What Does Menstrual Blood Look Like?

Menstrual Blood
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The bleeding that you have during your period is similar to but not exactly the same type of bleeding that you see when you cut your finger.

Your period starts when hormone changes cause the uterine lining or endometrium to separate from the wall of your uterus. This lining has built up during the earlier weeks of your cycle. Your menstrual flow is a mixture of this built up tissue combined with blood lost from the blood vessels that are in the wall of the uterus.

Here is where you can compare what is happening to a cut on your finger. The cut on your finger will bleed until your body responds by releasing substances called clotting factors that stop the bleeding.  Similarly, blood will flow from the small blood vessels that were torn when the lining of the uterus separated. This bleeding will continue until clotting factors and hormone changes stop the bleeding and restart building up the uterine lining again. Your menstrual cycle is this building up and shedding of the lining of your uterus

So, what you see on your pad or tampon or in the toilet bowl is a mixture of both blood and tissue from the lining of your uterus. How much of each, along with other factors, will influence what your period blood looks like.

What your period blood looks like can vary from cycle to cycle but can also vary from day to day during the same cycle. Your period blood or menstrual flow can be described not only by how much you bleed but also by the color and consistency of the flow.

The color of your menstrual blood is an indication of how quickly the blood is passing from the open blood vessels in the wall of the uterus.

The brighter red the blood the more recent the bleeding and the quicker the blood is passing through the cervix and into the vagina. The darker the flow, ranging from dark red to brown, suggests slightly older blood or slower flow.

 Typically the color of menstrual blood is a shade or two darker than ‘normal’ bleeding.

The consistency of your menstrual flow is in part an indication of how much endometrium or uterine lining is mixed with the blood. Typically, menstrual blood is a little thicker than ‘normal’ bleeding because of the tissue it contains.

Your menstrual blood may be thin and watery or thick and sticky.  Thin and watery discharge is usually pinkish while thick and sticky discharge is usually brownish. These changes are common at the end of your cycle after most of the endometrial tissue has passed. These changes can also suggest a decreased build up in the lining of your uterus which is common as a woman approaches menopause or if her cycles are light due to other hormonal causes like stress or excessive exercise.

You may also see clumps of tissue or blood clots. This is usually associated with a heavier flow. Conditions that cause more of a build up in the lining of the uterus and increase the amount of underlying blood vessels like uterine polyps or submucosal fibroids can result in this change in your menstrual flow.

Updated by Andrea Chisholm MD

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