Before tossing your tampon into the trash, take a look at what your period could be telling you about your health. There are more indicators in our menstrual blood than we may be aware of.
Every period, in fact, is unique. This goes for person to person, to cycle to cycle. “This can include everything from the timing of their cycle, flow length, heaviness (from spotting to heavy bleeding) and colour can vary from light brown, to bright red to dark,” says Dr. Jacqueline Streich ND, a Naturopathic doctor who practices Chinese Medicine.
However, periods should—for the most part—resemble a similar cycle for each individual and if this varies, one should monitor it in order to decipher whether there could be imbalances or further health risks. Menstruation lasts on average 28 days. A person’s period occurs, on average, from four to seven days. These days can fluctuate throughout your life but if your period becomes longer suddenly, or shorter, includes spotting, or becomes heavier than normal, this could be an irregular period. An imbalance of estrogen and progesterone can contribute to this hormonal shift.
“If your cycles are irregular and difficult to predict it can indicate menstrual abnormalities that need further investigation,” in terms of a hormone imbalance. If your period is painful, this could be a sign of “a hormonally related condition like endometriosis, fibroids or nutrient deficiencies.”
Knowing your flow is an important component of staying up to date on your health and on any possible shifts. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest that monitoring your period is as important as viewing your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature.
What are changes that should be noted?
- Missing a cycle
- A change in your flow, “like spotting, or bleeding between periods, or heavier bleeding and the passing of clots.”
- Dr. Streich says that a period should “be a rich, cranberry red colour from start to finish.” While a “brown or deep red could indicate a hormone imbalance.“
- Not getting your period at all, which can be due to “pregnancy, stress, strenuous exercise, low body fat, or a hormonal imbalance.”
We can begin decoding flow by looking at the period blood. While irregularities can be seen in how consistent or inconsistent a flow can be, changes can also be spotted in the color change, and heaviness or lightness, of a period.
If it’s pink…
A pink period means that it’s typically light in flow, which may be due to excessive exercising lowering estrogen levels. Studies have found that exercising to an extreme can cause periods to disappear, as is seen with athletes or runners. If left untreated, low estrogen levels can lead to osteoporosis. If you begin exercising at an intense level, consider your schedule and routine before continuing. Moreover, other contributions to a pink flow can be poor nutrition, polycystic ovary syndrome, or perimenopause.
If it’s very light, almost watery…
A nutritional deficiency could be the culprit for this color change, according to UCSF Medical Center. A diluted period can be because of anemia which you can be tested for by your doctor. However, a confusing symptom of anemia is that it may also cause the converse—a heavy period that causes you to bleed through tampons and pads in less than an hour.
Another interesting thing to note is that your period can actually cause anemia. When you have your period every month, the iron in the red blood cells is lost, which means your iron absorption is not replaced. This is typically synonymous with people that heavy a heavy menstrual flow.
Furthermore, according to Dr. Carcamo on Shape, a watery period may “be an indication of fallopian tube cancer.” This is worst case scenario as it affects 1 to 2 percent of gynecological cancers. But, it’s still important to note and be aware of when learning about your flow.
If it’s a dark brown…
This is typically normal as it usually means that you have older uterine lining that are just now leaving the body. Dark brown period blood is normal during the beginning or end of your cycle. Moreover, blood clots are normal on your heaviest days and can appear a dark red, dark brown, or even black.
If you have Nexplanon, you may be more prone to having a brown colored flow, as the birth control can affect your hormone levels.
If your flow is brown throughout your menstruation, you could be lacking water and specific nutrients.
If it’s thick, red, with large clots…
Clots the size of a quarter may indicate hormonal imbalance, but some clotting is totally normal. To try and balance your body, cut out dairy, sugar, and soy to see if it changes anything. Before entering menopause, clotting becomes more prevalent as well.
A dark red color is very normal during the first day of your cycle, and in the middle. But if it remains that way the entire time, with overly large clotting you may want to see a doctor.
The normal person with a cervix has 2tbsp of blood loss during their period, ranging from 4 to 6 days. If a woman has children, their periods can be a bit heavier after childbirth.
If it’s grey…
This sounds a bit unpleasant and would probably shock anyone if they saw a grey discharge. This color is usually accompanied with a foul smell which indicates an STI or an infection.
Moreover, women who miscarry also see grey tissue. According to UC Davis Health, ten to 20 percent of women will have a miscarriage in the first ten weeks.
If it’s bright and cranberry red…
This is what the average period blood will look like during your cycle. Although every period, like we mentioned before, is different and unique, this consistency and color is a clear sign that everything is “normal.”
Monitoring your period is incredibly beneficial for women who are seeking to conceive.”Monitoring a period and tracking their cycle is a very useful tool for predicting ovulation and getting pregnant,” says Dr. Streich. Utilizing a period tracker, like Clue, can help accurately track your periods, especially if they become irregular.
If you notice any obvious changes to your flow, it’s always important to seek out a medical professional. Diagnostic testing or an ultrasound may be conducted in order to investigate all potential reasons for any changes. Dr. Streich, being a naturopathic doctor, consults patients on diet and natural ways to balance hormones. Other doctors may conduct a saliva test for hormone imbalance or blood count test for anemia.
Overall, staying in tune with your body and understanding any changes is an easy way to improve any future health conditions.
IMAGE COURTESY OF GETTYIMAGES