What Should My Period Blood Look Like?
Updated: Dec 26, 2019
This falls under the “everything you wanted to know but were too embarrassed to ask” category. We all want to know if our bodies are behaving normally, and there are few times when that's more uncertain than when a girls starts menstruating. Questions like, “how long should my period last,” and “how heavy should my flow be” are the most commonly asked and answered. But one question that doesn't seem to get much attention is about menstrual blood itself.
Girls will quickly notice that their flow changes color, intensity, and often appearance as it runs its course. But what does 'normal' blood look like, and when are these changes signs of something more serious? Below are the three major elements of appearance when it comes to periods. We'll go over what's normal and what's a sign that something's gone wrong.
Period Blood Color
Menstrual blood typically starts out as a light red or pink and quickly turns to a brighter or darker color. Toward the end of the cycle, the flow may begin to look rust-colored or brown. Some women even experience a black discharge toward the end of their period. This variation is perfectly normal. However, if your menstrual blood stays very dark or rust-colored throughout your cycle, it may be the sign of a blockage, and you should tell your doctor.
Period Blood Thickness
Typically, menstrual blood will be much thicker than the blood that flows through your body. This is because menstruation is the shedding of the uterine lining, which includes tissue and mucus as well as blood. The reason the first part of your period is often pink or light red is because a small amount of blood is being diluted in clear mucus. It may sound a little gross, but it's completely healthy.
In some cases, women also experience a watery, almost clear discharge during their periods. While unusual, as long as there is no strong odor present, this isn't a sign of any known problem.
Period Blood Clots
It's not uncommon for women and girls to experience mild clotting, especially in the middle part of their cycles. These clots are usually small (dime sized or less), and are no cause for alarm. They're simply a result of your body being unable to produce enough anti-clotting compounds to keep up with a heavy flow. Heavy clotting or prolonged, heavy bleeding can be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as endometriosis, so always report large clots to your gynecologist.
What's 'normal' will vary largely from person to person, so if your flow doesn't seem to match up to the standard, don't worry. Your period can even look different from month to month. If you have concerns, discuss them with a healthcare professional, but remember that your menstrual cycle can be affected by many different factors from major hormonal imbalances to a simple lack of sleep.
It's important to pay attention to your body and keep track of any changes, as they can give you information about your overall health. However, in most cases there's no need to be alarmed if you notice a change in your menstrual cycle.