Color Coded: What the Shade of Menstrual Blood Tells Us

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By staff writer, Marissa Cohen 
"Fluctuations in the change of the color of your menstrual blood throughout your cycle is completely natural, but viewing our periods as a “monthly report card” that can tell us what’s going inside our systems is a great way to take a proactive approach at monitoring our overall health."

We’ve all seen the tampon and pad commercials that demonstrate the absorbency of their products with an ocean blue liquid. While this bright blue may be easier on the eyes, each month us women are greeted by a friendly guest in quite a different color scheme. The color of your menstrual blood can actually be an indicator of the overall health of your cycle. Below we break down what the shade of your blood may be telling you. 

What Timing Can Tell Us 

Like all blood, menstrual blood changes color when exposed to oxygen. Fresh blood tends to be a bright red, but, over time as it reacts with oxygen, it can darken to appear brown. Additionally, it is typical for blood to be darker at the start of your period and if you experience heavy flows. Prior to Mother Nature making her monthly debut, the endometrium lining sheds in layers, rather than all at once. In the first couple days of your cycle, the blood may appear dark red or brown because of the time it takes for the blood and tissue to travel from the cervix to be released through the vagina. Heavier flows will also likely be deeper in color, due to the blood being highly concentrated. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, light periods and bleeding at the end of one’s cycle tend to be a muted red or a shade of pink. Spotting, which is bleeding that occurs between periods, also tenders to be lighter in color. It should be noted, though, that watery, pink vaginal discharge that occurs irregularly and is not related to the timing of your menstrual cycle may be a sign of cervical cancer  and should be brought to the attention of a medical professional. 

What Eastern Medicine has to Say 

Traditional Chinese Medicine states that the shades of menstrual bleeding reveal the balance between yin (deficiency) and yang (excess). Pale pink blood indicates a deficiency of the spleen. According to TCM, the spleen is responsible for digestion. When the spleen is deficient, a lack of blood is produced during the time of a period. Common systems of spleen deficiency include bloating, fatigue, and cramping in the midsection. This contrasts to dark, clotting blood, which is a sign of liver stagnation. When the liver is not properly flushing the body of toxins, excess estrogen can build up, leading to mood swings, headaches, and breast pain. If such stagnation persists, more serious conditions like endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome may result. 

Fluctuations in the change of the color of your menstrual blood throughout your cycle is completely natural and definitely not a cause for concern. Whether you believe in the concepts of “yin” and “yang” or think it’s a little too “out there,” Chinese Medicine teaches us the importance of paying attention to our bodies. Viewing our periods as a “monthly report card” that can tell us what’s going inside our systems is a great way to take a proactive approach at monitoring our overall health.

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