How to Have Safe, Pleasurable Sex During Your Period
Menstruation is a natural body process that most women go through once a month during their fertile years. Thinking about having sex on these days is quite common, but you may wonder if it will be pleasurable.
"Sex with menstruation is fine," said Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., an OB-GYN and clinical professor at Yale Medical School, with practice in New Haven, Connecticut.
"The reason there is fear and taboo related to having sex while menstruating is because of the misconceptions people hold," said Erika Evans, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., an expert in human sexuality, marriage and family, with practice in Philadelphia.
No scientific evidence supports the idea that sex during menstruation is harmful. You can enjoy intimacy while menstruating—cultural misgivings and taboos should not stop you.
"There are a variety of inaccurate and negative-based beliefs around menstruation, one of the most common being that menstrual cycles are dirty or unclean," Evans said.
Of course, having sex is up to you and your partner. If you feel good and have the desire, there's nothing wrong with having sex on your period. However, you should not feel obligated to have sex if you're feeling down or in a lot of pain.
Tips for sex during menstruation
If you don't like to think about the mess blood can make, don't worry. You can change some of your routines to make sex more comfortable, intimate, pleasurable or clean.
- Keep it clean. You can place a towel on the bed to avoid getting blood on your sheets. If you're in the mood, shower sex is a way to keep everything clean while being playful at the same time. Plus, with the lubrication offered by menstruation, shower water won't be a problem.
- Get creative. Remember that sex is not always about penetration. If it makes you feel more comfortable, try mutual masturbation, massages, relaxing baths together, touching and kissing. Another option is anal sex for anyone who doesn't want to have contact with blood.
- Communicate. You and your partner should feel comfortable talking and sharing your feelings. Communication can help you learn each other's expectations and desires. Connection is key.
- Methods to retain blood. "Some women may find something like a contraceptive diaphragm helpful to wear. It will keep the blood from coming out so readily," Minkin said.
If you use a tampon, remember to remove it before penetration. On the other hand, a menstrual cup is an excellent option when you're receiving oral sex, but some manufacturers recommend removing them before penetration.
Healthcare providers recommend using condoms during sex if you're not in a monogamous relationship. When you have a new sexual partner, it's wise for both of you to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) before you start having unprotected intercourse. Sex during menstruation does not escape these precautions.
"We can do a great job protecting against unintended pregnancies, but we don't do so well in protecting against STDs," Minkin said. "You should always practice safe sex, i.e., using a condom 100 percent of the time."
STDs can be transmitted at any time of the month. Blood can contain STDs, as can other fluids. In addition, the slight opening of the cervix during your menstrual period makes it possible for viruses to pass through.
"If one has been infected with gonorrhea or chlamydia and is asymptomatic—which does happen—period time is a likely time for the bacteria to climb up inside the uterus and spread out the fallopian tubes," Minkin explained. "But gonorrhea and chlamydia can be transmitted at any time of the month."
The rules are similar for oral sex. Evans recommended the use of a dental dam to reduce the possible transmission of STDs as it acts as a barrier between the mouth and blood.
Do you want to give it a try?
"Best penetrative positions are really going to be based on how you are feeling and the heaviness of the flow," said Evans, who also made some suggestions:
- Being on your back. "Otherwise known as missionary, [this] can help with gravity especially if you add a pillow or two," Evans explained. "Being on your back can also be helpful if you want to engage in anal sex as well rather than the traditional doggy style."
- With a significant amount of bloating. "Penetrative sex on your side is likely to be more enjoyable," Evans said. "Being on your side helps to reduce the pressure on your abdomen."
- Oral sex. "If you are receiving, then on your side can be comfortable as you can prop open your legs with your pillows," Evans said. "It's essential to find a position that is comfortable for you."
Can you get pregnant during menstruation?
"You can get pregnant while menstruating," Minkin said.
While not very likely, it can happen. For example, if you have sex on day five of your period and ovulate early that month, you could get pregnant.
"Sperm can hang around for five days. Some folks would say even seven days," Minkin said.
It always depends on when you ovulate. Although women usually ovulate 14 days before their next period, an irregular or unpredictable menstrual cycle could increase your chances of getting pregnant. So don't be overconfident if you're not trying to get pregnant.
"It is possible to have some sperm hanging around as the new egg comes out," Minkin said. "Women need to be extra careful about having an unintended pregnancy. So I am a great believer in using contraception 100 percent of the time and practicing safe sex 100 percent of the time."
If you are not satisfied with your birth control method, talk to your OB-GYN, Minkin advised. They can help you find a safe way that works with your lifestyle, health, needs and preferences.
The many benefits of sex during menstruation
Sex during your menstrual cycle can be very satisfying and may provide the following benefits:
- Increased pleasure. Due to hormonal changes, you might feel increased sexual arousal, meaning you could have intense orgasms.
- Lubrication. Blood can be a natural lubricant. People who usually don't get wet enough and use synthetic lube may be able to skip those products during menstruation.
- Endorphins. During sex, your brain produces endorphins, helping improve mood and relaxation. This could help improve some of your period symptoms, such as irritability and stress.
Does sex help with cramps?
Some people may wonder if sex can help their cramping during periods.
"Not in general. We have some better things that will help with cramps—like ibuprofen or naproxen—but sex is unlikely to produce more cramps," Minkin said.
Some women feel improvements in their cramps after uterine contractions due to orgasm. However, this is not a surefire method of pain reduction, especially if you suffer from chronic pain. Some studies have found a link between sexual activity and the relief of midcycle inflammation.