Sex on your period: 5 facts you need to know
Many people find they feel more aroused during their period, which can in part be due to the hormonal changes that naturally occur during the menstrual cycle. So who’s to say you should skip sex just because you’re on your period?!
If both you and your partner(s) consent to sex while you’re on your period, and you take the necessary precautions, there’s no reason you can’t. There are also other benefits to period sex, such as easing pain, elevating mood and possibly shortening the duration of your period.
Unfortunately, periods are still quite stigmatised, and period sex is commonly believed to be “gross” or “unhygienic”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Period blood is simply a bodily fluid, like all of the other bodily fluids involved in sex. However, having sex on your period can be more overtly messy. You might want to prepare by laying a dark towel on the bed to protect your sheets, or by having sex in the shower or bath instead. But there is no shame in a few stains if you find yourself caught up in a sexy moment - just make sure to always remove your tampon or menstrual cup first!
Unfabled has collaborated with Yoxly, a sexual health company that provides at-home STI test kits for all genders, to put together a list of five essential facts that you need to know about period sex.
1. You can still get pregnant on your period
A common misconception is that you can’t get pregnant on your period. In reality, you can get pregnant at any point in your menstrual cycle. It is entirely dependent on when ovulation occurs, which varies from person to person.
The average menstrual cycle lasts 24-38 days, with the first day of bleeding marking the start of your cycle. An egg is released during ovulation, which usually occurs 10-16 days before the start of your next period. This is when you are most fertile and most likely to get pregnant.
After sex, sperm can continue to survive in your body for up to seven days, prolonging this fertile window. So while it is very unlikely, this means that if you have unprotected sex towards the end of your period and you ovulate early, it is possible for you to become pregnant from sperm that is lingering in your body from the last time you had sex. If you have irregular or naturally short cycles, the chances of this are greater.
It’s important to remember that period sex is not a substitute for contraception. The rule still stands: if you want to avoid getting pregnant, you should always use contraception.
2. Period sex increases the risk of certain STIs
Having unprotected sex puts you at risk of picking up and/or passing on sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This risk is actually higher during period sex for a couple of reasons. Firstly, some STIs (like HIV, syphilis and hepatitis) are blood-borne, meaning that the virus is carried by the blood. Therefore, having sex during your period increases the risk of transmitting these types of infections through period blood. To reduce this risk, you should always use barrier methods during period sex.
Secondly, the vagina has a naturally acidic pH, which is protective, as it helps to maintain the right balance of healthy bacteria and prevent the transmission of STIs. During your period, menstrual blood causes the vagina to lose its acidity and become more alkaline, making it easier for harmful sexually transmitted pathogens to survive.
Have you had unprotected sex? Are you worried about STIs? Take your health into your own hands by ordering one of Yoxly’s at-home STI testing kits and carry out a sexual health screen in the comfort of your own home. No trip to a clinic is required, and speedy results are guaranteed!
3. Sex may ease period symptoms
Periods are often accompanied by painful cramps, caused by the uterus as it contracts in response to hormone fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. For some women, these cramps can be so painful that they impact their ability to carry out day-to-day activities, like going to school or work.
Having sex during your period can be a great way to get relief from period pains. This is because orgasms cause the muscles in your uterus to contract and relax, which is thought may ease painful menstrual cramping. Plus, if you’re feeling achy and a little low, orgasms also stimulate the release of endorphins (feel-good chemicals), helping to reduce pain and lift your mood. What’s more, contraction of the uterus during an orgasm may speed up the rate at which you shed your uterine lining, shortening the overall duration of your period!
Considering all these benefits, and undertaking the necessary precautions, go ahead and prescribe yourself a day in bed for some shame-free period sex!
4. It’s completely normal to feel a little uncomfortable with the idea of having sex during your period
You wouldn’t be alone in feeling uncomfortable or even embarrassed by the prospect of period sex. After all, isn’t it dirty? Messy? Disgusting? What if my partner feels uncomfortable? What can be helpful here is questioning what it is about period sex that leaves you feeling this way. Often, our worries and concerns can be resolved with an awareness that periods are not dirty or shameful (in fact, they are just another bodily fluid), a simple conversation, a towel, or a change in location (shower sex anyone?).
5. It doesn’t need to be penetrative.
So, what if you want to enjoy sex during your period but you just aren't comfortable with vaginal penetration? No problem. Thankfully, sex is not limited to one behaviour or definition – it is whatever you want it to be. It certainly isn’t limited to penetration (how boring would that be!?). The body is full of wonderful erogenous zones and there are so many fun areas to play with. This might be a great time for you to explore. The earlier we move away from the stereotypical narratives of sex, the more pleasurable and satisfying sex can become. So, remember, sex isn't just limited vaginal penetration and go have some fun.
The bottom line:
Period sex can be an extremely pleasurable and fun experience (truly!). It is an age-old myth that you shouldn't have sex during your period or that this is somehow "wrong". There is absolutely nothing wrong, shameful, or dirty about period sex! Wait…what? Yup, you heard us. Yet in spite of this, period stigma and shame leave many of us hesitant and sometimes even fearful to take steps toward actually having it. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. While period sex can at times feel daunting, we hope that this article will leave you feeling better informed - whether you choose to engage in period sex or not (a totally personal decision - no judgement here). What is important is that you feel completely safe and comfortable. There should never be any pressure to do something you are not physically or mentally comfortable with. Remember that your body is beautiful, valuable, and deserving of pleasure on the days of your periods just like any other day.
Zoe Sever is Unfabled's Clinical Lead. Zoe brings a wealth of knowledge from her broad spanning background, having started her career in Nursing and transitioning to Sexology and Research. She holds a Master’s in Sexual and Reproductive Health and is currently pursuing a PhD in Women’s and Reproductive Health at Oxford University. On a mission to empower individuals with cycles to better understand their bodies, Zoe is helping us to banish shame, stigma and demystify reproductive health.