Wellness·6 min read

Let’s Talk About Period Sex

Two people holding hands in bed
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Oct 28, 2022

We need to talk about something that’s widely misunderstood: Period sex. Even though it’s usually a healthy activity, there’s been a stigma around it for a long time. But society is progressing. And it’s time to clear a few things up. So we connected with Dr. Allegra Cummings, an OB-GYN at Weill Cornell Medicine, to talk about the benefits of period sex. And what to expect when having it. 

Expert Interviewed:

So, can you have sex on your period?

Short answer: Yes. There's not much of a difference between having sex on or off your period. Except the period blood could make things a little messy. And it's usually safe to have sex on your period. But there are some exceptions. For example: If someone has an STD or hepatitis, Dr. Cummings said there's a chance that unprotected period sex could increase the risk of transmission. But she noted that there hasn't been a lot of research on this issue. 

“Part of the reason is that the cervix is probably just ever-so-slightly more open,” Dr. Cummings said. Which means fluids (read: blood and semen) might pass through more easily, potentially carrying infections with them. The best way to reduce your risk of infection is to use a condom and/or a dental dam during period sex.

Are there any benefits of period sex?

You might be surprised to find out there are a few perks to period sex. Like:

  • Soothing menstrual cramps. Because orgasms cause the uterus to contract and relieve pain. And hormones released during orgasms can ease those cramps, too. 

  • Headache relief. Aka a common side effect during that time of the month. Orgasms release endorphins, which may partially or completely take care of that headache during your period. 

  • Boosted sex drive. Which is a common side effect of being on your period. And could make sex even more enjoyable. 

  • Extra lubrication. Aka more pleasure. And an underrated perk of period blood.

QQ: Does having sex on your period make you bleed more?

Period sex doesn’t affect how much you bleed during your period, according to Dr. Cummings. But if you do notice spotting or a little more blood afterwards, “it would be more of a mechanical thing,” she said. “If there's a little bit of blood that's leftover and slow to come out, having sex could…literally jiggle the cervix, cause a uterine contraction, and have it come out sooner.” Think: Hitting the bottom of a ketchup bottle. 

Can you get pregnant during period sex?

It’s possible. But it’s more likely when you’re closer to ovulation. Quick sex-ed refresh: The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long. Your period starts at the beginning of your cycle, and typically lasts two to seven days. And ovulation usually starts around day 14. 

But if you have a shorter menstrual cycle — like three weeks long — you might ovulate sooner after your period ends. And, plot twist: Sperm can live inside you for up to five days. Which means that if you have unprotected sex toward the end of your period, the sperm could still be there when you start ovulating — increasing your chances of getting pregnant

The moral of the story: If you don’t want to get pregnant, use protection and/or birth control, even on your period. 

Okay, I'm ready to give this a go. Any advice on how to have period sex?

We won’t lie. Period sex can be messy. But reminder: Periods are a normal part of life. And there’s no reason to feel ashamed of them. Plus, there are a few ways to make it all more comfortable. Such as:

  • Use protection. One more time for the people in the back: Protection can help prevent STDs and pregnancy. Think: Condoms or dental dams.

  • Put a dark towel down on the bed. It can hide any blood stains and keep your sheets looking fresh. 

  • Keep a washcloth by the bed. For quick clean-up afterwards. Speaking of clean-up…

  • Get busy in the shower. Any mess will be rinsed away.

  • Try wearing a menstrual disc. This period product sits high up in the vaginal canal, meaning you can usually have penetrative sex while wearing one. And it could reduce mess.

  • Opt for oral sex. Try clitoral stimulation while wearing a tampon if you don’t want to have penetrative sex. 

  • Use sex toys. Whether you’re with a partner or going solo. But don’t forget to clean them afterward with soap and water. 

  • Communicate. Tell your partner if anything feels uncomfortable — physically or emotionally. 

And just like there’s no shame in having it, there’s nothing wrong with opting out of period sex, either, if it makes you uncomfortable or anxious

theSkimm

Period sex has long been surrounded by stigma and misinformation. But that’s all changing as people become more open with talking about the topic. And all its benefits. (See: your new favorite menstrual cramp and headache remedy). Just remember: Periods are normal. And messes can be cleaned up

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute a medical opinion, medical advice, or diagnosis or treatment of any particular condition. 


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