Period Blood Color: Brown, Black, Red, Dark, And More – What It Means

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The color of your period blood can be an important indicator of your general health. Normal period blood can be any color from brown at the start of your period to dark red in the middle of your period. However, the color of “normal” period blood can be light pink, bright red, rusty-brown, or orange. Sometimes, you may experience very dark, almost black period blood, or see signs of pink spotting before menstruation and wonder what it means.

Menstrual blood that looks greyish or like green-colored discharge may mean that you have a vaginal infection. Some common causes of conditions that turn your period blood a different color could be a bacterial infection or a yeast infection.

Apart from the color of your period blood, the length of your cycle and frequency can also be affected by your health. Many doctors recommend that women keep a menstrual diary to note any irregularities in the color, timing, and length of menstruation.

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If you are wondering what the color of your period blood means, this article will answer this question.

Period Blood Color – What Does It Mean?

Changes in the color of your period blood usually mean that you are having a normal period. Blood is a dark red color, but various factors can affect if the blood is pink, brown, bright red, or black. For example, the rate of your menstrual flow can affect period blood color. Old blood tends to be a darker red, brown or black color rather than bright red.

According to a report published by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, spotting irregularities in menstruation can help determine a woman’s general health. The report said that heavy menstrual bleeding, short or long cycles, and type of period blood can be indicators of potential problems with the reproductive system.1

Sometimes, you could also mistake period blood for spotting before your period, implantation bleeding, or cervical mucus that has an abnormal color.

Brown Period Blood

Period blood that looks brown or a rusty color is usually a sign of a normal period and often occurs at the beginning and end of your menstrual period. The reason that period blood can be brown is that it has had time to oxidize and change color.

Doctors from WebMD explain that brown period blood usually means that older blood hasn’t been discharged from the body quickly. This mixes with fresher blood to create brown-colored period blood.2

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Another reason for light bleeding that looks brown just before your period is implantation spotting. When a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterus lining, the contractions can cause light spotting. Signs of implantation usually happen when you are expecting your period and may be mistaken for period blood.3

Other reasons for brown discharge or period blood can include:

  • Lochia. This is mild to heavy bleeding that occurs for 6-8 weeks after having a baby. Doctors say lochia can be a red-brown or pink-brown color.4
  • Miscarriage. Light spotting during the early stages of pregnancy is normal. However, doctors say that brown discharge with “coffee grounds” may be a sign of miscarriage especially when accompanied by severe abdominal pain.5
  • Cysts. If you have ovarian cysts or endometrioid cysts, you might experience brown-like period blood. Dr. Wayne Blocker explains that the cysts are usually filled with old blood and will cause reddish-brown bleeding if they rupture.6

You can find more information in my article about brown period blood: what does it mean?, where you can find other causes and when you should see your doctor.

Black Period Blood

Black period blood usually means that you are coming to the end of your menstrual bleeding as your body expels old blood. Blood that has been in the vagina longer will tend to go a very dark red or black color.

Doctors say that black menstrual blood at the end of menstruation is normal. The reason for black period blood is the same as why period blood can look dark-brown.

Other reasons for black period blood can include:

  • Period blood oxidizing due to slow blood flow during menstruation.
  • Miscarriage. Dr. Jacqueline Payne on Patient.info says that miscarriage can result in little blood loss or blood flow that looks almost black.7

For other causes please read my article about dark or black period blood: causes and what to do about it.

Bright Red Period Blood

Bright red blood is usually associated with a normal period and is nothing to worry about during menstruation. Red blood during your period shows that the flow is normal and isn’t mixed with old blood or too much discharge.

According to doctors from the Cleveland Clinic, you might experience a lot of vaginal bleeding that is bright red if you have heavy menstrual flow. This may be menstrual bleeding that is heavier than usual or bleeding that lasts longer than 7 days.7 

Some other reasons that can cause bright red period blood are:

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  • Implantation spotting. Implantation spotting can look like bright spots of fresh blood just before your period.
  • Spotting between periods. Although not technically period blood, spotting between periods can be caused by ovulation discharge, stress, or hormonal fluctuations.
  • Polyps or fibroids. These small growths on the reproductive organs can cause abnormal bleeding that looks bright red.

Dark Red Period Blood

Menstrual blood that looks dark red can be normal during your period and can appear darker if it is mixed with old blood. Dark red period blood can also mean that the old blood hasn’t been in the uterus long enough to oxidize.

Some reasons for noticing dark period blood can include:

  • Slow blood flow.
  • Implantation spotting before your expected period.
  • You are nearing the end of menstruation.
  • Bleeding in the weeks after giving birth.
  • Miscarriage.

Pink Period Blood

Pink menstrual blood usually means that there is blood mixed in with cervical mucus to give it a lighter pinkish color. In most cases, pink period blood or pink spotting after your period is nothing to worry about.

Very often, pink period blood can appear just before your period. This could be due to very light blood flow at the start of your period or it could be a sign of implantation spotting.

Other reasons for pink spotting or discharge before or after your period can include:

  • Lochia. Dr. Traci C. Johnson on WebMD says that pink discharge often appears a few days after giving birth.8
  • Ovulation bleeding at your mid-cycle point.
  • Low estrogen levels may cause irregular bleeding that can result in pinkish spotting when you’re not expecting it.

Orange Period Blood

Period blood that looks orange or a light amber color could happen for the same reasons as pink or light brown vaginal spotting.

Cervical mucus is most abundant mid-cycle when you are ovulating. The consistency of cervical mucus before the period usually becomes thicker. Depending on your menstrual cycle, the thick clear or white vaginal mucus can mix with period blood to make it look orange or rusty color.

Implantation spotting may also have an orangey appearance, and bleeding that occurs at the beginning and end of your menstrual period can also have rusty color.

Gray Period Blood

Menstrual blood that looks gray or has grayish-white discharge mixed in with it could mean that you have a bacterial vaginal infection.

Doctors from the Cleveland Clinic say that bacterial vaginosis (BV) causes grayish discharge that has a foul fishy odor. The gray-looking blood with a bad smell may be more noticeable just before or just after your menstrual period. BV also causes vaginal itching, swelling around the labia, and a burning sensation when urinating.9

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Other colors of period blood

Some types of bacterial vaginal infections or health conditions can also cause period blood to have colors other than red, pink, orange or gray.

Yellow period blood

According to OB/GYN Dr. Christine Kansky, yellow vaginal discharge can appear about 4 or 5 weeks after giving birth. Lochia usually starts off as brownish-red discharge and gradually become a lighter color until it looks like yellowish blood.10

An infection in your vagina can be another reason for noticing yellow period blood on your underwear. Doctors from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation say that yellow discharge that is clumpy and smells bad can indicate an infection.11

Green period blood

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, period blood mixed with green discharge can be a symptom of bacterial vaginosis.12

Dark Period Blood

Your menstrual blood can be so dark because you are near the end of your menstrual period. This is usually the reason for dark brown period blood or black period blood. However, doctors from WebMD say that dark menstrual blood can also occur on the days when your flow is the heaviest.2

This type of dark period bleeding is not usually anything to worry about unless you have large clots and your blood has a thick consistency.

Clots During Period

Noticing thick clots in dark period blood may or may not be something to be concerned about.

Dr. Sandhya Pruthi, who is an expert on women’s reproductive health, says that clots during your period can be normal for many women. Dr. Pruthi says that if you notice that your menstrual bleeding becomes heavier than usual or you have large clots, you should speak to your doctor.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heavy menstrual bleeding with clots could be symptoms of the following conditions:

Watery Period

Having a watery period with light menstrual flow is usually nothing to worry about and may be normal for many women.

A watery or light period means that menstrual blood has a thin consistency that many women describe as watery-looking. Usually, a scanty menses or period is accompanied with light pink period blood.

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The book Clinical Methods says about abnormal vaginal bleeding that light periods are called hypomenorrhea. The amount of blood during a watery period is usually less than 30 ml and may only cause light spotting during menses. The mixture of clear cervical discharge along with little blood flow can account for the pink light period.14

Some of the reasons for a watery period or scanty menstruation can include:

  • Hormonal fluctuations. OB/GYN Dr. Jennifer Knudtson says that hormonal changes can affect ovulation and menstrual flow. This can result in heavier periods or lighter periods.15
  • Stress. Being under a lot of stress can cause you to have occasional watery periods. Doctors say that stress upsets the menstrual cycle and can even be a reason for missing a period completely.16
  • Perimenopause. In the months before the menopause, you may find that menstruation becomes scanty and you have lighter periods. Doctors from Harvard Medical School say that a drop in hormone levels can cause lighter periods before they stop completely.17

For more information please refer to my article about watery period: what does thin or light period mean?

Period Blood Smells

If you notice that your vagina has a bad smell during menstruation, it could mean that you have an infection. Normal period blood or regular vaginal discharge shouldn’t emit a strong odor.

According to dermatologist Dr. Amanda Oakley, vaginal malodor that causes period blood to smell can be a combination of vaginal discharge, sweat, and urine. More serious causes of smelly discharge that looks gray or greenish can be:

  • Bacterial vaginosis.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Leaving a tampon in the vagina

Candidiasis (vaginal yeast infection) can also cause thick white vaginal discharge, however, this type of infection rarely causes period blood to smell.

When to See a Doctor

It’s normal for all women to have changes in their menstrual cycle from time to time. Sometimes, menstruation can be heavier than usual, and period blood may range from light pink to dark red. For many women, this is a normal part of the menstrual cycle.

However, in some cases, it’s important to see a doctor if you have signs of abnormal vaginal bleeding. Dr. Kirtly Jones, an expert in obstetrics, recommends that you speak to your doctor about vaginal bleeding in the following circumstances:18

  • You have any bleeding during pregnancy. Spotting or light bleeding when you are pregnant isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, but you should tell your healthcare provider in any case.
  • You have blood flow during your period for longer than 7 days.
  • Your period is more frequent than 21 days apart or longer than 35 days apart.
  • Your menstrual flow is very heavy and is heavy enough to soak a pad every 2 hours.
  • You are past the menopause and have any kind of vaginal bleeding or spotting.19

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. ACOG. Menstruation in girls and adolescents.
  2. WebMD. Menstrual blood problems.
  3. WebMD. Pregnancy and conception.
  4. Am J Perinatol.1999;16(8):399-402.
  5. UCDMC. Understanding early miscarriage.
  6. eMedicineHealth. Ovarian cysts.
  7. PatientInfo. Miscarriage and bleeding in early pregnancy.
  8. WebMD. Vaginal discharge. What’s abnormal?
  9. ClevelandClinic. How to decode your vaginal discharge.
  10. Medscape. Normal and abnormal puerperium.
  11. PAMF. Vaginal discharge.
  12. MayoClinic. Blood clots during menstruation.
  13. CDC. Heavy menstruation.
  14. NCBI. Clinical methods.
  15. MSDManuals. Menstrual cycle.
  16. ClevelandClinic. Abnormal menstruation.
  17. DrugsCom. Menopause and perimenopause.
  18. WebMD. Abnormal uterine bleeding.
  19. MayoClinic. Vaginal bleeding.
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