Health 

Period Sex 101: Everything You Need To Know About Getting Intimate While Menstruating

Doctors and sex educators debunk misconceptions about period sex and provide tips for a mess-free experience.

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Everyone’s preferences vary, but doctors agree — menstruation can make your libido spike. Of course, this begs the question: how do I get intimate while bleeding? Period sex is easier than you might think. In fact, a lot of the seeming barriers to having sex while on your period are due to cultural taboos surrounding menstruation. As for the practical complications that period blood can pose (no one enjoys dealing with stained sheets), there are a number of steps you can take to reduce — or embrace — the mess.

HYPEBAE consulted doctors and sex educators about the unexpected benefits of period sex, common misconceptions surrounding it, and practicable tips for having more fun during that time of month.

Yes, you can get pregnant while menstruating.

Despite the commonly held belief that getting pregnant while menstruating is impossible, period sex isn’t an opportunity to go condom-free. “It’s true that you’re most likely to get pregnant in the six days leading up to — and including — ovulation,” explains Dr. Sara C. Flowers, vice president of education and training at Planned Parenthood. “Many people have about 14 days between ovulation and when they get their period, but that’s not true for everyone. Lots of people have short menstrual cycles or irregular cycles, which can make it really hard to know when you’re going to ovulate in relation to your period. How fertile you are can be a tricky thing to track and know with certainty,” she adds.

According to Dr. Flowers, using a birth control method such as the pill or an IUD in conjunction with condoms is the most effective way to lower your chances of getting pregnant via penis-in-vagina sex. Condoms are also essential for preventing Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), which you can transmit and contract at any point in your menstrual cycle.

Ruby Rare, sex educator and author of Sex Ed: A Guide for Adults, adds that sperm can survive for up to five days inside the womb. “Sperm from sex you had during your period could fertilize an egg produced in your next cycle,” she clarifies.

Having sex can make your period shorter.

Believe it or not, there are several health benefits of having sex while on your period. First and foremost, orgasms help relieve cramps by releasing endorphins that “make you feel sleepy, relaxed and happy afterwards,” Dr. Flowers says. “For some people, [these endorphins] can help relieve pain or discomfort you may have while you’re on your period.”

In addition, having sex while menstruating can make your period shorter. When a person orgasms, the uterus contracts and releases. “These uterine contractions [help] expel the contents of the uterus, resulting in a shorter period,” explains Janielle Bryan, public health professional and Philadelphia-based sex educator.

For Rare, period sex has psychological benefits as well as physical ones. During menstruation, the cervix sit lowers in the vagina, which can cause deep penetration to feel painful. Rare mentions that this barrier can actually lead to more adventurous intimacy, as it “encourages me to think outside the box and get creative with sexual play.” In addition, period sex — whether that means masturbation or partnered play — can help you address and process shame associated with menstruation. “There’s still so much societal stigma around periods, this can be a good way to overcome it,” she adds.

Speaking of stigma, fostering open discussion of periods is essential.

There’s no pressure to want or enjoy period sex, but if the only thing holding you back is fear of judgement, you may want to step back and re-assess the shame and embarrassment you associate with menstruating. “Having a period is one of the most common experiences on the planet,” Dr. Flowers points out. “Old school sex-ed — where folks are separated by gender assigned at birth — reinforces period stigma. All people, young and old, benefit from understanding how all bodies work, so it’s really important to teach everyone that periods are a normal part of life, and have those conversations evolve through adolescence and adulthood,” she advocates, raising the importance of inclusive and comprehensive sex education.

Another way to help break down period stigma is to openly discuss menstruation with your partner. “Talk to your partner about your level of comfort having sex during your period, how your period may be impacting your mood or physical health and how they can be supportive. Ask them to share their ideas and comfort level with you, too. Together, you can find common ground,” Dr. Flowers suggests. “Personal preference is valid, but no one in your life should make you feel like a natural function of your body is gross,” Rare states.

“Many needs aren’t met in fear of starting an argument or fear of rejection,” Bryan raises. “You’ll never know unless you ask,” she says, recommending that couples new to period sex research the subject together. “Also, don’t stress about how it’s going to go. Similar to trying a sex position, it’s fine if you don’t like. You tried something new, and now you know,” Bryan affirms.

Don’t worry about a little bit of blood.

Period sex can get messy, but there are a number of steps you can take to reduce clean-up. “If you want to prevent your sheets from getting dirty, skip the bed and go right to the shower,” Bryan suggests. “You won’t have to worry about water drying out the vagina’s natural lubricant — blood will provide a natural lubricant in its place.” If you’d rather stick with the bed, Dr. Flowers advocates for using dark-colored sheets or laying an old towel down before having sex.

Positions that allow the menstruating partner to lay flat — such as missionary — can also help reduce the speed of blood flow. If you and your partner would rather not deal with any blood, you can opt for oral or anal sex while wearing a tampon, menstrual cup or menstrual disc (remember that none of these protect against STIs and pregnancy).

Most importantly, Rare reminds couples to have a sense of humor about the intricacies and messiness of sex. “My partner, who was menstruating at the time, once left a bloody handprint on my wall during period sex. Rather than being horrified, I burst out laughing! It helped to put their mind at ease, and reduced any shame they could have felt about it,” she recounts.

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