Anyone who has menstruated before will be aware of how diverse the colour of period blood can be – and whether it fascinates you, scares you, or makes you feel nothing at all, there’s actually a lot you can learn from the shade of your period.
Everyone’s period experience is different: from short periods, light flows and minor cramps to heavy bleeds and unenviable pains. But whatever your menstruation journey is, there’s a chance you’re familiar with having produced brown blood at some point or other (FYI: it’s something that’s super common). But what exactly does it mean? And is brown period blood anything to be concerned about?
We asked Dr Adiele Hoffman, GP and Medical Advisor at Flo Health, everything you need to know about brown blood down below…
Why is my period blood brown?
First thing’s first, brown period blood is totally normal, and is common among those who menstruate. Dr Hoffman explains that brown blood is actually ‘old blood’, which becomes darker the longer it stays outside of the blood vessels. When blood comes into contact with air, a process called 'oxidation' occurs, which can turn it brown or very dark – yep, it can even look black. But it’s nothing to be fearful of.
You will often see brown blood appear at the very beginning or end of your period. Why? "This can happen when there’s very little bleeding, which means the blood has the time to change colour before leaving your body," Hoffman explains. "It’s not too dissimilar to old bloodstains turning brown."
What is a healthy period blood colour?
Period blood comes in many different shades and it’s totally normal to see some variation on the colour front. There isn’t one particular shade that’s associated with healthy periods, says Dr Hoffman.
Usually, a heavy and quick period flow will be either a dark or bright red – because the quicker it is, the less time it has to ‘oxidise’, hence why on your lighter days, you’re more likely to spot the brown blood appear. So try not to panic if your period blood ranges from watery and thin to bright red to a darker, thicker consistency – the variety is normal. We repeat: normal! But on this note, if you really are concerned about your period or you’re noticing brown discharge in between your periods, do check in with your GP or another qualified medical professional.
When should I be worried about brown period blood?
If you want to keep tabs on your period to grasp whether or not your period is ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ per say, Dr Hoffman recommends this: instead of keeping a close eye on the colour of your period blood, it’s much more important to track the regularity of your cycle, such as any changes to it and how long your bleeding lasts.
If you notice any significant changes, experience bleeding or brown discharge along with symptoms between periods, or your bleeding doesn’t seem like a normal period, do see a doctor. Likewise, if you’re seeing large menstrual clots (bigger than a 10p coin), make an appointment with your GP.
According to Flo, here are some warning signs that it’s time to visit your doctor:
Abnormal vaginal discharge (white, yellow, green, grey, foul-smelling, thick, or frothy)
Intense lower abdominal pain during your period
Periods that are too short (less than two days) or too long (more than seven days)
Periods that are too heavy (having to change period products every two hours or less)
Periods that are too close together (less than 21 days) or too far apart (more than 35 days)
Bleeding or spotting outside of your menstrual cycle or after intercourse
Severe PMS symptoms (nausea, vomiting, headaches, bloating, and mood swings, among others)
Very irregular and unpredictable cycles
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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