session.
Period Blood 101
First, let’s discuss exactly what triggers your period flow. Each month your body goes through hormonal changes known as the menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle involves the ovaries and the uterus playing distinct roles to prepare for a potential pregnancy. When fertilization and implantation don’t occur the uterus releases chemicals (prostaglandins) to cause the uterine lining (endometrium) to shed. These chemicals are responsible for causing the uterus to contract and expel the excess tissue. As a result, you will begin to feel cramping in your lower abdomen. And period blood begins to exit the uterus and leave the body.
Now when it comes to what period blood is made of it varies from the blood that’s produced from a wound. Consequently, period blood is a mixture of blood and endometrial tissue. Furthermore, your period flow is controlled by your hormones. This means it doesn’t clot the same as blood produced from a wound. Typically, blood begins to clot and slow down after the third day of your period. Whereas, blood produced by a wound will clot faster. Additionally, period blood clots due to the hormone estrogen. In the case of a wound, blood clots in response to an injury.
Period Blood Colors and Textures
The color, texture, and viscosity of your flow will vary each day of your period. You will also notice that this will change cycle to cycle. Furthermore, this will be different from woman to woman. But, the three main colors of period blood you’ll notice are light pink, bright red, and dark red/brown. The two textures that are common are thin and watery as well as thick and sticky.
Know Your Flow
Since every woman has a unique period flow. Becoming observant and noticing what is normal in regards to your flow will help you determine what’s healthy and unhealthy. First, let’s start with what’s normal to expect from your period flow each month.
Typically your flow will be at its lightest at the beginning and end of your period. You may also experience light flow during your periods if you’re perimenopausal. Or, if you’re dealing with hormonal imbalances. It’s common for your period blood to be light pink and have a thin, watery appearance. This is due to the blood being fresh and passing quickly out of the cervix.
Moderate to Heavy Flow
As you progress further into your period your blood becomes dark red, brown or black in appearance. It can also appear thick and sticky. A reason for this is that estrogen has been released from the ovaries which cause the flow to slow down. It becomes darker and more viscous because it’s passing out of the cervix at a slower rate. You will most likely notice this around days three to four of your period.
Period Blood Abnormalities
As you become familiar with your flow you can quickly spot when things aren’t right. These period blood abnormalities can indicate underlying health issues or hormonal imbalances. That’s why it’s important to not ignore them and make sure you discuss changes with your period, including your period flow, with your gynecologist. Common abnormalities to be on the lookout for are large blood clots, very heavy flow, prolonged bleeding, and irregular bleeding.
Large Blood Clots
Passing small blood clots on occasion during your period is normal. But, passing large blood clots on a regular basis is not. How do you know if your blood clots are big enough to qualify as large? Your blood clots should be no bigger than a quarter. And, you shouldn’t be passing them frequently throughout your period. If you find that this is happening talk with your gynecologist about it. Large blood clots are commonly a sign of fibroids, miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.
Very Heavy Flow
Having a moderately heavy flow isn’t abnormal. But, having a heavy flow that disrupts your daily life is. Soaking through pads and tampons within a small time frame isn’t normal either. If you’re doubling up protection to manage your flow you definitely need to have a conversation with your gynecologist. Abnormally heavy menstrual flow can be a sign of endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Normally, you’ll experience bleeding during your period from 3 to 7 days. If you find that your period is lasting beyond that time frame this could indicate health issues. Longer than average menstrual bleeding is often common for those suffering from fibroids or adenomyosis.
Usually, bleeding outside of your period is a clear sign that something’s up. While spotting before your period, or during ovulation is normal. Anything outside of those times is not. So, if you find that you’re spotting or bleeding at random intervals during your menstrual cycle it’s time to speak with your gynecologist. Irregular bleeding can be a sign of pelvic inflammatory disease, sexually transmitted infection, endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids or certain gynecologic cancers.
Why You Should Track Your Flow
As I explained earlier, becoming more conscious of your period flow is part of good menstrual health. Doing so can help you establish a baseline of healthy period flow for you personally. You will have a better idea of what is normal and can quickly determine when things are abnormal. This goes a long way in helping you to identify irregularities with your period blood.
Consequently, tracking your period flow doesn’t have to be arduous or difficult. There are many period tracker apps on the market designed for this purpose. Additionally, these apps allow you to track your menstrual cycle as a whole. This includes basal body temperature, cervical mucus, cervix position, vaginal sensation, and other symptoms. They also allow you to track your flow to determine how light or heavy it is. And, many of these apps also allow you to journal specific symptoms that you want to make note of. This would be a great space for you to make note of changes to the color, or texture of your flow as well. One of my favorite apps is Kindara. But there are others such as Clue and Flo that are based on the same principles.
Achieving Period Wellness
There’s a lot that we can learn from our bodies. Consequently, that includes things like our menstrual blood. Similar to how you pay attention to your bowel movements and note changes with your urine. It’s the same principle with tracking and becoming aware of period blood. As a matter of fact, paying attention to your menstrual cycles and periods should be an integral part of your wellness ritual. So, pay attention to these health indicators. Your reproductive and general health depends on them.
About The Author
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I’m a health and wellness professional turned freelance writer and content creator. You can find me on YouTube and Instagram. If you take the opportunity to visit me on my other platforms don’t hesitate to leave a message, I would love to hear from you!
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- Hello Clue: Period Blood Color by Clar McWheeny reviewed by Laurie Ray Science Writer at Clue June 16, 2019
- Very Well Health: What The Color of Your Period Blood Says About Your Health by Tracee Cornforth medically reviewed by Brian Levine MD November 01, 2019