You can basically read your secretions like Turkish coffee grounds.
Not surprisingly, this extends to your period, too. The color and consistency can tell you all kinds of things about your cycle, and what's really going on up in there.
FYI, it is totally normal for your period blood to change its appearance, even within the course of one cycle.
Keeping track of the changes and color-coding might be a fun little activity next time a visit from Aunt Flo stains your brand new pair of undies.
Here's what the color of your period blood is really trying to tell you.
Red As A Maraschino Cherry, Baby
Bright red means your uterus juice is simply nice and fresh.
Elite Daily spoke with Dr. Charles Ascher-Walsh, director of the division of gynecology at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and founder of ExpertAlternatives.com, who explains that periods are a combination of blood and endometrium, the lining of the uterus.
This color is particularly common with heavy flows, since it just keeps on comin'.
With a brighter red, your period is essentially just pouring out.
Ahh, to have a uterus.
A Little Bit Darker Now
A darker red indicates the blood has been inside you longer, and it's a little older.
Dr. Ascher-Walsh says,
If you don't bleed a lot at one time, the blood literally lingers inside of the uterus, and is not being forced out by the blood behind it. The proteins in your blood get broken down by enzymes and oxidizes, and it turns into a darker color.
Dang, the female body is weird.
Getting Down With Some Brown
Similar to the dark red color, a brownish hue means the blood/lining has been lingering around for a bit.
It's common for this to happen at both the beginning or very end of your period. You're either shedding some blood and lining from the last flow, or your flow is ending and starting to slow down.
It's not totally clear why some menses are "slower" than others, necessarily, but Dr. Ascher-Walsh mentions that it's mostly just the volume of the period, which can change from month to month.
Be sure to keep track of whether your flow is consistently really dark and heavy, however, as it can indicate certain conditions and increases risk of anemia.
There are a couple of things that a pinkish menses can indicate, the first of which is just a light flow.
This can mean lower estrogen levels, which is common in serious runners, for example.
The pink color can also indicate you're low on some vital nutrients. In which case, maybe you should pick up some vitamins on your next run to the pharmacy.
Orange You Glad Your Period Is Here?
An orange-ish flow can definitely be alarming you to something serious, like an STI.
Dr. Ascher-Walsh tells Elite Daily,
You could have an infection on your cervix, especially if the discharge is malodorous or you have pelvic pain.
On the other hand, a more pumpkin-ish hue can also simply mean that there's some harmless cervical discharge in there, and "every woman has a different degree of normal vaginal discharge."
If your usual cervical discharge is more yellow or a little green, it can alter the color when mixed with red or brown menses.
A Maroonish Purple
This is basically just a mix of some super fresh and not-so-fresh period blood.
Something old, something new, something... purple?
A Gray, Gray Day
Now this one is doctor-worthy.
A gray color in your period color can indicate an STI or other kinds of infection, especially if there's an unusual odor involved.
Oh, And What's With The Clotting?
Your body usually releases anticoagulants which keep blood from clotting.
But when you have a particularly heavy flow, there's often not enough time for the anticoagulants to do their thing, and that's when the clots form.
If the clots get any bigger than a dime, that's your cue to reach out to your doctor.
While all of these colors are the most common shades, everyone is a little different.
That said, it never hurts to check with a pro if you're seeing something particularly unusual down there.