Should you have sex on your period? Does sex on your period bother you? Should you avoid sex on your period?
All are questions we as women & menstruators will have asked ourselves, and probably been asked by friends and partners.
And as ever with the inner workings of our complicated selves, nothing is as straightforward as it seems when it comes to periods and sex drive. It’s a minefield of misconceptions, taboos, fears, and fantasies; and what’s more, rational and scientific explanations conflict with actual human experience.
Women’s sex drives have often been overlooked in the past, and women’s sex drive during their periods has certainly remained in the shadows for long enough…
THE SCIENCE OF LIBIDO & MENSTRUATION
Firstly, there is no ‘normal’ when it comes to sex drive, everyone is different and our bodies behave in different ways - and our libido is no exception!
The menstrual cycle has two main phases, the follicular phase (from your period to ovulation), and the luteal phase (from ovulation to your period).
As you get closer to ovulation, your oestrogen levels rise, and as a consequence, so does your libido. So you reach peak oestrogen, and peak libido, at the exact moment you are at your most fertile. Mother Nature knew what she was doing with that one!
After ovulation, as your progesterone levels rise, your libido naturally drops. This phenomenon intensifies with PMS-related symptoms and pains. When your period starts, the whole thing is then moving in reverse, with your libido steadily rising.
Essentially, this would all point to your libido theoretically being fairly average during your period.
However, once again, rebelling against scientific logic, many women feel they have a higher sex drive when on their period. This could come down to what some researchers found that the oestrogen, which drops at the beginning of your period but then starts to climb steadily by day two or three, can increase your libido and desire.
Meanwhile, progesterone, a more neutral stabilizing hormone that is more likely to reduce your libido during your luteal phase, is at a low point during your period, so it's possible that you feel more sexual in its absence.
And as we all know fairly well, science isn’t always the centre of how our bodies work, and equally, our bodies don’t always agree with science.
And it’s as simple as understanding that hormones aren’t the only influence on women’s libidos.
So many other factors impact how you feel, and on how much you feel the urge when you’re on your period. Naturally, at this time of the month your vagina is more ‘lubricated’, making for a smoother experience. And not to ignore the fact that sexual pleasure releases endorphins (masturbation does this too), thereby soothing menstrual pain, whilst also increasing body positivity and feeling good about yourself.
THE BENEFITS OF SEX ON YOUR PERIOD
Despite what we might think, there are actually quite a few benefits to having sex while you’re menstruating.
Firstly, it may make your period less painful. Period cramps occur from your uterus contracting to shed its lining. When you have an orgasm, the muscles in your uterus contract, and when they then release, it can feel a lot more comfortable. In addition to this, having an orgasm releases endorphins, which in turn improve your mood and are believed to help reduce the pains of menstruating.
The release of endorphins through sex and having an orgasm can also help to ease your period headaches.
As your oestrogen and testosterone levels begin to rise during your period, some people feel more aroused and sensitive around this time, making you more turned on.
And as we’ve said, your flow will also act as a natural lubricant during sex which can increase the pleasure and make things smoother.
THE NEGATIVES OF SEX ON YOUR PERIOD
From the medical perspective there is no reason not to have sex while you’re menstruating. It is perfectly safe for you and your partner, just slightly messier than it would normally be.
There are some rare exceptions. For a person that is positive with HIV or known STIs, the possibility for transmission due to the presence of blood is higher. Period blood is different to the blood running through our veins; however there is still the possibility of transmission.
As the cervix is more open due to the nature of the passing of the menstrual blood, a risk of an infection can also increase.
Even though your chances of getting pregnant on your period are greatly reduced, there is still always the possibility. So if you aren’t trying to conceive, using protection is always advised.
TIPS FOR THE BEST PERIOD SEX
If you’re feeling the urge and just go for it, a little extra thought and preparation can make the experience more comfortable and enjoyable.
Being open and honest with your partner is key. Tell them how you feel about having sex during your period, and ask how they feel about it. If either of you is hesitant, talk about the reasons behind the discomfort so you can both feel relaxed and enjoy it together even more.
Really important: if you have a tampon or a menstrual cup in place, remove it before you start fooling around if you are having penetrative sex. You can try wearing beautiful lacy period underwear leading up to sex instead, to help you feel more natural and to avoid your tampon from drying out your vagina before sex and losing that natural lubricant.
Use a towel to help protect your sheets from any blood leaks, a dark towel if you have one. You can also opt to try some shower sex to avoid the clean up all together.
Keep communicating with your partner, even during sex. Some positions may be less comfortable for you than normal. If in doubt, missionary can be the best, as thanks to gravity it can limit the blood flow, and make you more comfortable lying down. You can also try something different. For example, you may want to try lying on your side with your partner behind you.
And if you’re not feeling the penetrative sex but still feeling the urge, oral and manual stimulation on both partners can be just as rewarding and satisfying without the discomfort around menstruating sex.
The most important thing is to listen to each other and listen to your body, if something isn’t working, try something else.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to your own libido and comfort around sex and period sex. If you’re feeling it and in the mood, give it a go!
(C) PHOTOS: Cristina Gareau