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What menstrual blood colour reveals about health

What menstrual blood colour reveals about health

Variations in the colour of period blood can indicate infection or hormonal deficiency, say doctors

Variations in the colour of period blood can indicate infection or hormonal deficiency

The hues can leave a hint — especially during the painful menstruation periods that many women endure, when the colour of the blood from the uterus tells a tale.

Dr Yasmin Imdad, senior consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Kinder Women’s Hospital and Fertility Clinic, Bengaluru, says the colour of the menstrual blood can relay vital health information. “The period blood colour can vary from bright red to dark brown or black,” says Dr Imdad, adding that it also indicates the duration of the menstrual blood inside the uterus.


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Sneha Baliga, a homemaker from Mangaluru in Karnataka who is in her forties, recalls that her periods were not problematic until three years after the delivery of her child. But then she noticed the bleeding turning out to be maroon blood clots for the first two days of most months, unlike the earlier not-so-painful bright-red flow.

“I had to change a pad every two hours,” she says. “This also meant withdrawal from any social activities for those days — [so,] no stepping out of home — and the abdominal pain was excruciating.” 

Dr Imdad says, “During periods, the inner lining of the uterus is shed as period blood. In this, the body sheds tissues and blood from the uterus through the vagina. Hormonal changes and health conditions can affect the colour and texture of the period blood.” 

Bright red = All is well

“One is in the pink of health if her menstrual blood is bright red,” says Dr Sushma Tomar, obstetrician and gynecologist at Fortis Hospital, Kalyan, Mumbai. She says that the variations in the blood colour indicate any form of infection or hormonal deficiency.

Dr Imdad describes the varied tones of menstrual blood colour and the respective health indicators:

  1. Cranberry red blood colour signifies good health and that there’s nothing to worry about.
  1. Pink or very light red blood colour may signify low estrogen levels. “This is common for ladies who engage in vigorous sports, especially running,” Dr Imdad says. “However, it is a good practice to consult a doctor occasionally as chronically low estrogen levels may lead to osteoporosis [wear and tear of the bones] later in life.”

Dr Swati Bhat, a yoga practitioner and naturopathy doctor from Bengaluru, says light-pink menstrual blood also suggests low vitality or low immunity or anemia and poor diet.

Very little colour and watery blood suggests nutritional deficiency. “In rare cases, it also indicates growing cancers in the fallopian tube and ovaries, and these women should get themselves checked immediately,” Dr Imdad says.

  1. Brown blood signifies oxidisation in blood and that the blood has been collected in the uterus for a longer duration, says Dr Imdad, adding that brown blood indicates that there is no health issue.

Dr Tomar says, “It is normal to experience the brownish-black discharge during the early hours and ending hours of menstruation.”

  1. Dark red blood clots indicate low progesterone (also known as ‘pregnancy hormone’ or endogenous steroid hormone) levels and high estrogen levels, says Dr Imdad. These women/girls usually suffer from excess bleeding. “If the clots are huge, one should get an ultrasound check as this indicates issues such as fibroids (non-cancerous growth in the uterine wall),” Dr Imdad says.

Talking of her experience with dark red blood clots, Baliga says, “I started bleeding excessively and suffered from anemia. I was diagnosed with fibroid in my uterus.” She ended up enduring the excruciating pain for 15 years. “I was in my late twenties and the doctors had suggested not to go for fibroid removal at that age,” she says.

Dr Bhat says clots in blood indicate the need for simultaneous nourishment and rest.

  1. Grey blood colour indicates vaginal infection (such as sexually transmitted infections). “Sometimes, menstrual blood can be grey in colour soon after a miscarriage too,” says Dr Imdad.

Warning signs: when to visit the doctor?

Dr Tomar recommends one should consult a doctor if they experience and observe the following changes:

  • Delayed or advanced periods (if periods occur before 25 days or after 35 days)
  • Scanty bleeding (requires one sanitary napkin per day and this occurs for two days)
  • Heavy bleeding (requires more than three sanitary napkins in a day) and a menstrual cycle for less than seven days or severe lower abdominal pain during the flow
  • Blood clots during the flow.

Treatment for improving period health

On treating the underlying medical conditions hinted by the period colour, it gradually changes. 

Integrated therapies such as yoga and naturopathy offer ways of transforming menstrual health. “Treatment in yoga and naturopathy aims at increasing vitality and immunity, decreasing toxins, supporting emotional and mental health, and treating nervous exhaustion,” says Dr Bhat.

Dr Bhat says light-pink menstrual blood often indicates anemia and can be corrected with an appropriate diet. She advises consuming rich nutrients such as:

  • Sugarcane juice with ginger and lime. This is rich in iron and vitamin C, and helps improve digestion.
  • Nuts and seeds. These help to regularise the menstrual cycle and induce a balanced diet.
  • Whole fruits. These are rich in magnesium and help to increase calcium absorption and relax the body.
  • Cooked sprouts. These are rich in serotonin and increase vitamin B6, which helps with mood swings.
  • Simple breathing exercises and cleansing techniques such as neti and vamana dhauti (yogic body-cleansing techniques. These help to calm, strengthen and detox the body.
  • Hip bath (also known as sitz bath) wherein a person rests in a water-tub filled up to the hip. This helps to relieve premenstrual cramps.

Further, dark red blood with or without clots, or with PCOS or menorrhagia (heavy bleeding during menstruation) can be cured with the following diet regulations, says Dr Bhat:

  • During menstrual cramps, consuming milk and raw food helps.
  • During the non-period days, a simple fruit diet helps.
  • Avoiding stimulants like tea and coffee and using regular enemas help avoid constipation.
  • Natural diuretics such as coriander seeds and sesame seeds, and fruits such as bananas help cure water retention during periods.
  • Banana flour mixed in curd helps to increase progesterone and hence reduce bleeding.
  • Regular use of ghee (clarified butter) in diet enhances body nutrition.
  • Regular meditation and pranayamas (breathing exercises) help to calm the nerves.
  • Sitz baths help in dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation).

Dr Tomar points out foul-smelling blood as another significant menstrual-flow issue that suggests infection in the body. “Foul-smelling blood flow in the initial days is normal,” Dr Bhat says. “However, if the smell prevails throughout menstruation, it signifies lowered immunity.”

Dr Bhat recommends various dietary changes that can help reduce or resolve foul smell in the menstrual blood. These include:

  1. Increased water intake and regular intake of cooked vegetables/sprouts and fruits to enhance immunity.
  2. Regular sleep and yogasanas.
  3. Healthy consumption of ghee (clarified butter) to enhance metabolism in the body.
  4. Cold abdominal packs and cold hip baths on non-periods days and hot hip baths on painful period days help to regain immunity.


According to Dr Bhat, practising specific yogasanas can help regularise the genitourinary system (organs of the reproductive and urinary systems) since they work on nerve plexus (network of intersecting nerves). These asanas include:

  • Baddakonasana (butterfly pose), upavista konasana (wide-angle seated-forward bend) and shavasana (corpse pose)
  • Twisting asanas such as trikonasana (triangle pose) and ardha matsyendrasana (half lord of the fishes pose)
  • Inverted poses such as sarvangasana (shoulder stand) and setu bandasana (bridge pose)
  • Back-strengthening asanas such as bhujangasana (cobra stretch) and shalabhasana (locust pose).

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