For many women, the menstrual period comes up every month and when it does it is most likely to come with less desired side effects such as cramps, bloating, migraines and fatigue - making this time of the month not be such a pleasant experience.
And while for many women periods are merely an indication of ovulation, but health experts say there is actually more to this monthly cycle than meets the eye, and one indicator that gives away whether you are in healthy state or not is the colour of your blood.
So vital is the colour and flow of the monthly cycle that reproductive experts now advise that women should closely monitor their periods as they may indicate serious health conditions such as menopause, endometriosis, fibroids and vaginal scarring.
Dr Peter De Jong a gynaecologist and obstetrician at Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital said, as woman age, their period changes naturally. He explained that during breastfeeding, menstrual periods may become lighter or vanish because of hormonal changes in a woman's body. Menopause may also result in lighter periods.
"If you have a heavier period at that time, it requires assessment and a diagnosis with tests such as ultrasound scan to determine if all is well and including a pap smear test may also help detect the problem," said de Jong.
Dr Sherry Ross a women's health expert and author of The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health recommends that women familiarise themselves with common menstrual colours such as bright red, brown and dark red.
“In the of the beginning of menstruation, blood tends to be bright red in colour, and as it comes to an end, it appears brown or black,” she says.
While some of the shades on that spectrum sound scary, Ross said none of them is anything to worry about.
However, a few tints are important to recognise as warning signs... that something could be off in your system medically.
De Jong says a normal period may be pink and rust-coloured, but bright red blood, particularly with blood clots, suggest that the period is too heavy.
He said a very dark colour indicates old blood that is being passed. Some reports suggest that the dark colour from the blood from the previous cycle may be caused by a sluggish menstrual flow, lack of uterine tone or low uterine circulation.
And what do other colours say about your health?
De Jong said a bright red blood, with blood clots, suggests that the woman needs assessment and treatment to avoid anemia as such colour may be an indicator of being anaemic.
Nicole Jardim, women’s health enthusiast, and The Period girl blogger said, if you have a heavy, dark, clotted blood that resembles frozen crushed up blueberries, this could be indicative of higher estrogen levels.
Estrogen is a stimulating hormone that promotes the growth of the uterine lining. When it becomes dominant over its counterpart progesterone, you may experience breast tenderness, heavy periods, stubborn weight, acne, headaches or migraines and the dreaded PMS.
To ensure that you are in the safe zone, De Jong suggests that women perform a pap smear screening once a year - including heavy smokers, HIV-positive, and those with multiple partners, may screen every two years.