Ladies, take a second and give yourselves a hearty pat on the back. Considering what our periods put us through every month, we deserve it. Through debilitating cramps, unforgiving cravings, and mood swings that have us crying one minute and laughing the next, each monthly cycle is a mystery all its own. Take the literal act of bleeding, for example: Are blood clots during periods normal? It can be hard to decipher standard procedure from what could be a potential sign that your reproductive system is sending out an SOS, but experts say one thing’s for sure: Clots are OK during menstruation, so there’s no need to freak out if you find one.
I don't blame you if you've ever felt panicked at the sight of a blood clot during your period. Personally, I'm very quick to worry about what’s going on inside my body, especially when something feels off about my period specifically. I’ve been menstruating for a solid 15 years now, and I like to think I have my cycle down to a science, but every body is constantly changing, and no two cycles, no matter how similar, are ever the same.
You may be accustomed to a lighter period, but some menstrual cycles are heavier than others, and can produce excessive amounts of blood. On the flip side, if you generally experience heavy bleeding and you start to produce thick clots, it’s worth making an appointment with your gynecologist to get checked out and make 100 percent sure everything is copacetic. The important thing to remember here is, again, blood clots are, generally, a common occurrence during a woman’s menstrual cycle, so unless your doctor notices any red flags, you just have to let it flow.
So what, exactly, causes a blood clot?
To ease your mind a little bit, Elite Daily reached out to an expert to help identify what a blood clot even is, and why it happens during a woman’s menstrual cycle. According to Dr. Gunvor Ekman-Orderberg, OBGYN and medical advisor to DeoDoc Intimate Skincare, when your body produces a blood clot, it’s a natural response to quick, heavy bleeding.
What happens is, during menstruation, the lining of your uterus sheds and is broken down. Before the blood leaves your body, the lining of your uterus takes on a fluid form. “However,” Dr. Orderberg tells Elite Daily, “if you have a heavy flow and are bleeding fast, the anti-coagulants [compounds that break down the uterine lining] may not have enough time to break down the blood,” causing clots to form. In other words, clots are a natural defense mechanism in order for your body to control excessive bleeding.
To put it in layman’s terms, the Center For Endometriosis Care compares menstrual clots to scraping your knee. On the surface, your skin forms a scab to block too much blood from seeping out of the wound. “Inside the uterus, the process results in a clog,” Dr. Robert B Albee, Jr., MD, an internationally renowned doctor in endometriosis treatment, explained. Makes sense, right?
Now that you know what blood clots are, let's talk about what they do and how they affect your cycle.
Here’s where the facts conflict: Based on my own assumptions, I would think that a backup of blood causing thick, gelatin-like blobs to form in the uterus would cause at least some minor discomfort. However, I’m also a paranoid person in general, and I don’t have a medical degree, so yeah.
Dr. Orderberg tells Elite Daily that clots don’t really interfere with the intensity of your cramps, or any other PMS symptom, so there’s really nothing special you need to do to nurse a clot until it passes, if you even notice it’s there at all. However, LIVESTRONG.com reports that heavy bleeding with clots can lead to “terrible cramps” that can be relieved with medication.
Bottom line: The best advice I can offer is to talk to your doctor if you're experiencing clotting, because every body is different.
Although blood clots are generally normal during your period, there's a chance it could lead to something more serious.
From what I understand, blood clots really are just a normal part of your period that can occur any time your flow might be moving a little too fast. But while that may be the case, making an appointment with your doctor to check it out is always a good idea.
According to representatives from the female health app Clue, it’s important to pay attention to two things: the size and color of your blood clots. If you release multiple clumps that are equal to or larger than the size of a quarter, it could be “an indication of heavy menstrual bleeding.” If the clots are both large and gray in coloring, this could be the sign of “an undetected miscarriage.”
A golden rule of thumb to follow would be this: Any time you notice your body is passing large clots, or bleeding heavier than what's normal for your cycle, visit your doctor to rule out the possibility of anything more serious than an average clot.
According to menstrual cup distributer Ruby Cup, other causes for blood clots could be a range of things from hormonal changes to endometriosis, but you won't know for sure unless you speak to a professional. If nothing else, it will grant you piece of mind, and that alone is worth the copay.