What Does Black Menstrual Bleeding Mean?
Black Menstrual Bleeding – What is Black Period?
Periods don’t usually come as much of a surprise, until they show up a day or two ago when you’re just wearing white pants. The surprising thing is that black blood is often seen instead of red. We are not talking about dark currents at the beginning or end of the cycle, but rather heavy currents that come on the second day.
Yes, it’s annoying to see anything other than bright red on your tampon or pad, but it’s more common than you might think.
Why Does My Menstrual Blood Look Black?
Take a deep breath, because this is no cause for concern. Black menstrual blood is just “blood that’s old, that’s starting to clot a bit,” says Rachel Peragallo Urrutia, Professor of General Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina.
Once the uterine wall is opened once a month, the blood doesn’t always come out right away, and the longer the blood stays in the uterus, the darker it gets.
While heavy bleeding can be a sign of a serious illness such as Endometriosis or Pelvic Inflammation, you should always consult your doctor if you have symptoms such as black or dark blood, severe cramping, pain during sex, or difficulty conceiving.
What Causes Black Menstrual Bleeding?
Black menstrual bleeding can be due to many reasons. These,
- May be the beginning or end of menstruation
- Stuck or forgotten foreign body
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or other infection
The beginning or end of your period
You may experience slower menstrual bleeding at the beginning and end of your period. As a result, blood in your womb may take longer to leave your body and may change from the standard red to dark brown or black. If you see black spotting before your period, it may also be blood from your last period. In these cases, your vagina is self-cleaning.
Stuck or forgotten foreign body
Black discharge can be a sign that a foreign body is stuck in your vagina. It can happen if you accidentally put in a second tampon or forget one, especially at the end of your period.
Other common objects that can get stuck in the vagina include condoms, birth control devices such as caps or sponges, and sex toys. Over time, the object irritates the lining of your vagina and can cause an infection.
Other symptoms you may experience:
- foul smelling discharge
- itching or discomfort in and around the vagina
- swelling or redness around the genitals
- urination problem
Foreign bodies cannot disappear or travel to the uterus or abdomen. Your cervix, located at the top of the vaginal canal, has only a small opening. However, if you are experiencing black discharge or other symptoms and you suspect something may be stuck in your vagina, see a doctor. In rare cases, you may develop toxic shock syndrome, a potentially life-threatening infection.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or other infection
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, can cause bleeding and unusual discharge. Black discharge may mean that the stored blood has left the uterus or vaginal canal. Heavy vaginal discharge of any color with a foul smell is also a symptom of these infections.
Other symptoms include:
- bleeding during or after sexual intercourse
- painful urination
- pain or pressure in your pelvis
- vaginal itching
- detection between periods
Sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) do not go away on their own. Without antibiotic treatment, they can spread from the vagina to your reproductive organs and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
PID symptoms are similar to those of other STIs, but you may also experience fever with or without chills. If left untreated, PID can lead to complications such as chronic pelvic pain and infertility.
Bleeding in early pregnancy is common, especially during late or skipped periods. When the egg implants in the uterine wall about 10 to 14 days after conception, you may bleed as part of the implantation process. If the blood takes a while to come out of the vagina, it may appear black.
Other symptoms of early pregnancy include:
- missed her period
- frequent urination
- nausea and vomiting (morning sickness)
- tender or swollen breasts
Not all women experience implantation bleeding, and any bleeding you experience should be light. If the spotting or bleeding you see turns into a heavy stream or lasts longer than a few days, see a doctor.
Black spotting and bleeding can also be a sign of a miscarriage where the embryo has stopped developing but has not been expelled by the body for four weeks or more. Between 10 and 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Most happen before the fetus reaches 10 weeks of gestation.
With a missed miscarriage, you may not have symptoms. In fact, some people don’t notice a miscarriage until they do a routine ultrasound.
Others report experiencing loss of pregnancy symptoms, cramping or feeling faint, among other symptoms.
Bleeding that occurs four to six weeks after giving birth to a baby is called puerperal bleeding. Bleeding may start as a thick red discharge with small clots and slow down within a few days. From about the fourth day, its color changes from red to pink or brown. If the flow is particularly slow, the blood may even turn dark brown or black.
Over time, the color should turn creamy or yellow again before it stops completely.
If you experience any bright red blood, clots larger than a plum, or foul-smelling discharge in the weeks after giving birth, be sure to tell a doctor.
Absence of menstrual blood
Retention or failure of menstrual blood (hematocolpos) occurs when menstrual blood is prevented from exiting the uterus, cervix, or vagina. As a result, the blood may darken during the time it is retained. An obstruction can be caused by anything from a congenital problem with the hymen, vaginal septum, or in rare cases, an absence of the cervix (cervical agenesis).
Some people do not experience any symptoms. Others find that the symptoms are cyclical and occur instead of an expected menstrual cycle.
If the obstruction is particularly severe, you may experience amenorrhea or a complete lack of menstrual bleeding. Other complications include pain, adhesions, and endometriosis.
Is black colored period a sign of cervical cancer?
In rare cases, black discharge can be a sign of cervical cancer. Although many people do not have any symptoms, irregular bleeding between cycles or after sex is the most common sign of invasive cancer.
In early cancer, vaginal discharge may be white or clear, watery, or foul-smelling. It can even be scratched by blood, which can turn dark brown or black as it leaves the body over time.
In more advanced stages of cervical cancer, you may experience:
- weight loss
- pelvic pain
- swelling in your legs
- trouble urinating or defecating
Can I do something about black menstrual bleeding?
Nothing can really change the color of menstrual blood, but if you’re concerned about the amount of bleeding that comes with your period, you can consult your doctor for treatments that can help reduce the amount of bleeding.
But in general, the things that make you healthy, sleeping well, exercising regularly, eating quality foods, avoiding chemicals in foods and products you consume as much as possible can be beneficial for your hormone balance.
Still, it’s important to always pay attention to your body and the signals it’s giving you. If you have concerns about your black or dark menstrual bleeding, discuss it at your next doctor’s appointment.
How is black menstrual bleeding treated?
Black discharge can be part of your menstrual cycle and does not require any special treatment. It’s a good idea to see a doctor if the discharge is severe and accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, pain, or foul odor.
Treatment for black discharge depends on the cause. For example:
- Objects in the vagina should be removed by a doctor, especially if you are experiencing symptoms such as black discharge, pain or fever.
- Infections such as PID are managed with antibiotics. Follow all your doctor’s instructions and take precautions, such as practicing safe sex, to protect yourself from re-infection.
- The miscarriage may eventually correct itself. Otherwise, your doctor may recommend a dilatation and curettage (D&C) procedure. In this procedure, your doctor uses medical instruments and medications to dilate your cervix while you are under anesthesia. A surgical instrument called a curette is then used to remove any tissue.
- Pending menses may require surgery to treat the underlying conditions causing the blockage.
- Cervical cancer treatment may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments.
When to see a doctor
Black discharge at the beginning and end of your period is usually not a cause for concern.
A typical period can last between 3 and 10 days and may be every 3 to 6 weeks. Periods may differ from month to month. Bleeding or black discharge outside of this general time frame is considered irregular and should be discussed with a doctor.
If you are pregnant or have recently given birth, consult a doctor if you see black discharge. If you are experiencing other unusual symptoms such as fever or cramps, you should seek medical attention immediately.
You should also see a doctor if you have gone through menopause but started experiencing black discharge or other unexpected bleeding. This could be a sign of a serious underlying condition.
Women’s Health Mag, So, What If My Period Blood Is Black?, 2018
Healthline, What Causes Black Discharge and How Is It Treated?, 2018
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