t some point in your life, you’ve probably declared that your period is the actual worst. And for the most part, it totally is (what up, cramps and annoyingly cumbersome tampon stash). But while that time of the month is generally way more nuisance than not, there is one sort of cool silver lining to the whole thing: It’s a good way to gain insight into your overall health.
“Paying attention to how you’re bleeding is a good way to find out about other health conditions in your body,” explains Leah Millheiser, MD, an ob-gyn and director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford University. Here are the main bleeding patterns to look out for during your cycle—plus what each one may reveal about your overall wellbeing.
1. IF YOUR PERIOD BLOOD IS BRIGHT RED…
A bright red color—as in fire-engine-truck red—is no need to sound the, ahem, sirens. Bright red blood often means that you are simply at the beginning of your cycle. “The fresher the blood is, the more red it’s going to be,” explains Millheiser.
But while the color is no cause for alarm, the fire-engine-truck stain it can leave on your clothes is a whole different story. Stay prepared by stocking up on Totally Spot-less powered by Clorox2. It’s specifically designed to work magic on “feminine stains” by pretreating them and then removing the stains during washing. Bonus: It works on wine, sweat, coffee, and tea stains, too.
2. IF YOUR BLOOD IS BROWNISH…
After you’ve had your period for a couple days, the blood may start to transition from bright red to a darker, brownish hue. And while it’s easy to jump to conclusions and assume that a switch of any kind indicates trouble, it’s actually all good, Millheiser says. “Brownish blood is basically just older blood that’s been in your uterus for a lot longer than fresh blood. It’s had a chance to oxidize, so it’s not as bright,” she adds.
Another reason your period blood may veer toward the brownish side is if you have an IUD—especially the progesterone kind. With an IUD, “you’re shedding a smaller amount of the uterus lining every month, which means that the blood stays in there for a lot longer,” says Millheiser. Even though the blood may be a little more subdued, it can still stain your clothes—which means that Clorox2 Totally Spot-less is your best friend in this scenario, too.
3. IF YOU’VE GOT SOME CLOTTING…
Blood clots—i.e., those thick blobs of blood that can appear during your period—are generally not too worrisome. They’re simply a function of your bleeding, says Millheiser, and as long as they don’t happen all the time and they’re under the size of a quarter, you’re probably fine. But if you have large clots on a regular basis, they could be indicative of a larger problem.