Having your period is totally normal—but that doesn’t mean there’s such a thing as a “normal period.” Which is to say that the way your menstrual blood looks can change from month to month and at certain times during your cycle. It also means that no two women’s flows are identical. (So while you might be synced with your BFF, that doesn’t mean your menses are twinsies.)
There’s a veritable Pantone of period blood colors. Certain hues can tell you a lot about your body—like if your hormones are balanced (a concept originated by Wellness Council member Alisa Vitti, who’s even created a tool to help women interpret their own)—and your overall health.
It’s why Sherry Ross, OBGYN, recommends women familiarize themselves with common flow colors. “In the beginning, [menstrual] blood tends to be bright red in color, and as it comes to an end, appear brown or black,” she says. While some of the shades on that spectrum sound scary, Dr. Ross says none are anything to worry about.
There are, however, a few tints she says are important to recognize as warning signs that something could be off in your system medically. Should any of them appear down there, the OBGYN advises making an appointment with your doctor ASAP.
Here are 4 colors of period blood that Dr. Ross says to keep an eye out for every month.
If it looks like fruit punch
Bright red period blood is healthy. But if the hue has the watered-down look of a party drink whose ice cubes have melted? “[It] could represent a vaginal discharge, which could come from a sexually transmitted infection (STI), cervical cancer, or a normal pregnancy,” says Dr. Ross.
If it’s millennial pink
This color might be everywhere, but it doesn’t belong your menstrual blood, according to Dr. Ross. “Light bleeding can be a sign of low estrogen levels caused by the birth control pill, anemia, significant weight loss, or a poor diet,” she says.
If it’s the consistency of strawberry jam
“Blood can turn solid and appear as a clot in certain conditions,” says the OBGYN. It’s not necessarily something to worry about—chunks the size of raisins or smaller during a heavy blood flow are totally normal, says Dr. Ross. But if they’re thick and larger than a quarter, they can be indicative of a hormonal imbalance, uterine fibroids, uterine polyps, or an abnormal pregnancy.
If it looks like muddy rain drops
In most cases, spotting mid-cycle is NBD—often, it’s just a sign of ovulation. But if you’re seeing brown droplets between periods for more than two to three months, it could be because of hormonal fluctuations caused by puberty, pre-menopause, menopause, polycystic ovarian syndrome ovulation, or birth control side effects. Consulting a doc can help you figure out the source of your spotty sitch.