Menstruation blood or the menstruum(medical name) is the blood that flows during a woman's periods.
A few questions often arise with regards to the menstrual blood which will briefly be addressed in this article-What is the normal color, odor, volume or consistency of menstrual blood? Should it contain blood clots? What are some common menstruall blood abnormalities?
Menstrual blood originates from the normal shedding of the endometrium during normal menstruation as part of the ovulation cycle. Though it is called vaginal bleeding, it originates from the uterus and not originate from the vagina.
It simply passes through the vaginal lumen. The term vaginal bleeding has been used medically to describe any bleeding from the female genital tract that comes out from the vagina.
Menstrual blood is not composed of blood only. There are three qualitative components found in menstrual blood
Blood is the main component of what is collectively called menstruation blood or menstruum. As the endometrium breaks down, small blood vessels leading to the endometrium are exposed and blood oozes out. Normally these open vessels usually constrict and close. Blood is the major quantitative component of the menstruum.
As part of normal menstruation, the endometrium is shed from the uterus. The shed endometrium is mainly made of cells and their fibrous support. The shed endometrium is not blood! It is hard material that may be seen in the normal menstrual blood as tissue or clots.
Some women have seen this tissue material during normal menstruation and report that they probably had a miscarriage. Others have seen them it and called them clots for they really just look like true blood clots. The amount of shed endometrium is less than the amount of blood in the menstruum.
The third component in the menstruum is the unfertilized egg. It is indeed negligible with respect to its volume when compared to the blood or the shed endometrium. It is a single cell which cannot be seen with the naked eye! It is however worth noting that the egg is there as part of the flow.
The average volume of menstruum is about 35 ml with a normal range of 10 to 80 ml. You need not have a measuring container to know that you are within the normal range! Many women have learned from experience to determine the normal volume of menstruation blood by the amount of pads or similar menstrual product required to stay dry, and how soaked or wet these pads are.
There could be a wide range of normal menstruation blood color. Usually, it is bright or light red in color, looking like the bleeding from a cut finger especially at the onset of menstruation. It could also be brown or almost black towards the end of menses. The reason is simple to get. As blood stays out of the blood vessels, it begins to change its color. The black or brown color might just be normal menstrual blood that has changed its color as it passes through the cervix into the vagina. It is not usually black from the blood vessels they are coming from! Note however that persistently black menses from start to finish each month or similar feature should not just be labeled as normal. Talk to your doctor.
It may have the normal viscosity as blood from a bleeding finger or it could be watery and thin. It may also be stringy.
Normal menstrual blood should not be offensive in odor. Offensive vaginal discharges may be a sign of genital infection. However, blood may accumulate in the vagina and stink if it is left there for a long time especially more than 6 to 8 hours. Good menstrual hygiene should salvage such situations.
There are common abnormalities of menstruation blood that women often encounter.
"Blood clots during menstruation is frequently reported by women. Should normal menstruation blood contain blood clots? The honest answer is "no, not blood clots but a different kind of clots". Read more on blood clots during menstruation
Normal menstrual blood should not have an abnormal odor. The most important important cause of an abnormal odor is vaginal infection which should prompt medical consultation. Other causes include stagnant menstrual blood, and foreign body like a forgotten tampon in the vagina.
Brown or even black menstrual blood can occur towards the end of menses because the the flow slows down and the blood spends more time in the tract and changes its color.Therefore it is a change that occurs in transit, and not from the origin.
Heavy and sometimes scant menstruation requires medical evaluation because there might be more serious causes and it could lead to anemia if not properly treated. Please see Heavy Menstruation for listing of the causes of heavy menses
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