Periods… yes we know all about them… at least we think so!
As a woman, our menstrual cycle prepares us every month for a potential pregnancy. Thanks to our hormones, the uterus thickens and becomes vascularised (increased blood flow) in preparation for receiving a fertilised egg. If no fertilisation takes place, when you do not have sex, the uterus goes back to its initial state and releases the blood from its tissues, i.e. you have your period which lasts for 3 to 7 days.
It’s not what you think it is and it’s certainly not “dirty”!
Menstrual blood is different from normal blood due to its composition and its physical properties. Put another way, menstrual blood is blood mixed with secretions from the vagina and cervix, old cellular tissue, red blood cells and mucin. The composition of this mixture varies according to the various phases of menstruation which starts with an opaque liquid stage, followed by a thicker stage and then a clear liquid.
The content of menstrual blood varies from one woman to another, from one cycle to another and depends on the woman’s age. The thickness of the uterus will also have an effect on the content of menstrual blood.
Vaginal secretions that are present in menstrual blood are mostly made up of water and electrolytes such as Sodium or Potassium.
The various substances making up menstrual blood are found in a lower concentration than in ordinary blood, for example, there is more water, less iron and less haemoglobin. The pH level of menstrual blood is similar to that of ordinary blood (7,2).
The concentration of proteins, cholesterol and bilirubin are also lower than in ordinary blood.
Menstrual blood however does not contain elements that are necessary for coagulation and so therefore remains liquid and does not coagulate neither in the body, nor outside. The three elements necessary for coagulation are not present in menstrual blood (prothrombin, thrombin and fibrinogen). Menstrual blood contains many elements which keep the blood thin.
The number of blood platelets is also less than in ordinary blood. The thickness of menstrual blood varies from day to day, from one woman to another and according to the composition of the blood and the presence of mucin.
Menstrual blood is generally thicker than water and ordinary blood. The thickness of menstrual blood is also dependant on the quantity of cervical secretions.