Period sex 101

Taboos about avoiding sexual behavior while menstruating are based on archaic ideas. The belief that sexual behavior must be avoided while menstruating is unfounded — there is nothing “dirty” or dangerous about menstrual blood.

Some women even notice increased arousal during their period (1, 2). Plus, orgasms can help ease menstrual cramps (3, 4). Cramps can be painful and uncomfortable. The endorphins released by orgasms may help relieve menstrual cramps—and stress—for some people.

If you don’t feel like engaging in sexual activities during your period — or ever — that’s also totally fine.

Here are some period sex tips:

How period sex is approached is unique to each couple — some might prefer to have shower sex while menstruating to make it less messy. Some people wear a tampon up until intercourse, and then use a lubrication. Some couples might prefer to lay a towel on top of their bedding, while others might enjoy getting a bit messy. So as long as both partners are comfortable with the situation, there’s no reason to avoid having sex while menstruating.

You can also keep tissues nearby, in case you need to clean up any menstrual blood on you or your partner’s body.

Menstrual blood can be a great lubricant. Period sex obviously makes for the most naturally lubricated sex of all. Menstruation can also be an especially great time for shower sex, when you’re less likely to have to re-apply lube (which can wash away quickly in the shower). Shower sex can be slippery, so take precautions to avoid injuries.

Can you get pregnant if you have sex on your period?

The short answer is: yes.

Remember that the fertile window — the time in your cycle when it’s possible to become pregnant — depends on various environmental and physiological factors, so it’s possible for conception to occur if you have unprotected sex during your period.

However, research has found the probability of being in your fertile window on the first couple of days of your period is close to zero, and may rise to about 2% on day four (5).

People with regular, normal-length (24 to 38 days) menstrual cycle are less likely to be in their fertile window during or right after their period, but people with short or irregular cycles might (6). The fertile window is the days in your cycle when pregnancy is most likely to occur. It includes the days leading up to, including, and immediately after ovulation (7). If you ovulate early in your cycle, your fertile window can overlap with your period. If you have unprotected sex during your period when it overlaps with your fertile window, then pregnancy can occur.

Some people experience bleeding outside of their period. If you have an irregular cycle and you’re expecting your period, be aware of ovulation spotting — and other causes of spotting — so you don’t mistake it for a period while having unprotected sex.

Is there a risk of STIs when having sex on your period?

You may be more likely to contract an STI during your period, so condoms are important when having unprotected sex with an untested partner (8).

The wetness of shower sex can also impact the effectiveness of a condom. Be aware of the risks associated with a condom falling off in the shower — pregnancy (if there’s ejaculate and you’re in your fertile window) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Use barrier methods (condoms, dental dams) with an untested or new sexual partner during both penetrative and oral sex to reduce STI risks.

Oral sex while menstruating doesn’t have to be off limits if you and your partner consent to it — you might want to focus on the clitoris. The anus has lots of nerve endings too. If you’re not into anal play, that’s also totally okay.

If you’re into anal stimulation with another person, just remember it has similar STI risks as oral sex or vaginal intercourse. Encountering some feces during anal play is possible — it’s a bodily reality of that area. Rectal bacteria can introduce risk of infections (9). Wash or use a condom on whatever has been in your butt before it goes into your vagina.

Sex can involve all different types of fluids and excretions — arousal fluid (being “wet”), ejaculate (“cum”), sweat, sometimes urine, and even fecal matter (if you’re exploring the anus) — so menstrual blood shouldn’t deter somebody from intercourse.

Do you notice increased arousal during your period? Track your sex drive and bleeding in Clue.


References

1. Guillermo CJ, Manlove HA, Gray PB, Zava DT, Marrs CR. Female social and sexual interest across the menstrual cycle: the roles of pain, sleep and hormones. BMC Womens Health. 2010;10:19.

2. Hart RD. Monthly rhythm of libido in married women. British medical journal. 1960 Apr 2;1(5178):1023.

3. Brody S. The relative health benefits of different sexual activities. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2010 Apr 1;7(4pt1):1336–61.

4. Levin RJ. Sexual activity, health and well-being–the beneficial roles of coitus and masturbation. Sexual and Relationship Therapy. 2007 Feb 1;22(1):135–48.

5. Stirnemann JJ, Samson A, Bernard JP, Thalabard JC. Day-specific probabilities of conception in fertile cycles resulting in spontaneous pregnancies. Human Reproduction. 2013 Jan 22;28(4):1110–6.

6. Stirnemann JJ, Samson A, Bernard JP, Thalabard JC. Day-specific probabilities of conception in fertile cycles resulting in spontaneous pregnancies. Hum Reprod. 2013;28(4):1110–6.

7. Wilcox AJ, Weinberg CR, Baird DD. Timing of sexual intercourse in relation to ovulation — effects on the probability of conception, survival of the pregnancy, and sex of the baby. New England Journal of Medicine. 1995 Dec 7;333(23):1517–21.

8. Tanfer K, Aral SO. Sexual intercourse during menstruation and self-reported sexually transmitted disease history among women. Sex Transm Dis. 1996;23(5):395–401.

9. Lee R. Topic in review: health care problems of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients. Western Journal of Medicine. 2000 Jun;172(6):403.