If you've been menstruating for some time now, you would probably have noticed that your period blood comes in different shades each month, or even in the same cycle. It usually ranges from almost black to brown to bright red. These are normal and typically caused by the reaction of blood with oxygen.
So what's really going on?
Every month, the uterus prepares itself for pregnancy. The inner lining of the uterus, the endometrium thickens and if a pregnancy occurs, this is where the fertilised egg would implant. In the case where a pregnancy doesn't happen, the uterus sheds this inner lining.
During your period, this inner lining is what's being discharged from your body. The colour of the discharge depends on how long it takes the endometrial tissue to travel down through your cervix and vagina. Darker colours are usually because the tissue has reacted with oxygen. The longer the endometrium takes to exit your body, the darker coloured it will be.
You may also see bright red colours. This is because as the endometrium tears itself away from the uterus, there are torn blood vessels left behind that continue to bleed.
What colours should you expect?
When your period first starts, you can expect to see darker hues like dark brown/red to almost black. At this stage, the discharge could also be thicker in consistency. You may also see bright red discharge that's less viscous.
On the second and third days of your period, the uterine lining breaks apart faster and since this is newer blood and tissue, it tends to be a brighter shade of red. At this stage, your flow will also likely be heavier than on the first day.
At other times of your cycle, you may also experience spotting. Spotting can happen for a number of reasons, one of which is during ovulation. During this fertile phase, your body also produces more cervical fluid, which can take on an egg white-like appearance. This clear fluid, when mixed with the blood from spotting, produces a light red or pinkish hue.
When should you seek medical assistance?
However, if you notice a pinkish discharge at other times outside of your ovulation phase (this is usually in the middle of your cycle), you should seek medical help. Especially if it happens often as this could be a sign of cervical cancer.
The other warning colour is grey. If you see grey discharge, you could possibly be experiencing an infection.
If you are experiencing any kind of abnormal bleeding, do see a healthcare provider to stay on the safe side.
This is one of the reasons it's important to track your cycles so that you can be aware of any abnormalities.