Part 3: Blood Color and Clotting
It may sound a little crazy, but checking out the color and clottiness of your menstrual blood can be super interesting and empowering. It’s one of the reasons we love using a cup! It's not uncommon for your period color to change from month to month, and (surprise?) period blood isn’t always red. It can also be black, blue, brown, rusty, or pink. Sometimes you’ll notice a clot or two, sometimes it might be super clotty and sometimes it’ll be smooth and clot-free.
This article will teach you to decode the messages that the color and clottiness of your blood send. In it, we’ll answer the following questions:
- What color period blood is considered healthy?
- What do the different blood colors mean?
- What is healthy in terms of clotting?
- What do clots in period blood tell you?
- How can you improve the color and clottiness of your period blood?
What does healthy period blood look like?
Red is what most people think of when they think about period blood and, indeed, a healthy period is a red one, with no clots or just a few small ones. Let’s paint a clearer picture: a healthy period is bright red, like strawberry jam or the blood from a fresh cut.
Bright red period blood is an indicator that you’re shedding a fresh uterine lining. In other words, your lining isn’t sticking around from previous cycles and your body is producing a new healthy lining every month. This is great news because a healthy uterine lining indicates that your digestive system, immune system, and endocrine (hormone) system are all functioning as they should be.
Not red? What do the other blood colors and clots tell you?
Note: When we talk about reading your blood color, we’re talking about fresh blood or blood from your menstrual cup. If you’re looking at your pad or tampon, there’s a chance the blood you’re seeing has dried up to a certain degree, which affects its color. To read your blood color accurately, look at the fresh blood on your toilet paper.
If your (fresh!) period blood and it isn’t bright red, you’re not alone and there’s no need to freak out. You should, however, take note of the color and see what you can learn from it.
Pink, pale and watery periods tell us that the quality of the uterine lining is somewhat lacking. Like periods with a lighter flow, this usually means that you’re not getting or producing the nutrients that your body needs to create a healthy uterine lining.
Darker blood and anything more than just a little clotting tend to indicate that blood is stagnating in the uterus. Since it’s taking longer to get pushed out of the uterus, it essentially becomes old and stale, which can make the blood clotty and darker in color (think about what happens to blood as it dries on a bandaid or pad, it gets rusty brown as time passes).
Here comes the worst part: since your uterus is having a hard time shedding the lining, you end up getting cramps. Menstrual cramps essentially exist to help push the old lining out of the uterus. (More on cramps here.)
There’s a whole range of hues when it comes to ‘darker blood’ and while all generally indicate stagnated blood, there are some differences to keep in mind: While rusty brown reads ‘stagnated blood, old lining’, black, blue and super dark purple blood are more extreme and indicate even more stagnation. Blue and purple periods may also be a sign of poorly oxygenated blood or colder than normal body temperature, which could be a result of something like hypothyroid disorder. A black period tells you that your uterine lining is really stuck and it is sometimes associated with endometriosis, fibroids, or other blood clotting issues. If black periods are common for you, you should mention it to your OB/GYN at your next appointment. (Keep in mind a black period DOES NOT mean that something is definitely wrong– just that things are working as well as they could be.)
How can you work towards a healthy, bright red, clot-free period?
There are certain things that will help you improve your cycle and overall health, regardless of the color of your blood (see here). The tips below are tailored based on the color and clottiness of your blood:
If you have light-colored period blood, these tips are for you:
Opt for a more nutrient-rich diet.
If you’ve got a light-colored period, your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs. Try to improve your diet. Steer away from processed foods and opt for nutrient-rich whole foods, especially ones rich in iron and protein (essential nutrients for creating blood).
Give your digestive system a tune-up.
If you’re already eating whole, healthy and protein-rich foods but still have a pale, pink or watery period, it means your body is having a hard time processing the nutrients you’re eating. This can be a sign that your body is dealing with digestion or absorption issues. Sometimes food sensitivities, like gluten or dairy, can screw up the process of turning food into building blocks for the rest of your body. You need to avoid foods that cause you issues and give your digestive system a tune-up (eating congee can help with that!).
Get more rest.
Regardless of whether you need a diet change or a digestion tune-up, if you have a light-colored period, your body is asking you to get some extra rest and focus on taking care of yourself.
If your period blood is dark and/or clotty, these tips are for you:
Decreasing inflammation will help with the cramps and inflammatory symptoms that come along with a thick lining. You can decrease inflammation by incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet (like, leafy greens, blueberries, oranges, fatty fish, olive oil, almonds, and walnuts) and cutting back on ones that cause inflammation (like sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, refined carbs, and alcohol). Our Cramp Support formula will also help – it’s proprietary anti-inflammatory blend includes powerful inflammation-fighting herbs like corydalis, turmeric, frankincense & myrrh.
Up your Omega-3 intake.
Omega-3s, like fish oil, reduce clotting and inflammation while also improving blood flow. As if that weren’t enough, they also decrease prostaglandin production, which is tied to cramping (and period poop!).
Promote healthy bleeding.
Remember how dark clotty periods are caused by stagnated blood? Promoting healthy bleeding will help get that thick uterine lining out of you sooner. The concept of promoting bleeding is based on Chinese medicine and the only way we know how to do it is through herbs. Our Cramp Support formula was blended with this in mind. (Shameless plug, we know, but we wouldn’t be making these supplements if they didn’t work!)
Tying it all together
If you’ve been making your way through our handbook in order, by this point you should be a master of reading your period – you know what the length and frequency of your period means, you know what your flow is telling you, you know what’s up with blood color and clotting, and you’ve started to draw connections between them. (Isn’t it empowering to understand what’s going on in your body?)
Now it’s time to take things a step further and look at the symptoms that commonly go hand in hand with menstrual cycles: PMS and cramps. Following the natural order of things, we’ll start by tackling the complex web of PMS symptoms.
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