3 Common Misconceptions About Your Period Blood Color That Aren’t Actually True
Despite the fact that women have been having periods for thousands of years, there's still rather a lot we don't know about them — and a lot of misinformation and strange myths around the experience of having one. While we no longer believe that period blood is contaminated or magical, other, more medically believable misconceptions continue to circulate, and many of these misconceptions revolve around your period blood's color. Period color variations, from brown to light pink, are often pretty normal, but understanding the particular patterns of these variations, and what acts as a signal for bigger issues, is an important part of knowing your reproductive cycle.
The period app Clue, which gathers menstrual data from its millions of female users and uses it for scientific research on menstruation and health, advises against putting all your eggs into the blood-color basket. "Reproductive and menstrual health is still gravely misunderstood, and pushed aside compared to other aspects of health," Clue scientists tell Bustle. "The lack of proper education and research on aspects of female health negatively impacts people globally in so many ways. A range in period blood color is normal, and doesn’t signify anything serious. But do pay attention to your flow volume, changes in cycle length, and pain, as these can indicate underlying conditions." Color is just one aspect of the bigger phenomenon of your period, and prioritizing it may mean you ignore more important signs or don't look at the full picture of your menstrual health.
Most of us know that there are a few colors in a menstrual bleed that definitely mean you need to see a doctor — grey, for instance, can indicate an infection or miscarriage. And we all understand that discharge outside of a period that's abnormal or worrying probably needs to be checked out, particularly if it's got traces of blood in it, which can be a sign of cervical cancer. However, beyond those limits, there's a bunch of mythology (and not the fun, dragons-and-knights kind) about period blood color that needs to be addressed so that you recognize what's going on in your body and how to deal with it. Save yourself the gynecology appointment and let's have a quick check-in about period blood, and the three major misconceptions about it that we need to stop believing.
1. Brown Blood Should Only Show Up At The Start Of Your Period
This is a big one. Most of us know that brown period blood at the beginning of a period is "old" blood: it often consists of leftover endometrial lining from a previous cycle, and is cleaned out first before the new shedding of the lining begins. Its dark brown color produced by the amount of time it's spent oxidizing inside your uterus, and it's often more present in people who have lower progesterone levels and so don't shed their linings fully each time. However, that doesn't mean that brown elements can't show up later in the period, or that they're an element of concern when they do.
But the truth is, we can also experience brown blood towards the end of the cycle, as discolored and older blood is expelled, or throughout the duration of the period. Consistent brownness is more common, Healthline explains, when you're on certain kinds of hormonal birth control like the Nexplanon implant, which is progesterone-only and so alters the body's capacity to rid itself of uterine linings. (People on Nexplanon also experience varied period times and occasionally find that they vanish altogether, all of which is normal and tied to the hormonal alterations of the implant.) It's also more common in people who are coming near to menopause. Brownness isn't a sign of dark forces at work in your uterus if it occurs past the first few days of your period.
2. Blood Color Means Everything
There's sometimes a tendency to link all kinds of issues to the color of menstrual blood; some fertility clinics suggest that body temperature can cause brownness or a bluish hue, with implications for getting pregnant, for instance. However, monitoring the color on your pad obsessively may not be the clue to underlying health syndromes that it's sometimes touted to be.
3. A Diluted Pink Period Is Better Than A Dark One Full Of Clots
If given the choice, many of us would go for a diluted period of a light pinkish color instead of one that was brown, thick and riddled with clots, if only for the implications for our dry cleaning and tampon bills. However, that's not necessarily the right way to think about it. While excessive period clotting can be an issue if they become very heavy, diluted or watery periods of a delicate pinkish hue aren't necessarily a great outcome either. It's very important not to be alarmist about period colors, but it's also a good idea to know what they can mean to make the proper health choices.
Very pale pink periods can signal estrogen deficiency and over-exercising, according to OB-GYN Dr Karen Carcamo at Shape, and seriously watery ones can be a rare sign of fallopian tube cancers, though that's quite improbable. OB-GYN Alyssa Dweck also points out in Prevention that very pale periods tending towards the whitish could be a signal that you suffer from anemia, a lack of iron that creates a deficiency of the red blood cell protein hemoglobin. If pinkness hasn't been part of your period before and shows up consistently over a few cycles, it's a good idea to get checked out.
So you'd better put these three myths to bed quick sharp, and learn to look at menstrual science with a discerning eye. And if you're not sure about what you're experiencing and whether it's healthy, check in with an expert.