It may appear taboo, but having sex during your period can be great for your overall well-being. Today, couples are often comfier having sex than talking about it. But the truth is, sex is an opportunity to explore not only your relationship with your partner but also your relationship with yourself. Period sex is no different.
Can you have sex during your period?
Yes, you can have period sex throughout your cycle if you feel like it. "There's no health reason not to have sex on your period," naturopathic doctor Jordin Wiggins, N.D., tells mbg.
You're not putting yourself in any more harm by having sex during your period. Some people may have more physical discomfort during their period (such as cramping or sluggishness, for example), which may make them less likely to want or enjoy sex while menstruating. But every menstruating person on the planet is different, and the way their bodies work during their period is rarely one size fits all.
One study in the Journal of Sex Research found about half of sexually active women have sex during their periods, so it's definitely common behavior. Test the waters if you're unsure. And if you're simply not interested in giving period sex a whirl, that's perfectly fine too. Just know that the unwritten rule that says you shouldn't have sex during your period is based on clouded assumptions and misplaced discomfort around normal female bodily functions. There's a whole spectrum of sensuality—far beyond the loop of sexual activity we're used to, waiting to be explored if you're interested.
Can you get pregnant during your period?
Yes, you can still get pregnant during your period. Although the odds are lower, you can get pregnant having period sex if you skip actual protection like condoms or birth control.
A person's chances of getting pregnant depend on the length of their cycle and where their fertility window falls. There are four phases that make up your menstrual cycle—menstruation, follicle, ovulation, and luteal—and the fertility window usually begins a few days before ovulation. But there's a lot of variation to account for here: One 2020 study found that even if a person can predict the length of their cycle, their ovulation date is still up in the air. Physician and intimacy expert Alexandra Stockwell, M.D., notes, "Bodies aren't like math."
Additionally, sperm can survive within the body for several days, meaning that if you tend to ovulate shortly after your period, you can still get pregnant from the sex you had during your period.
Do you need to use protection during period sex?
Yes, you should always be using protection during sex, including when you're on your period. Treat sex during your period like any other time you have sex, and use the same preventive measures you generally would.
Menstrual blood (while completely natural and safe) is like any other bodily fluid. It may be appealing to skip the condoms and get straight to business, but sex is sex and the risks haven't gone away.
Risks and side effects of having sex during a period.
Like any other time you have sex, there are risks to having sex during your period. "Blood is another bodily fluid that can also transmit sexually transmitted infections (STI) like any other fluid," says Wiggins. And having period sex leaves you susceptible to the same STIs and any vaginal infections.
There's also the chance that period sex will get messy. With the right precautions, such as laying down a towel beforehand, you can take your mind off the mess and really enjoy the experience.
Can a man get an infection from period blood?
Period blood is a mix of healthy blood and tissues and therefore completely safe for penises. "Because your cervix is a little more open during your period, there's a theory that it's easier for STIs to transmit," Wiggins says, but she says that's false. With safe sex and regular testing, there's no extra risk involved in having sex during your period.
Period sex leaves you vulnerable to the same STIs as any other time you have sex. Your menstrual blood is by no means upping the stakes.
Benefits of period sex:
It provides natural lubrication.
Your hormones fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, and those fluctuations can make some people experience vaginal dryness during their period. This isn't the case for all menstruators, though. On the other hand, period blood can also be a natural lubricant during sex that makes penetration smoother and more pleasurable.
It can intensify intimacy.
Period sex makes you more vulnerable with your partner and yourself. Most people's period experiences are generally private; no one really knows the intimate details of their period and period blood other than themselves. But period sex opens the door to allowing another person to experience your body during this time. It can expose your sensual being and might lead to other unexplored sexual areas.
It can improve your mood.
All the benefits of orgasms, in general, apply to period sex, perhaps especially so. The rush of oxytocin after sex can make you feel at ease and less stressed, which might be a welcomed relief during your period.
It can make sex feel better.
Some of your reproductive and sexual organs may be more engorged with blood during your period, making "a woman's body more responsive," says Stockwell. On top of that, your body releases the usual endorphins it produces when you have sex.
It may shorten your period.
The length of your period depends on how thick your uterine lining is and how long it takes for your uterus to shed it all. Sex and orgasms can cause the uterine lining to slush off at an increased rate. (That's why you might have a heavy flow when you're having sex and a much slower flow for a few days after.)
Forget the usual loop of foreplay, oral, then penetrative sex. "Sex can be many things," says Wiggins. You might surprise yourself about what your likes and dislikes truly are when you take away the fear and assumptions.
Tips for having great period sex:
Use a dark-colored towel.
Laying down a dark-colored towel or shirt before you get intimate will keep your mind off the mess and in the moment. If you forget to throw one down, it wouldn't hurt to gain some stain removal knowledge (baking soda!).
Consider shower sex.
This way, you can combine sex and cleanup. If you haven't tried shower sex, period sex is a great reason to go for it. Be careful, though; it's as slippery as it is exhilarating.
Communicate with your partner.
Start a dialogue with your partner about how they feel about period sex, any concerns they might have, and also what might excite them about it. Wiggins recommends a simple question like "What forms of intimacy are OK?" to get a foundation started. Once you start having period sex, also make sure to check in during and after the experience to make sure both parties are feeling good about it.
Figure out which sex positions work for you.
You are your own person. The sex positions that work for you during your period might not work for the person sitting across the room. Dig into which ones work for you and your comfort level, which can also have a lot to do with where you are in your cycle. Stockwell recommends missionary style for a couple trying period sex for the first time. This way "the experience can be fully enjoyed" by both parties. Relaxation is key to sexual pleasure after all.
The stigma surrounding sex during your period is disappearing. It's becoming more and more mainstream to honor the menstrual cycle and treat it like the natural occurrence that it is. Embracing period sex is another example of the ways we're opening ourselves up to the true power of sexual wellness.
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Alex Shea is a freelance sex and relationships writer based in Texas. She studied Life Sciences at San Jacinto College and has a journalism certificate from Michigan State University. Her work has been published at Huff Post, Allbodies, Obsev, and elsewhere.
Aside from the work she does in the wellness industry, she writes about environmental causes, travel, and animals. She’s also the author of I Don't Know Yet, a book of poetry and prose. She currently lives in San Antonio with her partner and her pup, Scout, and is writing her second book.