How is Period Blood a Sign of Health?

When menstruation begins, which for most women is around the age of 13, you will have what is called a period every month or so. During your period your body releases the monthly buildup of the lining of your uterus, or womb. Blood and tissue flow from your uterus through the small opening in the cervix, which passes through your vagina. You may ask yourself, “why do I have a low-grade fever before this period?” Low-grade fever before period is normal due to hormonal fluctuations. 

With these many hormonal changes, periods are a helpful tool for women to keep their healthcare on track because your period blood can show important signs about your health. From bright red menstrual blood to brown, the color of your period will vary, but some colors may be a reason to visit your doctor. University Park OBGYN shares what signs to look out for during your period. 

Why is My Menstrual Blood Brown?

If you are worried, asking yourself, “why is my menstrual blood brown” or “why do I have brown period blood for a week” do not worry! Dark blood is typically a sign of old blood or blood that takes longer to leave the uterus. Blood changes from the standard bright red menstrual blood to brown blood or discharge when it has had time to oxidize. Brown period blood is usually normal, but there are a few cases that may require evaluation by your physician. You can stop wondering why is my menstrual blood brown with these things in mind:

  • Brown blood can indicate the beginning or end of your period. Some blood released during your period can be leftover from your last period, or when your flow is slow, blood takes longer to leave your body. These are both normal reasons for brown menstrual blood and maybe why you experience brown period blood for a week. 
  • Lochia, which is the bleeding women experience for four to six weeks after childbirth, can start fairly heavy, and then after a few days, it may become pink or brownish. 
  • Pregnancy can cause brown spotting. If you believe you may be pregnant or are experiencing light brown period blood for a week, call your doctor or take a pregnancy test. 
  • A miscarriage is often associated with bright red bleeding, but some women may experience something called a missed miscarriage. During this kind of pregnancy loss, the fetus has stopped developing but does not pass through the uterus for at least a month. Some women develop brown spotting or bleeding rather than bleeding or clots. 

Depressed Young Woman Sitting on Floor at Home

Why is My Period Blood Dark Red?

Most usually, dark red period blood can occur after you have been laying down or waking up with your period, simply meaning the blood has been sitting in your uterus for some time. Dark red period blood is associated with other things as well, such as the end of your period when it slows down, or lochia, the heavy bleeding after delivery of a baby. Lochia bleeding can appear clotted or dark red before changing to another shade or texture after a few days. Dark red period blood is old blood that has not oxidized enough to turn brown.  

Bright Red Menstrual Blood 

Bright red menstrual blood may occur at the beginning of your period, signifying that the blood is flowing quickly and is fresh. Your period may darken as your flow slows down, or it may stay bright red throughout the duration of your menstruation. Bright red menstrual blood, although it is often normal, can point to other health conditions that may need to be evaluated by your doctor. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Infections, like gonorrhea and chlamydia, can cause bleeding between your periods. Consider contacting your doctor if you are bleeding vaginally before your period. 
  • Bleeding can occur during pregnancy, but sometimes, it is a sign of miscarriage. Every case of bleeding while pregnant is unique, but it is always better to check in with your doctor when you experience it. 
  • Fibroids and polyps are noncancerous, large or small growths in the uterus that can cause heavy bleeding, as well as pressure and pain, during your menstrual cycle. 

Pink Period Blood

Your blood can look pink at the beginning or end of your period, especially if you are spotting. This light pink shade is due to cervical fluid mixing with your period blood, which dilutes the color. Sometimes, pink period blood can indicate low estrogen concentrations in your body. Because estrogen helps stabilize your uterine lining, without it, you can spot throughout your cycle, including spotting pink. 

Things like perimenopause and hormonal birth control without hormones can cause these changes in estrogen levels. This color may be present around ovulation time as well, or lochia after childbirth. If you are pregnant and experience significant clear or pink fluid releasing from the vagina, cramping, and passage of tissue, this may signify miscarriage. When in doubt, it is always safest to consult your doctor. 

Orange Period Blood

For similar reasons, like the occurrence of pink discharge, period blood may appear orange when it mixes with cervical fluid. Orange blood is also associated with implantation spotting 10-14 days after conception. If you experience spotting ranging in color that does not turn into a period, we recommend taking a pregnancy test. On the other hand, abnormally colored discharge, or discharge with unusual smell or texture, can signify a bacterial infection or an STI, or sexually transmitted infection. If you are unsure of the cause of your discharge, reach out to your healthcare provider. 

What Does Gray Period Blood Signify?

Seeing off-white or gray discharge or period blood typically signifies an infection and warrants a call to your doctor. This color of discharge indicates that you are developing an infection, such as bacterial vaginosis. 

If you are pregnant, gray discharge or tissue passing from the vagina can be a sign of miscarriage, and your doctor should evaluate you. This discharge color indicates that you are developing an infection, such as bacterial vaginosis. Some other signs of infections to look out for include foul or fishy odor, itching, pain, or fever. 

Why Does Period Blood Smell?

symptoms of urinary tract infection in pregnancy**, why does period blood smell**

You may find yourself asking, “why does period blood smell?” There are many factors that contribute to the smell of menstrual blood, such as vaginal pH and the presence of bacteria. The reason why does period blood smell metallic is because of the presence of iron and blood. While every woman will carry a different scent depending on the pH of the acidity in the vagina and healthy bacteria present, there are some warning smells to look out for: 

  • Rotten – this can be due to an old tampon or foreign object present in the vagina, which may need the assistance of a medical professional to remove.
  • Sweet – this smell can be caused by the presence of yeast or bacteria in the vaginal flora.
  • Body Odor – sweat can combine with bacteria, especially after exercise.
  • Fishy – this odor is a sign of an infection like bacterial vaginosis or an STI and should be evaluated by your physician.

Another thing to look out for is symptoms of urinary tract infection in pregnancy, which includes smelly or bloody urine. Additional symptoms such as a burning sensation while passing urine, urinating more than usual, or experiencing incontinence, feeling like your bladder is full, cloudy urine, pain in the pelvis, and fever are all symptoms of urinary tract infection in pregnancy as well. Overall, if you notice any abnormal vagina odors throughout your cycle, be sure to let your doctor know.

When Should I Call My Doctor?

During menstruation, it is normal for the color of your blood to look different or change from start to finish. Many factors affect the hue of your period blood, and some are totally normal! However, some changes in color are not normal, and need to get checked out by your doctor. The general rule of thumb is that if something looks or feels off or you are experiencing other symptoms in addition to that change, call your doctor. 

Here are some reasons to make a healthcare appointment:

  • Irregularity in your menstrual cycle, meaning the length from one month to the next in which you menstruate. 
  • Length of your cycles being less than 24 or longer than 38 days.
  • Not having a period for three-plus months.
  • Experiencing significant pain or additional symptoms that go hand in hand with your period.
  • Bleeding or spotting between periods. 
  • Bleeding after menopause. 

It is safest to contact your doctor when you are pregnant if you experience any bleeding whatsoever. It could be nothing, but it may be a miscarriage, so it is always better to run it by a medical professional. Gray or pink watery discharge should always be evaluated for infection, miscarriage, or otherwise. Young women who just began menstruation and perimenopausal women are most likely to expect irregular changes in their period. 

Adult Woman Having a Visit at Female Doctor’s Office

The Takeaway

Remember – dark red, brown, and black period blood has simply oxidized or is older and should not be a cause for concern. If you have any concerns or are experiencing any other symptoms in tandem with your cycle, we recommend playing it safe and contacting your healthcare provider. The colors of period blood are often misunderstood, but remember, a range in color and hue are most often normal. 

At the end of the day, we recommend paying attention to the volume of your period, changes in the length of your cycle, pain, or any other irregular bleeding patterns that may signify an underlying condition. At University Park OBGYN, we are here to provide exceptional care and answer any questions you may have about your women’s healthcare. Visit our website and give us a call today to set up your annual exam!