Clot Or Not: How Much Period Clotting Is Too Much?
- Not to be confused with thrombosis clots (the kind that can form in your veins and cause problems), period clots are perfectly normal and usually nothing to worry about.
- Normal period clots are smaller than a quarter, occasional and usually on heavier days.
- Abnormal clots are frequently larger than a quarter, accompanied by heavy bleeding, grayish, or accompanied by abnormal pain.
- Hormonal birth control is the most common treatment for the most common causes of abnormal period clots.
Is your period clotty by nature? Seeing a blob of slimy, gelled blood during your period might freak you out, but menstrual clots are actually very common. Period clot colors can vary, from bright to dark red, blackish, and sometimes brown clots towards the tail end of your period. Not to be confused with thrombosis clots (the kind that can form in your veins and cause problems), period clots are perfectly normal and usually nothing to worry about. Occasionally, they are a warning sign that something is going on. Here’s how to tell the difference.
What Causes Clots
Your period is made out of endometrial (aka uterus) lining that builds up over the course of roughly a month. When you don’t get pregnant, the lining sheds down through the cervix and vagina, sloughing off the blood, tissue, and mucus that make up period blood.
To thin the blood enough so it can pass through the tiny hole of your cervix, your body releases anticoagulants around the time of your period. Sometimes on heavy days, the blood flows too fast for the anticoagulants to do their work. It can pool in the uterus or vagina, coagulate, and form clots.
What Is Normal
Finding a clot in your tampon, pad, menstrual cup or menstrual disc does not mean you need to sound an alarm. Normal period clots are:
- Smaller than a quarter
- Occasional and usually on heavier days
- Bright red or dark red
- Blackish if they are larger or brown later in your cycle
What Is Not Normal
Sometimes, period clots can be a symptom of another condition. It could be a warning sign if your period clots are:
- Frequently larger than a quarter
- Accompanied by heavy menstrual bleeding
- Grayish and/or happening when you think you could be pregnant- this could be a sign of miscarriage.
- Accompanied by lots of pain that isn’t normal for your period
Sometimes, clots form for other reasons, such as a miscarriage or fibroids. Knowing what is normal and what is not can clue you in to whether you should see a doctor.
Causes of Abnormal Clots
The potential reasons for abnormal period clotting are similar to those for heavy menstrual bleeding, since the two symptoms usually go hand in hand: heavy flow = more clotting and larger clots, usually. Abnormal clots can be a sign of:
Uterine Polyps or Fibroids: Both benign fibroids and polyps (potentially cancerous) can lead to heavy menstrual bleeding and clotting.
PCOS or other hormone imbalances: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and other hormonal imbalances can delay periods for months. This long buildup can lead to extremely heavy periods and period clots.
Endometriosis: an overgrowth of uterine tissues outside of the uterus can cause very heavy and painful periods with intense cramping and large clots.
Cancer: rarely, period clots are a sign of cervical or uterine cancer. Getting regular pelvic exams and Pap smears can scan for warning signs.
Adenomyosis: when the uterine lining grows into the muscular wall of the uterus, it can cause heavy periods and blood clots.
Miscarriage: a heavy period and large clots may not be a period at all if you have unknowingly become pregnant and then undergone a miscarriage.
If you are experiencing an abnormal amount of bleeding or unusually large or frequent period clots, a trip to the doctor can help you diagnose the cause. If there is a hormonal imbalance or endometriosis, birth control pills are the most common treatment for heavy bleeding and clots.
Using period products that can accommodate period clots and the heavy bleeding that often accompanies it can make your periods more manageable. Menstrual discs or a menstrual cup can hold 3-4 times the capacity of a tampon and can be worn for up to 12 hours, which can be a real relief if you have heavy periods and clots.