Period color meaning

Samantha Syrett, PA-C

Periods come in various colors, from the typical bright red and brown to pink and gray. Even if you're not menstruating, the color of your vaginal discharge might contain a clue about what's happening in your body. The below is not a definitive diagnostic tool, of course, but here are a few general associations regarding period and discharge colors, and when you need to see a doctor.

Bright red blood

What it might mean:

  • You’re menstruating: Fresh menstrual blood is typically bright red, especially the first few days.

  • You’re injured: This could include IUD insertions/removals, pap smears, injuries from sexual intercourse or even transvaginal ultrasounds.

  •  You’re in labor: If you're pregnant, this could be due to changes in your cervix signaling the start of labor. It can also indicate preterm labor or other pregnancy complications. It's important to contact your health care provider right away.

Bright red blood with clots

What it might mean:

  • You’re menstruating: Some women may experience heavy vaginal bleeding with clots while menstruating.

  • You’re pregnant: If you’re pregnant, this could be a sign of a threatened or inevitable miscarriage. This would require a pelvic examination from your health care provider and, ideally, an ultrasound to diagnose and treat. 

Dark brown or black blood

What it might mean:

  • You’re menstruating: This could be typical menstrual blood. However, it is typically the blood noted at the end of menstruation.

Pink blood

What it might mean:

  • You’re trying to conceive: In early pregnancy, around four to six weeks after your last menstrual cycle, some women can experience spotting when a fertilized egg implants in the lining of the uterus.

  • You’re pregnant: If you’re pregnant, you might have a subchorionic hemorrhage, which is very common and most likely to cause bleeding between six and 20 weeks pregnant. It usually resolves on its own.

  • Other causes: Your cervix naturally has mucous, which can mix with menstrual blood, creating a lighter pink discharge.

Gray or watery discharge

What it might mean:

  • You have an infection: This may be a sign of an infection such as bacterial vaginosis, which requires treatment.

  • You’re pregnant: This could be amniotic fluid or your water breaking. 

If you have any questions, please contact your ob/gyn for more information. If you need an ob/gyn, find the ob/gyn provider for you.

Samantha Syrett, PA-Cr

Samantha Syrett, PA-C, is a board-certified physician assistant with BJC Medical Group, specializing in women's health. She sees patients ages 11 and above for all general obstetrics and gynecology care, including preventive screenings, contraceptive counseling, diabetes in pregnancy, high-risk pregnancy, multiple births, pediatric ob/gyn, endometriosis, infertility, contraceptive placement and removal and more. She values the opportunity to support women and advocate for their needs over their lifetime. Samantha enjoys running and playing outside in her free time with her son, husband and two dogs.


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