Did you know that your period can tell you a lot about your health? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published a report that a female’s menstrual cycle should be used as a vital sign much like temperature, blood pressure, and pulse. Your menstrual cycle is governed by your hormone health which controls numerous functions in the body, including metabolism, heart rate, and respiration rates.
What Is a Normal Period?
During your period, your uterine sheds its lining. Typically, a period lasts between three and seven days, and the average menstrual cycle is between 28 and 32 days. Many women experience various symptoms in varying degrees such as breast tenderness, bloating, food cravings, headaches, cramps, fatigue, and mood swings.
You can determine what a “normal” period is like for you by tracking the severity of your symptoms, the duration of your period, the length of your menstrual cycle, and the color of your period blood. Once you have that knowledge, you will be able to identify changes quickly and report them to your doctor to ensure you have no underlying health conditions.
Period Blood Color Meaning
One of the best ways to identify potential issues is to take a look at your period color. Period blood can alert you to thyroid issues, hormone imbalances, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and much more. Period blood can be a host of colors from pink, bright red, and brown. Let’s take a look at what each color may mean and when you should contact your doctor.
Bright Red Blood – Bright red blood is fresh blood and is the sign of a normal, healthy period. This typically occurs at the beginning of your cycle.
Dark Brown Blood – If you notice dark brown blood, don’t panic; this coloring is completely normal. When this occurs, it is oxidized blood and bits of the lining of your uterus. The blood can range from light brown to almost black. The shedding of the uterine lining is as unique as you are. This typically occurs at the beginning or near the end of your period.
Dark Red Blood with Clots – Some clotting is normal; however, if your clots are larger than the size of a quarter, it can indicate a hormonal imbalance, such as high estrogen or low progesterone. If you are experiencing clots, try to reduce the consumption of sugar, dairy, and soy products. Another reason for clotting is fibroids. Although fibroids are typically benign, they can still cause a lot of pain.
Gray and Red Blood – Gray and red blood can be a sign that you have a gynecological infection. It is imperative that you seek out help from a women’s health doctor to ensure the right treatment can be given. If you notice gray tissue that looks similar to liver, it can be a sign that you are pregnant and having a miscarriage. Treatment for both of these is vital to your gynecological health. If treatment is not received ASAP, it can permanently damage your uterus or cervix, resulting in infertility.
Pink Blood – If your period blood is pink and you have a lighter than normal flow, you may have low estrogen levels, which can increase your risk of osteoporosis. In addition to this, pink blood can signal perimenopause, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and poor nutrition.
Watery Looking Blood
Watery looking blood could be an indication that you have a nutritional deficiency. If your flow is diluted and has a whitish appearance, it can be a sign of anemia. In case you notice a lighter colored period than is ordinary, watch your cycle. When it doesn’t change in two or three cycles, contact your women’s healthcare professional.
Heavy Blood Flow
The flow rate of a period will vary from individual to individual. Heavy flow is defined as flow lasting longer than seven days as well as needing to change your tampon every two hours or less. Some of the common causes of heavy menstrual flow include fibroids, hypothyroidism, and slow clotting process. In addition to this, certain medications can affect your bleeding, including non-hormonal copper IUDs, the Depo Provera shot, and certain birth control pills. Excess or heavy vaginal bleeding can lead to iron deficiency or anemia.
Everyone’s cycle is different. One woman may have periods that run like clockwork, and another woman’s period will be irregular. If you are experiencing an irregular cycle, talk with your doctor. One of the main reasons for irregularity is elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone produced and released when you are stressed. When cortisol levels become elevated, it can prevent the signals that tell your body to release an egg, which can cause your period to show up late or not at all. Irregular periods can also be due to polycystic ovary syndrome, excess exercise, or uterine scarring.
Abdominal cramping is a common menstrual symptom. Typically it is mild; however, it can be quite severe. The uterus contracts as it sheds its lining. During this process, prostaglandins, which are hormone like substances, are released into the body to help you shed the lining in your uterine. If the body releases a lot of prostaglandins, you will experience more painful cramping. Another cause of painful cramps is endometriosis. Endometriosis causes the lining of your uterus to also grow outside the uterus and can wrap around the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and other tissues in the pelvic region. This misplaced tissue can cause incredibly painful cramps.
You can find out a lot about your health by considering your menstrual cycle. Is it regular or does it show up at various times? Do you have severe cramping? Is your flow heavier than normal? These as well as your menstrual blood can be an indication of an underlying health condition like a thyroid imbalance, unbalanced hormones, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, or fibroids. If you notice changes in your menstrual cycle, contact our integrative practitioner specializing in women’s health issues, period pain as well as menopause treatment.