Sexual Health Guru: Can You Have Sex on Your Period?

 Key points

  • Period sex can have cultural or religious taboos.
  • Sex on your period won’t prevent pregnancy and could increase the risk of a sexually transmitted infection, or STI.
  • There are several potential benefits to period sex, from relieving period cramps to increasing feelings of closeness.

 Slated as ‘gross’ and ‘unhygienic’, too many people are enforcing a monthly ban to avoid having sex during someone’s menstrual cycle. It’s time to challenge those perceptions because, when approached with enthusiasm, period sex is a ride worth taking.

 Is period stigma inescapable?

 ”Many people don’t like talking about periods at all. The whole issue of menstrual bleeding is often regarded as distasteful,” said Deborah Lee, M.B., Ch.B., a sexual and reproductive health specialist and medical writer for Dr Fox Online Pharmacy.

 ”Sex is private, and when you put periods and sex together, you get a hush-hush response.”

 The taboo associated with periods has a long history with no clear origin. It’s seemingly just always been there.

 It even pops up in early Roman literature. Pliny lamented the alleged toxicity of menstruation in his “Natural History,” claiming it turns new wine sour, makes healthy crops barren and dulls the edge of steel with its coppery bite.

 ”Many religious texts forbid sex during a period, and some of this historical stigma has persisted,” said Adiele Hoffman, a London-based general practitioner and medical advisor at Flo Health United Kingdom. “In some cultures, the religious prohibition still exists, in others, there might be other reasons—like the mess.”

 We cannot identify a sole origin for the period taboo, but the ongoing impact is undeniable. Recognizing its impact on sex is one small piece of the puzzle.

 Roughly 29 percent of the 1,500 respondents in a 2022 survey admitted to sleeping in a different bed, room or even another house while on their period, and 39 percent of this group said their partner approves.

 Menstruation sex hesitancy is present in the LGBTQ+ community, too. About 42 percent of LGBTQ+ respondents were enthusiastic about having sex during a partner’s period, and 37 percent of LGBTQ+ participants were enthusiastic about having sex during their period, according to a 2015 survey.

 Are there any risks to having sex on your period?

 Period sex is not inherently dangerous. However, there are some associated risks.

 ”It’s important to know that having period sex does come with a higher risk of getting or transmitting a sexually transmitted infection (STI),” Hoffman said.

 Yes, it’s true. Unprotected sex on your period could lead to an increased risk of an STI.

 ”Some sexually transmitted viruses, such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, can be found at higher levels in menstrual blood than in other vaginal fluids, so if you have one of these infections, there is a higher risk of transmitting it to your partner if you have oral or vaginal sex on your period,” Hoffman said.

 While some long-standing myths claim menstruation is a safe time to neglect contraception, menstruation does not make anyone immune to pregnancy.

 ”A period may last seven days, and sperm can live for seven days in the female pelvis,” Lee said. “If a woman has a short cycle, for example, a 21-day cycle, she will be ovulating on day seven of her cycle. So, if she has sex on day seven of her period and has a short cycle, she may well have live sperm in the pelvis around the time of ovulation.”

 Are there any potential benefits to having sex on your period?

 Many people with periods experience a higher libido during menstruation, largely due to the rapid increase in estrogen levels during the first week of a new cycle.

 Lean into the increased blood flow and the heightened pleasure, especially considering an orgasm’s power to alleviate associated symptoms, such as period cramps.

 ”Orgasm leads to the production of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones, which cause pleasure and help relieve pain,” Lee said. “During sex, dopamine and oxytocin are also released in large quantities, making you feel warm and relaxed. Vaginal stimulation has been shown to increase tolerance to pain stimuli.”

 How can you talk to your partner about period sex?

 Before talking with a partner about period sex, ask yourself: Do I actually want period sex? Is it a taboo I want to embrace, or do I just want an intimate relationship with a hot water bottle and my vibrator right now?

 If sex on your period is new to your relationship, you’ll need to check in and see if your partner is comfortable with the idea.

 ”It can be daunting discussing period sex with your partner for the first time, but remember that open and honest communication is key for a truly comfortable and pleasurable experience,” Hoffman said. “Decide what feels right for both of you—both in terms of the type of sex and the methods you use to reduce any potential mess.”

 Strike a balance between keeping the discussion open and pushing your partner beyond their comfort zone; it is not your right to convince someone to change a boundary. Be firm but patient.

 What kind of sexual activity are you comfortable with on your period?

 Before diving into the red pool, decide on your desired outcome. Are you dealing with an increased sex drive? Anal, vaginal or oral sex during menstruation is a regular occurrence in many relationships—but what are your preferences?

 If you’re playing with the specific goal of alleviating period symptoms, such as menstrual cramps, decenter penetrative sex by bringing the menstruating partner to climax using other methods.

 Consider oral sex on your period—with the assistance of a dental dam—or try clitoral stimulation with hands or toys.

 ”If someone experiences physical discomfort, then making sure you take pain relief beforehand can be helpful,” said Ness Cooper, a clinical sexologist based in Norfolk, U.K. “Using sensate techniques to explore your body during your period can help bring awareness to your body and what you feel comfortable with during your period.”

 For people purely focused on getting down and dirty with a partner, check in with your body. Test the waters gently and stay attuned to your body’s needs.

 What’s the best way to prepare for period sex?

 Keep things clean. Lay down a dark-colored towel before play. Practice safe sex to reduce your risk of STIs and an unplanned pregnancy. Don’t forget the “pee after sex” rule.

 Be conscious of the varying degrees of mess induced by different sex positions. Having the person on their period on top will likely lead to a lot of cleanup, but missionary is a trusted option with fewer opportunities for leakage.

 Try sex in the shower for the easiest clean-up of all.

 Remember, sex is naturally a little chaotic and requires a little housekeeping, and that’s OK, Cooper said. Just remember to use your favorite form of birth control and lay down a dark towel before you get busy.

​ ”It may seem counterintuitive, but some can find it beneficial to learn that all sex is messy,” Cooper said. “All forms of sexual and erotic play can be messy and lead to the need to clean up afterward, not just period sex.”