Menstrual Cups Might be the Key to Mess-Free Period Sex
Your period shouldn’t prevent you from doing any of the activities you enjoy, including sex. Most of us accept that sex is messy and comes with fluids such as sweat and semen, and for those who prefer not to abstain while menstruating, there might be a new secret to mess-free period sex: menstrual cups or discs (more on the difference later).
A whopping 82 percent of people have sex during their period, according to a global survey first reported by Forbes of over 500 adults by women’s health brand INTIMINA, and 20 percent of survey respondents reported having penetrative sex while using a menstrual cup. They’re not the only ones, either: People have been sharing stories about sex using menstrual cups on Reddit for years.
Emily Woods, a 34-year-old stay-at-home mom in Dallas, has been using menstrual discs during sex since 2013 and has never had leakage with reusable ones. “I cannot feel it at all,” she said. “I love the fact that I forget it's there.”
“Period sex is the most pleasurable, beneficial sex I've had,” said Brandi Collins-Calhoun, a 30-year-old reproductive justice organizer in Washington, D.C. She recommended squatting and bouncing while the disc is in to ensure it’s well-positioned before sex—an entertaining show for your partner, perhaps—but after that, you can forget about it entirely. “I still feel all the penetration with no discomfort or barriers,” she continued. “I’d compare it to having sex with my NuvaRing—you know it's there but you don't feel it.”
So what’s the difference between menstrual discs and cups, and how do they work? Although both are sometimes called “cups," unlike traditional bell-shaped menstrual cups, discs are stem-free, circular, palm-sized and one-size-fits-most, containing a balloon-like pocket that collects around 45 to 70 mL of period blood.
What makes menstrual discs good for sex is their fit: they sit in the fornix, where the vaginal canal meets the cervix, whereas bell-shaped cups sit further down the vaginal canal. The disc creates a seal directly at the base of the cervix, meaning there’ll be plenty of room left for a penis, finger or sex toy to penetrate. They’re typically made from thin, ultra-soft, medical-grade silicone, so there shouldn’t be any pain or discomfort for you or your partner.
'Using a disc allows me to not have to feel like having a period is inconvenient.'
Don’t forget about birth control, though: Menstrual discs aren’t contraception, and unlike a diaphragm, they don’t block sperm. Remember, you can get pregnant on your period, so you should use contraception with the disc to avoid unwanted pregnancy.
If you’re worried about the mess, you’re not alone: 60 percent of people who have period sex think "staining sheets and clean up" are the biggest bothers about it, according to a survey of 502 people by The Flex Company, first reported by HuffPost. This is where menstrual discs can be your best friend: they make it possible to get down and dirty without stressing about the clean-up afterward.
Celeste Lopez*, a 29-year-old journalist in Uruguay, wanted to shed the taboo around period sex and told her partner she was wearing a menstrual cup before they got busy. “Later, he confessed he thought I had taken it out because he felt nothing,” she said. “It didn’t leak, so I thought it was fantastic.”
Collins-Calhoun had a similar experience and uses the disc with partners that can’t handle the sight of blood. “It's mess-free and doesn't get in the way,” she added.
Menstrual discs that are safe for sex are cropping up on the market to meet this demand. Woods uses the vegan nixit menstrual cup, INTIMINA makes the Ziggy Cup and the Cora Disc is also popular. Plus if you’re not ready to fully commit to a menstrual disc, you can get a single-use Flex.
Nashville-based musician Misty Foster, 36, learned it was safe to use the Flex during sex by reading the instructions. “I was like, fuck yeah! I’m gonna try this!” she said. “Sex can be just as enjoyable—if not more so—during your period. Plus, one of the supposed benefits of having sex during menstruation is that it causes the length and severity of your period to lessen."
These days, she’s a lifelong convert. “Using a disc allows me to not have to feel like having a period is inconvenient,” she continued. “I just wish I had been doing it a lot sooner.”
*Name changed for privacy.