Let’s talk about period sex. Is it safe? Am I less likely to get pregnant? Are there benefits? Should I do it? Let’s answer these questions and learn more about sex on your period.

Period sex brings up several cultural and religious taboos for people, along with several follow-up questions. What are yours? What did you learn about menstruation and sex? Were you ever formally taught anything about it, or are your feelings entirely your own? The topic of period sex forces us to look back on our sexual education and uncover how we feel about this messy and sexy topic.

Period sex is every bit as hygienic as any sex with an exchange of bodily fluids.

The idea of period sex grosses me out. How can I overcome this?

Is it a legitimate blood phobia? Contact your therapist. If it’s just menstrual fluid, I always recommend asking yourself or your partner – why? Where does this idea stem from? Are you just another victim of cultural or religious taboos around menstruation? Period sex is every bit as hygienic as any sex with an exchange of bodily fluids. It’s just fluids! If you think pre-cum, vaginal secretions, spit, and everything else about sex are hot, why not add period blood to that list?

I don’t want to seem like the typical “I can’t tonight, I’m on my period” that has become such a trope, but I also don’t feel like having sex. Am I just not enlightened enough if I’m not interested in sex during my period? Am I just not cool enough?

I want to hand out a permission slip to anyone who doesn’t want sex during their period. In recent years the “anything you can do, I can do bleeding” mentality, while empowering, has also put pressure on menstruators to continue to perform during a time when you might prefer lying down and doing absolutely nothing. The menstrual season of your cycle is typically when intuition is high, feelings are at the surface, and everything is physically more tender than during other seasons.

You should feel supported in your decision to abstain from sexual activities during your period if that’s what you want. Abstinence from sex is a ritual for many menstruators who instead focus on rest, meditation, and honing their intuition. You decide if having sex is something you want to participate in while bleeding.

I love having sex on my period; is that normal?

Some menstruators have a heightened libido while menstruating. Partnered sex and intercourse might seem like a lot to sign up for, but solo sex or mutual masturbation might be an excellent way to ease cramps and enjoy an orgasm. The link between orgasms and pain relief isn’t well understood, but the leading theory is that the endorphins released during orgasm may help relieve menstrual pain. According to Huynh and colleagues in their article, Female orgasm but not male ejaculation activates the pituitary, sexual activity stimulates the pituitary gland, triggering the release of “feel-good hormones” like endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and acetylcholine. The studies emphasize the importance of orgasm for vagina owners to achieve the endorphin release – which is worth it – endorphins help with pain management by interacting with the opiate receptors in our brain to reduce our perception of pain, increasing our pain threshold.

Your cervix pulls forward during menstruation, so many people like more shallow penetration (if any).

Want some position ideas? Spooning, missionary (with legs in butterfly or straight up), and supported doggy style are all comfortable positions during your period that maximize pleasure while minimizing pain and mess. Spooning especially allows you to stay curled up, fostering coziness and making it especially easy to continue to use a heating pad or toy for assistance. Your cervix pulls forward during menstruation, so many people like more shallow penetration (if any). Experiment with what works for you!

If you are going to have penetrative sex, many find menstrual fluid to be a pleasurable lubricant, making sex more comfortable and enjoyable. If you can muster the energy, this is also an excellent time for shower sex – less mess and plenty of natural lubrication.

It just seems so messy; any ideas about how to help with that?

Products like period underwear and sex blankets have made period orgasms easier and less messy. Period underwear is great if solo sex is on the menu with sex toys like the magic wand or other rumbly toys that are strong enough to use over the clothing. Sex blankets are created with a waterproof barrier to protect your sheets. If you want to avoid the mess of period sex altogether, consider using a menstrual disc during intercourse. Be sure to empty it immediately beforehand, I learned by experience that the mess is significantly more if you don’t empty it beforehand; and break the seal during! Internal condoms are another great way to temporarily dam up menstrual fluid and prevent a mess. Be sure to position them correctly immediately before intercourse and remove them quickly after to prevent a larger mess.

I get crampy after sex when I’m on my period. Am I doing something wrong?

Here’s a hot take from a retired doula: semen contains prostaglandins, a tool we often use to help start labor. What are prostaglandins? They are hormone-like substances that cause uterine cramping that your body naturally produces right before and during your period. If you’re sensitive to prostaglandins, you may not appreciate coming in contact with semen during your period – it can worsen cramping. All the more reason to consider non-penetration forms of sex during your period.

90% of the participants would recommend masturbation to combat period pains to a friend...

Conversely, in May 2020, Womanizer and Lunette launched the Menstrubation Study — a global clinical study to determine whether masturbation can help ease period pain, validated by Dr. Jones, clinical psychologist, sex therapist, and head researcher of the study. Their findings were extensive. Masturbation was successful in balancing out mental restlessness, reducing cramping, reducing abdominal and back pain, reducing diarrhea, reducing breast discomfort, and reducing abdominal bloating. In addition, the Menstrubation Study showed that 90% of the participants would recommend masturbation to combat period pains to a friend, with 85% planning to uphold their masturbation routine to combat period pains.

Is period sex safe?

According to Mostad and colleagues, in their article Cervical shedding of herpes simplex virus and cytomegalovirus throughout the menstrual cycle, if you suffer from blood-borne infections like HIV or hepatitis, or STIs like herpes, extra precaution is essential while menstruating due to the higher transmission risk. Know your status, disclose it to any partners, and practice safe sex methods while bleeding. According to Oertelt-Prigione and colleagues, in their article Immunology and the menstrual cycle, the changes to your progesterone and estrogen levels can affect your immunity before your period, meaning that you’re more likely to pick up an infection right before and during your period. During the luteal phase, progesterone rises and peaks to prepare for your period when pregnancy doesn’t occur. Your immune system is therefore suppressed and much less likely to have an inflammatory response. This suppressed response leaves you more vulnerable to infection, including STIs.

Am I less likely to get pregnant having sex on my period?

Yes, but it’s not impossible. Sperm can live up to 5 days inside the vagina, and if you have a short cycle, have intercourse at the very end of your cycle, or ovulate early, BAM, pregnant. Unless you’re familiar with your cycle and charting using the complete FAM method (cervical checks, basal body temps, cervical mucus charting) and ok with the possibility of getting pregnant, I would always recommend using some form of contraception for partnered sex during your period.

Period sex can be pain-relieving, comforting, hot, crampy or less-crampy, and potentially messy...

If you’re in a partnership, communication is vital. It’s important to talk to your partner about your comfort level with period sex. Some menstruators may feel self-conscious or uncomfortable during their periods, so respecting your feelings is essential. Period sex can be pain-relieving, comforting, hot, crampy or less-crampy, and potentially messy so it’s a personal choice whether or not to have sex during your period.

Period sex can bring up all sorts of feelings, taboos, cultural beliefs, and questions, like “is it about fluids, or societal expectations?” or “do I want to have to have sex on my period?” Maybe your libido is heightened during your bleed, or maybe it’s an absolute no. Either way, it’s up to you to feel it out and decide if (and what kind of) period sex is right for you! Always practice safe sex, especially while menstruating, and know that while pregnancy is less likely, it’s not completely impossible (you need to be meticulously tracking to be sure). If you’re curious, try it out and see if you enjoy it. And if not, that’s okay too.

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