SKIP AHEAD. . .
Pink period blood
So let’s talk about one of the lighter colors that you can find in your underwear during your period: Pink. Your blood may be pink, rather than the standard red, for a couple of reasons, including that it’s mixed with cervical fluid (3). Your cervix has mucous glands that secrete fluid during your cycle (1), and the color and texture changes throughout your cycle to allow or prevent sperm from entering the uterus for baby-making (1). As blood flows from the uterus, it leaves through the cervix and mixes with those juices, changing the color to pink.
Pink blood is also sometimes known as spotting. If someone takes a low dose of a combined oral contraceptive hormonal birth control (estrogen + progesterone), their periods can be pink in color. In a full or maximum dose COC, the progesterone in COCs prevents the endometrial lining from building up too much, and the estrogen stabilizes the uterine lining. However, a low dose of COC has less estrogen, which means less stabilizing and more of a possibility that the lining will slough off and cause spotting (3). Spotting can also occur when a person has sex that makes small tears in the vagina or cervix and blood mixes with cervical mucus, making it pink (3).
A person can also have pink period blood if they have experienced significant weight loss, have an unhealthy diet, or have anemia because the lack of hormone production doesn’t allow the uterine lining to build up (3). The lack of build-up leads to a higher chance of the lining sloughing off and causing spotting, similar to the low estrogen COC.
Orange period blood
As blood mixes with cervical fluid, it can also appear orange in color (3), but unlike pink blood, it could also be a sign of infection like bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis (3). This is due to infection mixing with blood and cervical fluid. If you have orange blood along with itching, discomfort, and it doesn’t smell too good, you might wanna go see a doctor or midwife—no, you definitely want to go see a doctor or midwife. Orange colored period blood doesn’t always mean infection, but it is a good idea to get it checked out (3).
Bright red period blood
As you might know from just about every teen movie on the planet, bright red is the “typical” color associated with period blood. Bright red is indicative of a healthy, fresh and steady flow (3). This blood has not yet been oxidized, which means it has not come in contact with oxygen or air. Some periods start with bright red blood and darken towards the end (3) because it’s had time to get exposed to oxygen. But sometimes, a period can stay bright red until the very end, and that’s just cause every flow is different (1)!
Dark Red Period Blood and Brown Period Blood
If you look at your tampon, pad, menstrual cup or disc, and see a dark red period or even dark brown blood, the color is a sign of old blood, which can appear at the beginning or the end of a period (3). It’s a matter of hours, really, and it can be at the start or end because that is when the exposure to air happens (meaning, you are wearing your pad or tampon during the entire period). When period blood hasn’t had long to oxidize, it can appear in many shades, ranging from dark red to brown in color (1).
For some peeps, brown blood (and sometimes light pink blood) can be a very early sign of pregnancy known as implantation bleeding (3), which occurs because when the egg buries itself into the uterine wall, it bleeds a little. Some may confuse this with a period, whereas others look forward to implantation bleeding when trying to conceive (TTC).
Dark Period Blood and Black Period Blood
Black blood can be seen at the start or end of the period (3), and there’s no specific reason for this timing. The dark color pretty much means the blood has taken longer to leave the uterus and has had a long time to oxidize (3). But if this has you a little weirded out, don’t worry—the blood wasn’t always black! It was first brown or dark red (3).
Now, black blood could also be old blood leaving the vagina. This may be a sign of vaginal obstruction, or tissue from the vaginal wall blocking the vaginal opening (3). If you suspect a blockage, look out for foul smell discharge, difficulty peeing, fever, and itching or swelling around your vag (3), and contact your doc or midwife.
The body does some pretty amazing things, but it ain’t perf. Sometimes things get off-balance, especially with hormones and periods and stuff. What we’re trying to say here is that sometimes there may be some gray discharge. This is usually a sign of bacterial vaginosis or trichomonas, which occurs when there is an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in the vajayjay (3). Symptoms include itching inside and around the vag, fishy smell, and pain or burning when you pee (3). You def wanna see a healthcare provider if you think you have this, and you’ll likely get some antibiotics and be on your way (3)! There are also some preventative wipes and washes you can try.
Some of us rejoice when we get periods, while others don’t want periods because of the havoc it may wreak on their bodies. Either way, we get them, and they aren’t going anywhere (until menopause, that is!), so you might as well learn what the colors mean!
Written by: Tyiarra Lynn Dupuis, Clinical Mental Health Counselor, In Training
Medically reviewed by: Aisha Williams, MD. Family Physician with fellowships focusing on contraception and abortion advocacy.
All content found on this Website, including: text, images, audio, or other formats, was created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
(1) “Cervical Mucus.” Farlex Medical Dictionary. Farlex, Inc. Accessed August 28, 2019. https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/cervical mucus.
(2) Lam, Peter. “Anemia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, November 28, 2017. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/158800.php.
(3) Eske, Jamie. “Period Blood Chart: What Does the Blood Color Mean?” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, April 1, 2019. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324848.php.