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From our hearts and our heads

Is That Normal? A Guide to Menstrual Blood

BODYHistorically, periods have been taboo to talk about. Whether that means withholding stories about the first time you got your period or not disclosing physical discomfort when you feel it, the whole topic of conversation has been off the table. A lot of that is starting to change, slowly but surely, as women push the boundaries of open conversation, both among themselves and in public spaces.

However, as much as it may now be okay to discuss many aspects of periods openly, one persistently taboo topic within this space, that the needle really hasn’t moved on at all, is interestingly what’s really at the core of a period: blood.

A quick Google search will show you how common it is for women to wonder things like, “Is black-ish period blood normal?” and it’s understandable not to know the answer to this when it’s something women don’t frequently talk about amongst themselves, and when tampon and pad commercials skirt the true use of their products by displaying their absorbency with some kind of stand-in blue liquid.

So let’s talk about what to expect from blood. (To start: Period blood absolutely shouldn’t be blue, as a commercial might suggest.) The colors of the period rainbow can range from black to orange. Here’s what that means:

Black/dark brown: Although it may be alarming to see this color blood, when we generally think of blood as being a vibrant red, this is totally normal. It’s very common to see this color blood toward the end of your period, as it’s older blood that has taken a while to leave your uterus. This can happen either when your flow is relatively slow, or if anything was leftover from your last period. It’s all normal!

Dark red: This color blood is in the same family as black/brown. Toward the end of your period as your flow slows down, the blood may take on this darker tone.

Bright red: It’s common for period blood to be quite vibrant, like fire hydrant red, right at the beginning of your period, when your flow is heaviest and the blood is new.

Light pink: If you experience spotting—which is mid-cycle blood that appears between periods—you may notice that the blood is more pink than red. Occasional spotting throughout one’s life is normal, but if you’re experiencing it every month, you may want to consult a doctor about cycle irregularity.

Orange: If you see this color, it means that blood is mixing with cervical fluid on its way out of your body and you may have an infection. Definitely consult a doctor on this one.

Grey: If you see a white or slightly milky discharge, that’s normal, but if you notice that it’s more grey than white or off-white this may also be a sign of infection, especially if it’s accompanied by other symptoms, like fever or if the discharge has a bad smell. This would be another color that should prompt you to consult a doctor.