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Okay, so you have your period ! With more or less regularity, pain or fatigue, your menstruation is often an indicator of your overall health. For your well-being and health, it's important to know about your menstruation, how long it lasts on the average, how much blood you lose, or your blood's usual colour; knowing will enable you to act if there are changes. The explanation may be simple (change of contraception, menopause ...), or it could be a sign that something is wrong and must be medically examined.
Among the different signs to watch out for, there is the colour of your menstrual blood: you may have noticed that its colour varies during your cycle, but does that mean something about your health? In this section, we will explore how this happens, and when is the time to act.
Let's start by remembering the basics (simple): From adolescence to menopause, the female body is regulated by sex hormones that trigger a succession of menstrual cycles, the goal of which is simply: to reproduce (make babies). At each period, the body prepares a small cosy "nest" in the uterus, in case an embryo wants to develop there into a foetus. If no embryo is present, the endometrium (= the small cosy "nest") self-destructs and flows with a little blood from the uterus through the vagina: BINGO, this is what menstruation is (and which means you are not pregnant).
The different shades of red that you observe are generally caused by the length of time that menstrual blood comes into contact with oxygen. It's a bit like cutting yourself: the first drops of blood that come out is reddish in colour, then reacts and dries when it comes into contact with oxygen air (it oxidises) turning into a dark red or brown colour. So it is perfectly normal to see different shades of your blood during a menstrual period.
It is usually the colour observed during the first day or at the end of the period and this is quite normal. This is just a sign that menstrual blood took a long time to flow through and is then oxidised. The endometrium does not fall apart all at once, it is a slow process from the time it starts to the time it stops.
It is also the colour that you probably observe when using sanitary napkins It’s logical: by using a sanitary napkin, menstrual blood comes more into contact with oxygen than when it is collected in a menstrual cup or is absorbed by a tampon.
You will also see dark red blood clots (sometimes black), and again: this is nothing to worry about. It is the endometrium that is flowing out and it is normal to observe some blood clots during the days when your menstrual flow is most abundant.
However, if these blood clots are accompanied by pain, irregular periods that last very long, or there is too much blood, it is possible that they are caused by fibroids. In this case, we recommend that you consult a health care professional. Fibroids are (generally) diagnosed through a simple gynaecological examination.
You may notice a few drops of brown colour if you start / change contraceptive methods or approach menopause. That's normal. Any hormonal change tends to cause some minor losses that are not serious.
When this is the case, that is when serious things begin and your blood flow intensifies.
Increased menstrual flow = faster outflow with less oxidation. Everything works the way they're supposed to!
By starting to use a menstrual cup, you may have observed that your menstrual blood was more reddish in colour than before. That's normal! Once blood is collected in a menstrual cup, it is not in contact with oxygen that much, and therefore oxidises less (which also avoids odours).
If you notice bright red spotting between your periods, we advise you to consult a health care professional because several factors can explain these unexpected bleeds, including some sexually transmitted infections.
You have menstrual blood that appears diluted (watery), less abundant and you have started training for a marathon? Look no further! Intense physical activity can lower your estrogen levels, decreasing your flow; it can even stop your periods. This is common among high level performing athletes. It may seem very practical to have less or no more menstrual periods, but a low level of estrogen increases the risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that affects the bones making them more fragile. This is a frequent consequence of menopause, a period of life during which sex hormone levels (including estrogen) also decrease. It is therefore important to consult a doctor if you think your periods have decreased in intensity due to sports activities, so that you can be monitored on a long-term basis, to avoid any deficiency or fracture.
And if you're not really the athletic type? There may be other causes for pink menstrual blood: sudden weight loss, polycystic ovary syndrome, or pre-menopause stage. In any of these cases, we advise you to consult a health care professional.
Leaving the menstrual period aside - if at some time during your menstrual period, you observe greyish outflows or grey matter mixed with blood, we recommend that you consult a health care professional immediately, as this may be a sign of a vaginal infection caused by bacteria or a miscarriage. If you are, or if think, you are pregnant, consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Vaginal bacterial infections are common in women and many treatments are possible. If you know that you are predisposed to this type of infection, practise a few simple hygiene routines such as using a personal hygiene soap with pH acid. By using a PH acid soap, you preserve your natural vaginal flora, an important defence against infections.
Have bluish menstrual blood?! No, no, no, that's just in advertisements! Frankly, gentlemen advertisers, we are in the 21st century and we can realistically talk about reddish blood. Don't forget that we have those monthly visits!
You will understand that it is quite normal to observe different shades of red during your periods. It is only in cases when you observe inexplicable traces of blood between your periods or during a pregnancy that you must seek medical advice.
Pay attention to other signs, such as the amount of blood you lose (practical with the Claricup!), if you have pain during your menstrual periods as well as duration or regularity: a sudden change may be a sign that it is time to make an appointment with your doctor. And this you will know over time as you listen to your body so that you have a better understanding of how it works, ensuring your well-being!