Your period is kinda like a magical crystal ball for the rest of your body - if you pay attention to the way you're bleeding, you can pick up some insights about your health.
Step one is figuring out how to read your magic ball (or period): figuring out what 'normal' looks and feels like for you. Getting well acquainted with your bod, and how it does its ~thang~ is the best way to figure out if something funky is going on.
Some important questions to ask yourself: How many tampons or pads do you typically go through every day? When you change them, are they a little bit soiled or totally soaked? How many days does your period last, and how often do you get it?
If the blood is bright red
If your blood is bright red, it usually means your at the beginning of your monthly grind and will probably get heavier in the following days.
If the blood is reddish-brown
Blood doesn't always have to be an exact match to Kylie's lip kit 'Mary Jo K', so don't freak if yours looks more on the brownish side of the colour wheel. This just means you're at the tail end of your period. At that point, it's usually safe to downgrade to a lighter tampon or pad.
If your flow becomes light
If you're the type of girl whose used to changing your tampon or pad multiple times a day and then have a few monthly cycles where you need far fewer, a couple different things could be going on. One main explanation is hormonal birth control. If you've just had an IUD inserted, or you've just started on birth control pills, you might see your flow slow to a trickle. This is a totally normal side effect of contraception. If you start to feel unwanted side effects of hormonal contraception, like headaches or mood swings - book in an appointment with your doc and see if you need to change anything.
If your flow gets heavy
If you're rapidly soaking through tampons or pads when that isn't the norm, it could be a result of birth control - or a signal that something else is up.
If you just had an IUD inserted, you can preeettty much expect your period to get heavier or longer.
Otherwise, periods that suddenly become very heavy or start dragging on for more than a week could be caused by a polyp or fibroid, two types of benign growths that commonly grow in the uterine lining. Most growths will go away by themselves, but you should report any heavy breathing to your doctor.
If you see a clot
You know how sometimes your period feels very liquid-y, and then other times there's a thicker splotch of blood? Those small clots are common on the heaviest days of bleeding, when your flow is too fast for the body's built-in blood thinners to do their thang. As long as clots are smaller than a 10 cent piece, they're considered normal. If they're bigger, go and see a doctor and they can get to the bottom of the sitch.
If you get super crampy
During your period, your body produces chemicals called prostaglandins that encourage the uterus to contract and push out what's inside. But strong contractions can briefly pinch off blood supply to the area, setting off waves of pain. It's not fun, but it's normal.
If your cramps are so bad that you can't do normal everyday tasks - let your doctor know.
If your periods are irregular
A normal menstrual cycle is between 18 and 35 days - in other words, your period begins four to five weeks after your last period began. When you first get your period, it's pretty normal to fall outside that cycle range, sometimes with light bleeding in between.
Beyond the first couple of years of menstruating, irregular periods can be a sign of a few different things. Your doctor can help you get to the bottom of it and work out the best plan of action.