As many of you know, I am passionate about infertility and helping women conceive. So I’ve teamed up with a colleague from Moncton, Dr. Jodie Tatlock to give you regular information on the topic of FERTILITY. During my last clinical year of school, we worked together on a Fertility Focus Shift where we saw patients going through fertility treatments. Despite praciticing in different provinces, we share a passion for fertility and are constantly collaborating. So we have decided to bring you a Fertility Friday post each week! Stay tuned.
While working with women’s reproductive health one of the first things we look at (in detail) is the period. How long is the cycle? How many days of bleed? Are there cramps? What color is the blood?
This last one often stumps our patients because a) it’s not
something we often talk about with our friends and b) it’s blood, it’s red.. Duh! However, this isn’t always the case and it’s usually not the case when women are seeking help for infertility. Surprisingly, the color of our blood during our period can give a lot of clues as to what is going on hormonally.
Sounds a bit odd doesn’t it? But it happens! Some women experience a brown/black flow due to oxidized blood that is left in the uterus from your previous menstrual cycle (old blood). This is usually a normal part of our periods and is seen towards the very beginning or end of your period. It is especially common with regular tampon or oral contraceptive use and very commonly seen postpartum. However, there are times that brown discharge can be problematic.
Brown/Black flow can be an indication that your progesterone levels are low. What does that mean? Well progesterone is the hormone that predominates in the second half of the cycle. It is important because it is the hormone that ensures successful implantation. Low levels of progesterone can contribute to recurrent miscarriages.
Symptoms of low progesterone: mood changes such as anxiety/depression, stress, night sweats, irregular periods and low sex drive.
Brown/Black flow can also be seen in vaginal infections but in these cases, it is usually accompanied by other symptoms.
Symptoms of vaginal infection: vaginal itching, a foul smell, abdominal pain, burning on urination, frequent spotting throughout the cycle, and brown with yellow/grey discharge. If you are experiencing these symptoms you should seek medical attention.
Brown/Black flow when seen in women nearing 50 can be a normal sign of menopause but postmenopausally it is important to have a proper medical workup to rule out things like uterine cancer or a cervical stenosis.
2) Dark Red/Purple
Darker colors such as dark red or purple can also be seen as old blood (but not as old as brown/black blood) and usually seen with heavy periods (and possibly underlying iron deficiency) or high estrogen levels.
Estrogen is a hormone that works to build the lining of the uterus each month. It is the hormone that predominates the first half of the cycle as it plays a role in creating follicles. It is important for fertility because it helps with ovulation and implantation but when we end up with high levels of estrogen it can create chaos in the body. Too much estrogen will prevent ovulation, affect our fertile window and can prevent embryo implantation.
Symptoms of high estrogen: breast tenderness, heavy menstrual bleeding, menstrual blood clots, endometriosis, or PCOS, ovarian cysts and emotional PMS.
High levels of estrogen can also impact our bones, breasts, brains, and cholesterol levels. Working on detoxifying excess estrogen is important for overall health.
Symptoms of iron deficiency: fatigue, heavy menstrual bleeding, shortness of breath, feeling weak, dizziness, cravings for strange things (ice/clay/dirt)
3) Light/Watery Pink
Light and watery pink blood can be a sign of poor blood quality (low red blood cell production and/or nutrient deficiencies). This is usually seen with nutritional anemias (iron, folate, or B12 deficienies). Our blood is responsible for nourishing all of our organs, including the reproductive tract. Without nutrients and oxygen in the uterus, in particular, this will create a very hostile environment for embryo implantation or development.
Symptoms of nutritional anemias: fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle twitches, burning or numb sensations, missed/heavy/watery menstrual cycles.
4) Bright Red
Sounds like the best for last! Bright red blood without any clots means that your flow is “normal”, in other words, your hormones are balanced. However, many of our patients who come in do not report bright red flow. So you are not alone! Paying attention to your flow can help to identify what hormone imbalances there are so that we can develop specific treatment plans. So until the next “time of the month” take a look and keep some mental notes…it might just be the key to fixing your hormones and helping you to conceive!
Your fertility friends,
Jodie and Samina