What is menstruation?
Menstruation (also known as the “menstrual period,” or simply your “period”) is the process that takes place when the uterus sheds its lining, resulting in the flow of blood, vaginal discharge, and uterine cells through the cervix and out of the vagina (1). Beginning in puberty, most people with uteruses menstruate every month or so in response to hormonal changes (2).
Can I have sex when I’m on my period?
For many people who menstruate, periods happen every 21-45 days, and last for 2-7 days (2). If you menstruate and are sexually active, you may have wondered: “Can I have sex on my period?” The short answer: Yes, you can absolutely have sex on your period. The specifics depend on your own preferences. Read on for some tips on deciding whether you want to have period sex and how to make it safe and enjoyable if you do.
Should I have sex when I’m on my period?
Whether or not to have sex on your period is completely up to you and your partner. Some people would like to have period sex but are worried about the potential mess or judgement from their partner. Other people simply aren’t interested in period sex.
If you’re someone who would like to have sex on your period or would like to have sex with a partner who’s menstruating, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t experience sexual pleasure and intimacy, no matter where you are in your menstrual cycle.
Is it safe to have period sex?
In most cases, it is perfectly safe to have sex when you’re on your period. For people who have HIV, there may be a slightly increased risk of passing the virus to your partner during and immediately before your period (3). While there’s no conclusive evidence that menstruation increases your chances of getting or transmitting an STI, the presence of extra blood may slightly increase the chances of passing on a blood-borne infection, like Hepatitis C. If you or your partner have an STI, check in with a healthcare provider about your best options for preventing transmission during period sex.
If you’re unsure of your own or a partner’s STI status, it’s a good idea to use a barrier method like condoms or dental dams during sexual activity, whether you’re on your period or not. And keep in mind that regular STI testing can be an important part of a healthy sex life, especially for people who have more than one partner.
What’s it like to have sex on your period?
For some people, having period sex may be a little messier, but otherwise not that different from having sex at any other time. Extra fluids in the vaginal canal can act as a natural lubricant, making period sex a more pleasurable experience for some. Oxytocin, a hormone released during sexual arousal and orgasm, has been found to have powerful pain-relieving properties (4). If you experience period pain, having sex might help you feel better!
How can I talk to my partner about period sex?
Some people might want to have sex on their period—or have sex with a menstruating partner—but aren’t sure how to approach it. Menstruation still carries stigma in many cultures, leading some people to think that periods are shameful or something that should be hidden (5). In fact, periods are a completely normal bodily function and are nothing to be ashamed of.
If you’d like to have period sex, having a direct conversation with your partner is the best way to go about it. Let your partner know that you’d like to try period sex. If they respond with enthusiasm, you’re good to go! If they’re hesitant, you can open a discussion about why: are they worried about the mess? Do they hold beliefs that menstruation is dirty? If they are the one menstruating, do they experience shame around their period, severe pain, or gender dysphoria? Getting to the bottom of why someone isn’t interested in period sex can help you to decide together whether it’s something you’d like to try or hold off on.
If you’d like to try period sex, but your partner isn’t into it, try not to take it personally—many people have hang-ups or preferences resulting from their own experiences, beliefs, and cultures. If this is the case, masturbation can help you experience sexual pleasure on your own. You might also want to talk to a trusted friend or therapist who can help you to process your feelings.
What’s the best way to have period sex?
With a little preparation, period sex can be pleasurable, fun, and minimally messy.
Putting disposable pads or towels (dark colors are best, unless you don’t care about stains) on the bed can protect your mattress and sheets. Keep a stash of wipes or a damp cloth handy for quick clean-up. Having sex in the shower or bathtub can let you rinse off right away and immediately wash any blood down the drain. And if you want to minimize the transfer of blood from one body to another, disposable gloves, condoms, and dental dams can all be helpful.
Are there reasons to avoid period sex?
Some people may be uncomfortable with period sex, including those who experience dysmenorrhea (painful periods), heavy bleeding, or feelings of distress about menstruation due to gender dysphoria or other factors. Some people just might not want to deal with the potential mess. If this is you, it’s perfectly ok to skip period sex.
Period sex alternatives
If you or your partner are uncomfortable with period sex but would still like to experience closeness and intimacy during menstruation, there are plenty of ways to connect that don’t involve the vulva. A menstruating person can perform oral sex on their non-menstruating partner. If you’re feeling playful, you can experiment with sensation play (using all of your senses and engaging body parts other than the genitals), role playing, or dirty talk. Especially if you’re in pain or just feeling “blah,” cuddling can be very comforting and help you to feel closer to your partner.
Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong way to go about having period sex—it all depends on your own and your partner’s comfort level. Taking steps to prepare for sex, having direct conversations, and keeping an open mind can help you to experience pleasure and intimacy, on or off your period.