Is it okay or actually “bad” to have sex on your period? Are there any benefits of period sex? Will it inevitably be messy? Doctors separate fact from fiction on all things related to having sex during your period.
If you menstruate, you know a thing or two about periods—including that they can be pesky and sometimes painful. But this monthly bleed, which typically happens every 21 to 35 days and lasts up to seven days each cycle, is actually a good thing. Its recurrence indicates that you are healthy and fertile.
Despite that nearly half of the world’s population gets a period in their lifetime—and the fact that this biological occurrence has essentially been happening since the dawn of time—there are countless myths circulating about it. This rings especially true when it comes having period sex. For example, some people think that it is a bad thing to have sex on their period and try to avoid it as a result.
Having sex on your period might be uncomfortable for some people (not to mention it may a little messier than usual). But rest assured that when you take the right precautions, it can be perfectly safe—and yes, even enjoyable. “A period is a natural thing, so there’s really no reason to hold off,” says Aimee Eyvazzadeh, MD, a San Francisco-based fertility specialist. What’s more: There may actually be some benefits of period sex you may miss out on.
Ahead, we’re sharing some of the most surprising things you perhaps never knew about having sex on your period.
First, What Is a Menstrual Period?
A period entails the shedding of the uterine lining. It occurs as the result of the female egg not becoming fertilized by sperm during that given cycle. Every month, the female body releases an egg in a process called ovulation, which lasts only 12 to 24 hours, Dr. Eyvazzadeh explains.
If the egg is not successfully fertilized by sperm within that time frame, two female sex hormones—progesterone and estrogen—start to decline. This decline is what sparks the shedding of the uterine lining (i.e., blood and tissues that were building up in case a pregnancy did occur). “Your period is essentially the process of your uterus bringing itself back to baseline to prepare for the next cycle,” she says.
7 Facts About Having Sex During Your Period
Is it “bad” to have sex on your period? Does period sex make you more attached? Can sex delay your period from coming? Discover answers to these pressing questions, plus additional FYIs and benefits of period sex.
1. You May Experience Less Cramping
- breast tenderness
- mood swings
Despite what you might think, having sex on your period can actually help alleviate period discomfort—especially if you experience orgasm during intercourse. “During orgasm, the uterus contracts, which may help relieve cramps,” explains Lauren Demosthenes, MD, senior medical director at Babyscripts. “Additionally, the feel-good endorphins that are released with pleasure, including dopamine, may help.”
2. Sex Won’t Delay Your Period
Menstrual cycles are regulated by a woman’s brain (specifically her pituitary). That said, you don’t have to worry about sex delaying your period in any way, according to Natalie Stentz, MD, a double board certified OB-GYN and fertility specialist. “The activity of penetrative intercourse may make menstrual blood more apparent by bringing it out of the vagina, but the underlying process is totally unrelated to intercourse,” she clarifies.
3. Period Sex Might Make You Feel More Attached
If you are curious if emotional attachment can be enhanced by your period, you are onto something. Due to the increased arousal that you can feel during your period, it’s quite likely that you might feel stronger emotions towards your sex partner. While this is certainly no reason to avoid having sex on your period, it definitely pays to keep this in mind if you’re worried about developing feelings of attachment. Moreover, it could very well be a good thing to promote greater intimacy with your significant other.
4. You May Need to Use Lube During Period Sex
You might think that the last thing you would need to have sex during your period would be extra lubrication. However, Allison Rodgers, MD, an OB-GYN and reproductive endocrinologist at Fertility Centers of Illinois, points out that estrogen—which is responsible for keeping you lubricated down there—is actually quite low around your period. (Remember how we explained that your hormone levels take a dip when you don’t successfully conceive?) As a result, you may need some help with lubrication, particularly if you’re having sex towards the end of your period.
5. It’s Possible to Get Pregnant on Your Period
Some couples using natural methods of birth control will try to have sex at certain times in the woman’s cycle when they believe they are less likely to get pregnant. While it is true that the timeframe of when your body sheds its uterine lining is an unlikely time to conceive, it is not impossible.
Again, most periods occur every 21 to 35 days, but some fall outside of this range. Some are also irregular and don’t follow a predictable pattern from month to month. Also, irregular vaginal bleeding may be mistaken as a true menstrual withdrawal bleed, says Mark Trolice, MD, an infertility specialist at Florida’s Fertility Care IVF Center.
“Bleeding can occur for other reasons unrelated to ovulation, such as an ovarian cyst, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS, the most common hormonal imbalance in women), uterine polyps, or fibroids (benign growth in the uterus),” he explains. “So ovulation can occur during vaginal bleeding that can be mistaken for a real period. As a result, pregnancy can occur during this ‘false’ period.”
Additionally, sperm can live up to five days within the vagina, per a study published in Advanced Contraception. Hence, it is possible to get pregnant five days prior to ovulation. For those who have a shorter cycle, they may still bleed during those five days prior to their next ovulation.
6. Period Sex Doesn’t Have to Be Messy
One of the biggest reasons couples avoid sex when one person is on their period is due to the mess that they think will result. However, the bleeding that occurs during menstruation is quite slow. In fact, per the NIH, it takes about four hours for the average person to soak a regular tampon.
What’s more: Dr. Eyvazzadeh notes that you can have a totally mess-free period sex if you use a menstrual disc, or a flexible cup made of silicone or latex that sits in the vagina and collects blood. “The male partner usually can’t tell it is in, and the female partner doesn’t have to worry about possible stained sheets or bleeding on her partner so can enjoy the act more,” she says.
7. Having Sex During Your Period Won’t Make It More Likely to Get an STI
Research has long weighed in on whether or not having sex on one’s period could increase the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. However, there is little evidence to support this, says Dr. Stentz. “More recent studies suggest that couples are no more likely to contract HIV or pelvic inflammatory disease from menstrual intercourse,” she explains. “That said, outside of a strictly monogamous relationship, it is always important to use barrier contraception as a preventative against sexually transmitted infections.”
The bottom line: Safe sex always matters, whether or not you are on your period.