Just because you have your period doesn’t mean that your sex life should take a backseat. But period sex comes with its own unique set of challenges.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with letting your period sex-having flag fly, it’s understandable that you might have some questions, like whether it's OK from a medical perspective, what the pros and cons are of doing it, and how to pull it off with recreating a scene straight out of Game of Thrones in your bedroom.
Here's what you should know about having sex on your period—the good, the bad, and the slightly messy.
Can you have sex on your period?
For the vast majority of people, the answer is yes. “People worry about it, but it’s totally fine,” Lauren Streicher, MD, a professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, tells Health. “From a medical point of view, there is nothing wrong with having intercourse when a [person] is menstruating.”
There are some rare exceptions, though. “For those who are positive for hepatitis, HIV, or have known STIs, the possibility of transmission of diseases that are bloodborne is increased because of the presence of blood,” Jessica Shepherd, MD, an ob-gyn in Texas, tells Health. “Period blood is different from “regular” blood that’s in the veins and arteries, however there is still the possibility of transmission.” Because the cervix is more open during this time of month (which allows for blood to pass), your risk of infection increases too, Tara Ford, a physician assistant at the Medical Center for Female Sexuality in Purchase, New York, tells Health. All of which is to say, it's essential to continue wearing a condom if you're unsure of your partner's status.
But overall, “medically—for most [people]—it is fine to have sex with your period,” Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale Medical School, tells Health.
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Can you get pregnant during period sex?
Technically, yes, but it’s not very common. You're still rolling the dice if you choose to have unprotected period sex, though, with both chances for pregnancy and contracting a sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), so it's important to use some sort of birth control (and especially a condom with someone you're not too familiar with) during sex.
Here's the lowdown: If you have regular periods and you’re absolutely sure what you’re experiencing is actually your period, “the chances of getting pregnant are basically nil,” Dr. Streicher says. But—and this is a big but—if you’re having spotting or bleeding from some other cause, that won’t necessarily be the case. “Some [people] may think they’re having a period because they’re bleeding and think it’s safe to have unprotected sex when it’s not,” Dr. Streicher says. “It can be breakthrough bleeding or bleeding during ovulation—you have to be aware of that.”
Also important: the timing with which you have period sex. That means, if you have sex at the tail end of your period, your partner’s sperm hangs out inside you for five days, and you ovulate really early, there’s a teeny chance you could get pregnant, Dr. Minkin says. “It’s not super likely, but possible,” she says.
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What are the benefits of period sex?
There are actually quite a few pluses to keep in mind when it comes to having sex while you're menstruating. For one, you may experience less painful periods, if you have sex during them. Period cramps happen as a result of your uterus contracting to shed its lining during your cycle, explains Christine Greves, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando, Florida. “When you have an orgasm, the muscles in your uterus contract, too,” she tells Health. When they inevitably release, it can feel better down there, Dr. Greves says. At the same time, having an orgasm triggers the release of endorphins, which are thought to help with the pain, she adds.
Sometimes, menstruation can also help you get more turned on. That's because your estrogen and testosterone are low on day 1 of your cycle (the day your period starts), but they start to rise by day 3. "Some [people] report they feel more aroused and more sensitive around this time," Ford says. Your flow can serve as extra lubrication during sex, which can also increase pleasure. If you typically use a store-bought lubricant to help with dryness during sex, this may be your week to go natural.
Sex may actually speed up your period, as well. Though it hasn’t been well-studied, in theory, Dr. Streicher says that having an orgasm may help your period blood get out faster and sooner. “That might help make your period lighter, just because it causes your uterus to contract and pushes out that lining,” she says.
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Are there any downsides to period sex?
There are, of course, positives and negatives to everything—and that includes period sex. Some downsides, like messiness, are more obvious than others. Having sex on your period increases the risk that you and your partner will end up a little bloody by the end. “The messy factor is a major downside,” Dr. Streicher says.
Also important: While having sex on your period might help in the lubrication department, that's only if you haven't used a tampon in a while. If you end up removing a tampon right before sex can, there's a possibility it already soaked up some of your natural lubrication and dried you out. “You may need some extra lubrication,” Dr. Greves says. (Luckily, that's where lube comes into play).
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How to have the best period sex possible
Sure, you just go for it with period sex and deal with the aftermath, but a little extra preparation might make the experience even more enjoyable and comfortable—and less cleanup afterwards is never a bad thing.
First things first: Use a towel to help save your sheets. Dr. Greves recommends that you opt for a dark colored towel, if you have it, so that the situation doesn't look quite as intense in the aftermath. (However, if that doesn't bother you or your partner, use whatever color towel you'd like.) If you don't have a towel handy—or at least one that you want to sacrifice—try some period shower sex so you don't have anything to clean afterward, Dr. Greves says.
It's also important to remember that you don't have to focus on penetrative period sex. That means the focus can be on the menstruating partner's clitoris (while they wear a tampon), Ford says. Or, the person menstruating can also help their partner orgasm with manual or oral stimulation. And for those of you still interested in penetrative (but less messy) sex, stick to missionary position (it can limit blood flow—thanks, gravity!).
And of course, the main part of any positive sexual experience is communication. While your decision to have period sex largely depends on your relationship, giving your partner at least a heads up that Flo is in town is usually considered a nice gesture. “Say it very matter of factly: ‘I have my period now. Is that a problem for you?’” Dr. Streicher says. “You’ll get a reaction one way or another.” And don't stop communication once the sex starts. If you tend to have painful periods, some positions with deeper penetration might feel uncomfortable for you, Dr. Greves says, so keep talking, even while doing the deed. Otherwise, Dr. Shepherd’s advice is simple: “Have fun.”
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