What Your Period Blood Says About You
When you think about your period, what feelings come up? Annoyed? Irritated? Excited? If you feel like rolling your eyes or groaning at the thought, I urge you to think differently about your monthly flow. Your menstrual cycle is truly a window into your body and overall health. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) urges practitioners to use the menstrual cycle as a vital sign, especially for young women, as a way to identify health concerns (1). The length of your period; when you ovulate; feelings (physical and emotional) before, during, and after your period; how much you bleed; and the look and feel of your period blood are all indicators to be aware of, if not tracked, each month. These factors may even show underlying health issues ranging from hormonal imbalances and STIs to cancer. In this post we’ll dive in to how the color, consistency, and amount of your period can cue us in to our health.
Menstrual fluid is very complex containing blood, cervical mucus, vaginal secretions, and bits of the uterine lining, or endometrial tissue. During your period, the body releases natural anticoagulants to thin your uterine lining. However, if you flow heavily, a few clots may be present (they should be around the size of a dime) because the anticoagulants have not had time to do their job (2). Larger clots may be worth investigating further or talking to your OBGYN.
Period blood can come in many different colors. Blood turns darker when it is exposed to air, thus the more red the blood, the quicker your flow (3). Darker blood is usually seen at the beginning or ending of a period. Premenstrual spotting is typically a darker color and can be a sign of not having enough progesterone to hold your uterine lining, an underlying thyroid problem, or that you’re having anovulatory cycles, such as occur with PCOS (PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome) (4).
An average period starts heavy and will gradually decrease, so pay attention to the amount as well as the color and consistency; super watery or very thick and viscous period blood is not normal. It’s worth mentioning that very heavy or very painful periods are something to get checked out as well. Heavy periods can signal disorders such as uterine fibroids, endometrial polyps, adenomyosis, endometriosis, and sometimes cancer (5). Even unusually light periods may be cause for concern, as that can be a sign of lower than average estrogen (6). Painful periods (anything that interrupts your everyday daily activities) is not normal and may signal endometriosis. For more “normal” period pain, avoiding dairy and supplementing with fish oil, magnesium and zinc may be beneficial (7).
My favorite way to check in with my period is to use a menstrual cup. With the cup, the color, consistency and amount of period blood is very obvious, more so than with tampons. In addition, menstrual cups are environmentally friendly, super budget-friendly, leak less and hold more, and do not dry out the vagina. I currently use the Diva Cup and have no complaints! Other popular brands are Saalt, Lena, and Pixie.
In addition to paying attention to the color, amount, and consistency of your period, there are several other indicators of which to be aware each month, such as cervical mucus, cervical position, basal body temperature, and mood. I highly urge every menstruating woman to track your cycle, as this allows you to know when you ovulate and helps you understand your cycle — what is “normal” for you. Your period is a huge barometer to overall health and can tell you when things may be off or the start of larger problems down the road. Unfortunately, tracking and analyzing your cycle is not possible while on hormonal birth control (Pill bleeds are NOT periods), which is why the Pill is not something I recommend if optimal health is a goal for you.
For more on this topic, I highly suggest checking out the book The Fifth Vital Sign by Lisa Hendrickson-Jack and the Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden. If you are struggling with any signs or symptoms during your period which do not seem right, trust your gut and contact your OBGYN or care provider today.
Health and happiness,
Molly PowellBIRTHFIT Milwaukee @birthfitmke
- Briden, Lara. Period Repair Manual. p68
- Briden, Lara. Period Repair Manual. p68
- Briden, Lara. Period Repair Manual. p255
- Hendrickson-Jack, Lisa. Fifth Vital Sign. p16
- Briden, Lara. Period Repair Manual. p233
- Briden, Lara. Period Repair Manual. pp 253-254