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Do you really need to shun sex for five or so days out of every month? If you and your partner are ready and willing, the answer is no—go for it! In fact, there are some real advantages to having sex during a menstrual period. Read on to learn tips for more pleasurable period sex, how to avoid a mess afterward, and what you need to avoid doing.
Is having sex during your period safe?
Yes—with one possible exception. There’s no scientific evidence that having vaginal sex during menstrual periods is dangerous or unhealthy. However, there is a somewhat greater chance of spreading sexually transmitted infections (STIs). (Read more about this below).
Can you get pregnant while on your period?
The chances of getting pregnant while you’re having your period are pretty slim, but they’re not zero—this is especially true for women with irregular periods or shorter cycles. Sperm can stay alive inside the reproductive tract for up to five days. If ovulation—the time when you’re most likely to get pregnant—occurs soon after your period, the sperm could still be living in your reproductive tract and capable of fertilizing the egg (Verma, 2017).
If you don’t want to get pregnant, it’s a good idea to use contraception (such as a condom, diaphragm, or contraceptive sponge), unless you’re already using a hormonal form of contraception, like the birth control pill.
5 benefits of period sex
While many may get squeamish about the idea of having period sex, there’s no reason for that. In fact, having sex while on your period comes with some serious benefits, not the least of which is it eliminates the need to abstain from sex with your partner during this time. Here are five other potential benefits.
1. Helps with headaches
Studies have found that having sex during the menstrual period can partially relieve or even eliminate period-related headaches. About half of women who have migraines get them during their periods (Witteveen, 2017). Some find that having sex helps to lessen the pain. How that works isn’t clear. It may have to do with the release of endorphins (aka “feel-good” hormones) during sex.
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2. May relieve menstrual cramps
Some women find that having an orgasm helps relieve their cramps. The uterus contracts to help shed its lining during the menstrual period in preparation for the new lining to come. With an orgasm, the uterine muscles contract and then relax, easing the muscular contractions that cause cramps.
On the other hand, some women find that penetrative sex can cause cramping or make it worse. If this is true for you, then mutual masturbation, oral sex, or other forms of sex that don’t involve deep vaginal penetration may be better options.
3. Can be more pleasurable
A woman’s hormone levels change throughout her menstrual cycle. While some women find that their libido increases when they ovulate, others find that they become more turned on during their periods. If your libido tends to be higher during your period, sex during this time can be a lot more pleasurable.
4. May make the period shorter
Some women feel that having orgasms clears the lining out of their uteruses faster, causing their periods to be shorter. However, no good studies have been done on this subject.
5. Eliminates the need for lubricant
Menstrual blood is a natural lubricant, so you can put away the lube.
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What are the drawbacks of period sex?
Many people think the only drawback of period sex is the mess—and period sex can indeed be messy without taking proper precautions. But that’s something you can deal with (see our tips in the next section). Period sex has one potential health risk, though: an increased risk of transmitting STIs.
Blood in a woman’s vagina can transmit STIs to her partner because viruses like HIV and hepatitis live in blood, including menstrual blood. As such, period sex can put a woman’s partners at risk of becoming infected. In addition, a menstruating woman is more at risk of infections herself (Lurie, 2010). If you or your partner have or may have an STI, use a condom to prevent spreading the infection.
Tips for period sex
Period sex can be a great experience, especially if you follow some key tips.
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Prevent a mess
Here are some ways you can prevent a mess during period sex:
- Put a towel (preferably a dark one) on the bed.
- Have sex in the shower.
- Use a menstrual cup. Menstrual cups are small, flexible cups used to collect menstrual blood. They can keep blood from spilling out of the vagina during sex (although some people may find them uncomfortable during sex, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works for you) (Van Eijk, 2019). Menstrual cups with flat bottoms, instead of handles or stems on the base, are often the best for sex. Cups should be removed and washed after sex.
- Use a contraceptive sponge. Contraceptive sponges, aka “the sponge,” can absorb menstrual blood while preventing conception. Like menstrual cups, you should remove them after sex.
- Have sex in the missionary position. Lying on your back will help to reduce flow and prevent spillage. (This position may be uncomfortable during your period, though, because it allows for deep penetration at a time when the cervix is more sensitive and lower in the vagina).
- Remove tampons before sex. Tampons can get wedged up into the higher regions of the vagina during sex and may prove difficult to remove. Don’t panic if you can’t remove it right away, though. The vagina is usually only about 3–6 inches deep. Squatting on the floor, or sitting on the toilet and pushing as though you are having a bowel movement, will usually move the tampon within your reach.
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Consider different positions
As mentioned above, changes in the position and sensitivity of the cervix can make the missionary position, doggie-style (from the rear), and other positions that permit deep penile penetration uncomfortable or even painful during a menstrual period. If that’s true for you, try different positions. Side-by-side sex is less deeply penetrating, and sex with the woman on top lets her control penetration depth. Experiment and see what works for you.
And remember, sex can be more than just vaginal intercourse. Oral sex, anal sex, masturbation, and other forms of lovemaking may be good options if vaginal penetration is uncomfortable during your period.
Talk to your partner
You and your partner may have different feelings about sex during menstruation. There also may be religious or cultural beliefs to consider. It’s important to talk about your feelings on this subject in advance, to avoid last-minute misunderstandings.
- Lurie, S. (2010). Does intercourse during menses increase the risk for sexually transmitted disease? Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 282(6), 627–630. doi: 10.1007/s00404-010-1564-4. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20577749/
- van Eijk, A. M., Zulaika, G., Lenchner, M., Mason, L., Sivakami, M., Nyothach, E., et al. (2019). Menstrual cup use, leakage, acceptability, safety, and availability: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Public Health, 4(8), e376–e393. doi: 10.1016/S2468-2667(19)30111-2. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31324419/
- Verma, P., Singh, K. K., & Singh, A. (2017). Pregnancy risk during menstrual cycle: misconceptions among urban men in India. Reproductive Health, 14(1), 71. doi: 10.1186/s12978-017-0332-3. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5469003/
- Witteveen, H., van den Berg, P., & Vermeulen, G. (2017). Treatment of menstrual migraine; multidisciplinary or mono-disciplinary approach. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 18(1), 45. doi: 10.1186/s10194-017-0752-z. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28417308/
Dr. Steve Silvestro is a board-certified pediatrician and Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.