Black periods: is there cause for concern? Causes and solutions

Written by Marion Goilav

Relecture professionnelle

Have you noticed changes in the color of your blood loss during your period? Are you wondering about this unusual black discharge? Although they can be impressive, black periods are not uncommon. We'll explain what causes them.

Why can menstrual blood be black?

Although the body's blood is originally red, the color of menstrual blood can sometimes change. When it takes on a black hue, it may be dried or oxidized blood. This happens when the blood stagnates in the body, in the vagina, and comes into contact with air. Air oxidizes the blood. This can happen when the flow is light, such as at the beginning or end of the period. If you don't notice any other symptoms, there's no need to worry.

What causes black menstrual blood?

All women can experience black periods in the course of their lives. The causes vary widely.

Hormonal contraception

Hormonal contraception often reduces theabundance of menstrual periods. Since they are less abundant, they are less red, but also, because they flow less quickly, they can dry out in the vagina and therefore be dark when you observe them coming out.

The first or last day of the period

At these times, the flow is generally thin. The blood therefore takes longer to drain from the vagina. It takes on a darker hue when in the presence of air. Like a cut, fresh blood is red, but will turn brown once it has dried on a bandage, for example.

During ovulation

During ovulation, the body's hormone levels fluctuate (the famous LH peak and high estrogen levels). This can cause spotting. Since they are not very abundant, they can also oxidize and become darker.

Medical causes: inflammation or stress

In some cases, the color of menstrual periods can be altered by stress or inflammation. A medical consultation may be useful to alleviate these problems.

Brown or black discharge: is it all the same?

When the flow is less abundant, the degree of oxidation may vary. Brown or black periods are then due to the same phenomenon, but at a different level. There's nothing to worry about.

Periodic protection for black periods

Menstrual panties are ideal for black periods. They let the blood flow naturally, so it doesn't stagnate. You can choose a light level of protection for light flows. The panty offers optimal comfort. Period panties are also environmentally friendly, as they are reusable and economical.

Avoid using tampons

As mentioned above, black periods are often a sign of light discharge. When the flow is light, it's best not to use a tampon. In fact, tampons can sometimes cause dryness in the intimate area. If there's not enough blood, it may be difficult or even painful to remove the tampon.

Is it necessary to consult a doctor in the event of black blood loss?

While in most cases black periods are not a cause for concern, it may be useful to consult a doctor if they are accompanied by other symptoms, such as those listed below.

Black periods and stomach ache

Moderate pain is normal during menstruation, but if it becomes too intense and is associated with black discharge, consult a doctor. This may be a sign of endometriosis or inflammation.

Black-smelling periods

During menstruation, the odour of intimate flora may vary, but discharge is not supposed to smell bad. This may indicate a vaginal infection such as mycosis, an STD, vaginosis...

Heavy black periods

When the menstrual cycle is disturbed, the flow may be less abundant or, conversely, stronger. This may be due to a new hormonal contraceptive, or to menopause. Losses are no longer regular, and can therefore fluctuate between light and heavy flow.

Dark periods during pregnancy

In early pregnancy, it's not uncommon to experience a little bleeding. They are often light, and therefore tend to darken as they oxidize. This can be called "anniversary bleeding". They're not serious, but they can come as a surprise to the mother-to-be. In all cases, bleeding during pregnancy needs to be monitored. It's best to inform your doctor. It is also possible to have bleeding at the beginning of pregnancy, at a time other than the anniversary date on which menstruation should have occurred. It is estimated that 50% of pregnant women experience bleeding in early pregnancy. Often, this bleeding is nothing to worry about. But it can sometimes be a sign of miscarriage. So, if you experience bleeding during pregnancy, we advise you to tell your doctor or midwife.
However, if your early pregnancy bleeding is accompanied by pain that won't go away with painkillers, and if you haven't yet had an ultrasound scan, it's essential to go to the gynaecological emergency room to check that it's not an ectopic pregnancy.

What can be done about it?

As mentioned above, if your black periods are accompanied by other symptoms such as pain or foul-smelling discharge, you should consult a doctor or midwife. The latter will guide you towards the right treatment for your situation. Your health care professional will start by asking you questions. Sometimes, this simple discussion can help you understand what's wrong and answer your questions.
Sometimes, questioning is not enough, and your healthcare professional will want to carry out additional tests (not all of which are necessarily useful and carried out):

  • a gynecological examination: observation of the vagina and cervix through speculum examination
  • Pap smear
  • a vaginal swab
  • pelvic ultrasound
  • sometimes even a pelvic MRI if endometriosis is suspected.

If a genital infection is diagnosed, local or oral treatment may be prescribed (sometimes antibiotics, for example).

Surprisingly, black periods are often not indicative of a problem. If you don't notice any other symptoms, there's no need to worry.

Black periods FAQ

Why is my period blood black?

This is due to oxidation of the blood. When discharge is light, the blood tends to stagnate in the vagina before running out. It then comes into contact with air, changing color and turning darker.

Is it normal to have black periods?

Yes, it's completely normal. It can happen to any woman. Particularly at the beginning or end of the period, when the flow is less abundant. But it can also occur with spotting, small amounts of bleeding outside the period due to a new hormonal contraceptive or one that is not fully adapted. Black periods can also occur during the menopause, when the flow is very changeable, or at the start of pregnancy.

Are black periods an anniversary period?

During the first weeks of pregnancy, you may experience some light blood loss. This small quantity of blood flows slowly and oxidizes. It changes color, turning into a brown-black period. Black periods can therefore be anniversary periods, but also normal periods for women who are not pregnant.

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