Periods tend to last between 4 to 8 days, and they tend to keep going until menopause, which usually happens when you’re around 50 years old.
So, if you’ve sworn off period sex — well, those days definitely add up.
Period sex used to get a bad rap (“Ew, it’s gross!”). But these days, many people have come around to the idea that sex while menstruating is not only totally normal, it’s actually good for you.
Still, there are many misconceptions about it. So, to help us wade through the facts about period sex (and give us tips about how to have great period sex), we reached out to New York-based Alyssa Dweck, MD, author of The Complete A to Z for your V, and Jane van Dis, MD, an OB-GYN with Maven, the digital clinic for women and families.
Is it OK to have sex while on my period?
Heck yes it is. For some, it’s about getting over a mental barrier more than anything. Periods are nothing to be ashamed of and it’s easy to clean up after. As long as everyone consents, period sex can be as good as or better than nonperiod sex.
Yep, a midcycle nookie is good for you! Here are some of the benefits of period sex.
Menstrual cramp relief
It’s pretty well-known that a little nookie can help alleviate period cramps. “Yes, orgasms (and their uterine muscle contractions) are associated with the release of feel-good chemicals and neurotransmitters — which can naturally help with pain,” Dwerk says.
One old 1988 study found that women who had a higher frequency of orgasms experienced less menstrual pain. A more recent, small study found that brain activity during orgasms could be a factor in pain reduction.
You may be tempted to skip sexy times when you have a menstrual-related headache, but it could actually help. A 2013 study suggested that sexual activity has the potential to help relieve pain in migraine attacks and cluster headaches. More research is needed to fully understand this.
Not everyone can get past the culturally-imposed ick factor of period sex, but it’s really no big deal. If you think of it as a natural lubricant, it can become a lot more fun.
There’s no reason for anyone to be grossed out by something so natural and common.
In addition, Dwerk says, some women also have heightened libido during their menses… which always leads to better sex.
A small 2013 study suggested that sexual arousal can be higher around ovulation, indicating that your interest in sex can fluctuate depending on hormones and other period-related changes. But everyone is different, so your mileage may vary.
“Period sex is definitely safe, as long as you continue the same sort of practices to prevent pregnancy and STIs that you would when you’re not on your period,” van Dis says.
Remove the tampon
If you’re not using a sex-friendly product like a menstrual disc, make sure to remove it before engaging in the fun. Tampons, for instance, can get pushed up further into your vagina, which can cause complications.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Many STIs, such as hepatitis B and C and HIV, are transmitted through bodily fluids, including menstrual blood. Syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are also sexually transmitted, and van Dis notes that OB-GYNs see an increased rate of all three.
“Some have hypothesized that since the cervix is slightly opened to allow menstrual blood and endometrial lining to pass, that there could be increased risk for transmission of viruses or bacteria during period sex,” van Dis says. “But there haven’t been any definitive studies showing this is true.”
So, if you’re nonmonogamous, it’s a good idea to always use a condom or other barrier method regardless of time of the month.
And yes, you can still get pregnant
One of the old-timey myths about period sex is that you can’t get pregnant, but that’s totally false. “I tell people that while the chance of conceiving on days 1 to 7 of the cycle is low, it’s not zero,” van Dis says. “If you’re not ready to become a parent, it’s best to use at least one reliable form of birth control at all times.”
Van Dis suggests shower sex or a product like a menstrual disc, which can be used for mess-free period sex.
Other fun options for period hanky-panky:
- Avoid your heaviest days (like day 2) if you’d rather keep it cleaner.
- Do it in the bathtub.
- Do it in a super-secluded outdoor space.
- Throw a towel down on the bed.
- Potentially avoid positions like the cowgirl, because… gravity.
- Do it any way you like and take a shower after — no biggie.
Oral sex can be safe to do on your period, too. But to keep things safer and a little cleaner, feel free to use a dental dam, which is a barrier method for preventing STI transmission.
While period sex used to be fairly taboo, that’s no longer the case, Dweck and van Dis say.
Dwerk says partners need to openly communicate with each other about their comfort levels. “Menses and vaginal health and hygiene in general are still controversial subjects. Let’s change this,” Dweck says.
Adds van Dis: “When half the population menstruates, there’s really no need to whisper about it.”
So, if you and your partner are A-OK with period sex, there’s no reason not to make it a part of your regular routine.
Julissa Treviño is a writer and journalist currently based in Mexico. Her work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, The Dallas Morning News, Racked, Man Repeller, Teen Vogue, and CityLab. Follow her @JulissaTrevino.