When it comes to the colour of our periods, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s always your classic ‘blood-red’ colour (unless decades of misogynistic period care advertising have convinced you that it’s actually blue!) But the truth is that our period colour can vary from cycle to cycle and from person to person.
In fact, the colour of your period blood can tell you a lot about what’s going on in your body. Here we’ll go through the period health colour wheel and explain what each shade might mean!
- Your period blood can tell you a lot about what is going on in your body - so it’s really helpful to get to know your flow!
- Bright red blood is a sign of a healthy flow - although you might notice the blood is darker towards the start or end of your period, and that's totally normal
- Certain colours - like pink or orange - can be common at certain points of your cycle, but if combined with other symptoms like pain or irritation, they could be a sign of infection
- Grey bleeds are a red flag - they are often associated with infections like bacterial vaginosis
- Your period is unique to you - get to know what a ‘normal’ period blood colour is for you personally and speak to a doctor if you notice any changes.
What does bright red period blood mean?
If your period is bright red - this is a sign that things are pretty healthy! You might find that your period gets brighter on Day 2 or 3 of your cycle when it’s really getting into the flow of things and the blood is exiting your body before it has the chance to darken (more on that in a minute!)
Whilst we’re usually happy to see a period that’s the colour of Taylor Swift’s bright, signature lip shade, we of course only want to see bleeding at the right time of your cycle. If you notice fresh red blood in between periods, it could be a sign of infection, including STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhoea. If you think you could be at risk of an STI, it’s worth getting tested and contacting your GP.
What does pink period blood mean?
If your period is pink, it’s not just a sign that your menstrual cycle is a fan of the Barbie Movie. Pink period blood is a sign of a really light flow or a withdrawal bleed if you are on hormonal contraception. A light flow might sound like the dream, but it can actually be a sign that your oestrogen and progesterone aren’t firing as they are supposed to, which could be caused by numerous factors including stress, hormonal imbalances or nutrient deficiencies.
If you experience pink blood around the midpoint of your cycle, this could be a sign of ovulation. Some light bleeding around the time of ovulation isn’t something to be too concerned about. A lot is going on in your body during this time - including the rupture of your mature follicle - that could cause some light bleeding. When the blood mixes with your fertile cervical mucus, this is when it can become light pink!
Pink spotting and cervical cancer
In some rare cases, spotting mid-cycle can be a sign of cervical cancer, but please don’t panic. There are many other symptoms - including pain during sex, discomfort when urinating, weight loss and fatigue - that you would expect to see with a gynaecological cancer of this time. Speak to a doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms and staying on top of your regular smear tests can also help put your mind at ease.
What does dark red or brown period blood mean?
At the start or end of your period, it’s not unusual to find the blood looking a little darker - or even rusty. Blood gets darker the longer it stays in the body, where it becomes oxidised. At the start of your period, the dark blood could potentially be old blood that has been in the uterus since your last period - and at the end, it could be the last part of the womb lining shedding from this cycle.
However, if you are experiencing dark red blood throughout your entire period, it could potentially be a sign that something is a little off. It could be that your womb lining is very thin, which could be a sign of hormonal imbalance or that blood is not flowing to your uterus properly (exercises and abdominal massage can help with this!)
Could dark red spotting be a sign of pregnancy?
In some cases, dark red blood can also be a sign of pregnancy. Some women report some dark red spotting around the time of implantation, which occurs 10-14 days after conception (confusingly around the same time your period is due!)
What does black period blood mean?
Black blood may sound concerning, but most of the time it’s just another case of old blood exiting the body. When blood becomes oxidised it will first become dark red and brown and then eventually black, so you may experience black blood if you have had some cycle irregularities which means your lining hasn’t shed for a long time.
Black period blood and vaginal blockages
However, black blood can sometimes (albeit rarely) be a sign of a vaginal blockage. The vagina can become blocked by objects like a forgotten tampon or a rogue condom. If this is the case you will usually experience other symptoms alongside the black blood - including strange odours, itching and irritation or even a fever. As always, if you experience any of these symptoms, consult your doctor as soon as possible.
What does orange period blood mean?
Similarly to pink blood, orange period blood can be a light flow that is mixed with your discharge. This might happen towards the beginning or end of your period where the blood can be more of a rust colour - which is then lightened by the presence of vaginal discharge.
Could orange blood be a sign of infection?
In some cases orange discharge can be a sign of infection – either an STI or bacterial vaginosis. Don’t assume the worst - if you're only seeing orange blood occasionally, it’s probably nothing to worry about. But if you are experiencing orange bleeds regularly, alongside symptoms such as itching, burning or general pain and discomfort, reach out to your GP for advice.
Grey period blood
Grey is probably the only period blood colour that won’t ever occur in a healthy menstrual cycle. If you are seeing greyish blood or grey discharge, speak to your doctor ASAP as it is probably a sign of an infection like bacterial vaginosis.
We all have bacteria in our vagina but when there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria it can cause issues. Bacterial vaginosis (or BV) can come with many symptoms including strange bleeds or discharge as well as fever, pain or a burning sensation when you go to the toilet. It is usually treatable with a simple course of antibiotics and supporting your vaginal microbiome with products created with your vaginal health in mind (hello MyProbiotic) can help reduce your risk of infection.
Noticing changes in your period blood
Everyone’s menstrual cycle and bleed are unique to them - so understanding what the normal colour of period blood is for you is key. Be mindful during your bleed to take a look at what's going on down there! Using a menstrual cup can be really helpful but even taking a conscious look at what’s on your toilet paper or on in your tampon can give you an indication. If you notice things are changing or are concerned about any symptoms, have a chat with your doctor and they can advise you on next steps!