While it’s possible to have some fun in bed during your period, penetrative sex isn’t your only option, bleeding shouldn’t stop you from doing it the way you want to. I have had sex during my period twice in my life. The first time was with a friend of a friend of mine who I kept bumping into in my area and randomly met over the course of a few months. During one of these “shootouts” I had my period, but I really wanted to have sex with him. Before I took him home, I told him I was on my period and he said, “I love period sex.” I knew some friends who actually enjoyed menstrual sex, mostly because orgasms are great for relieving cramps, but I couldn’t imagine a guy going so far as to say he enjoys it. But he did, and we had a damn good time.
The second time I had menstrual sex was not so long ago. As we lay in my bed, my partner said he didn’t think vaginal sex should be banned “because of the small amount of blood.” We went for it, but first I grabbed a dark towel to put on the bed – something I learned was essential after my first period.
But when we collectively discuss menstrual sex, we don’t always cover all the details. Yes, orgasmic endorphins can ease menstrual cramps, according to board-certified OB/GYN Camila Phillips, MD, and no, it won’t be some crazy bloodbath (although there will be blood). Phillips says misconceptions about menstrual sex go back a long way: “Sex and menstruation are two very natural phenomena that are shrouded in long-standing historical, cultural and social taboos,” she tells Bustle. “When we discuss these two things together – menstrual sex – it sparks conversations that challenge our traditional ideas about women’s bodies and what is ‘normal’ in terms of sex and human sexuality.”
First, if you’ve ever wondered, “Does sex during your period cause more bleeding?” the answer, according to Phillips, is a resounding no. “Intermittent sex won’t make your periods harder or longer, but the rhythmic contractions of orgasm can push some blood out of your uterus, and penetration can push blood out of your vagina,” she tells Bustle. “It’s not something a well-placed (preferably) dark towel can’t handle.” Another idea that many people mistakenly believe is that you lose your sex drive during your period, which is simply not true. “People with vaginas can develop food cravings at any point in their cycle,” says Phillips. “If there is consent, then sex is absolutely possible.”
Unfortunately, this is just a tipping point when it comes to myths about sex and menstruation. To get straight to the facts, here are eight things no one will tell you about menstrual sex. (Spoiler alert: this can actually be a lot of fun.)
You must use a condom or other barrier method
Intermittent sex won’t make you bleed more, but it can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
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The use of a condom (or any form of barrier birth control) during menstrual sex is mandatory to prevent STIs. This not only makes it easier to clean up after sex, which is especially important if your partner is squeamish about blood, but also reduces the chances of contracting bacteria.
“Blood in general is a medium for bacteria,” Dr. Alyssa Dweck, OB/GYN, clinical assistant professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and author of V for the Vagina, tells Bustle. “If the blood in the vagina or uterus is exposed to certain bacteria during unprotected sex, the bacteria have more places to breed.”
Dr. Sherry Ross, OB/GYN and author of She-ology, agrees. “It is true that women may be at greater risk of sexually transmitted infections during their periods,” she says. “Periodical blood creates a healthy petri dish for organisms to grow and thrive. Wearing a condom is certainly important in preventing STIs during your period.”
Position is everything
While menstrual sex won’t make you look like Carrie from Stephen King’s classic 1976 film Carrie, after you and your partner are done, it’s important to choose positions wisely. For example, the spoon position or missionary sex would be a better choice in terms of gravity. “Positions where gravity works against you, like being on top, can create more of a crime scene than being on the bottom,” says Ross Bustle. “Being down with your partner holding your legs 180 degrees can also be helpful.”
Think about it: if you are at the top, there will probably be a little more blood than if
Sex in the shower can be fun, but be careful
Dweck told Bustle that some of her patients choose to shower to save their sheets when one of their partners is on their period because…they leave blood stains. But while this sounds like a great idea, it can be an unexpected problem.
Shower sex can be tricky at first because it’s slippery. Then, if you shed some menstrual blood—at least some of it is bound to run down your legs—things get even more slippery. Before you know it, you will both slip in the shower and one, if not both, will fall.
You might be better off staying on a flat surface and trying another hard version. “Some women use tampons before inserting them into the vagina,” says Ross. “Others put a towel on the sheet, and still others collect the blood with a menstrual cup, so there is no evidence that the blood is contaminating the sheet.”
Tam can still tweet
When people talk about menstrual sex, a lot of things come up, but one topic that isn’t enough is getting pregnant while bleeding.
Technically, you can’t get pregnant while on your period, but it’s not as easy as you might think. “If you’re actually menstruating, you ovulated two weeks ago, you’re not pregnant, and your uterine lining is leaking,” Dweck says. “If this is indeed the case, then your fertile window has disappeared, so you can’t get pregnant.”
But the problem is that many people with vaginas have irregular periods, so if you don’t know exactly when your period and ovulation will occur, there is a risk. Ross explained that people with shorter periods are more likely to get pregnant in the last days of their period. “If you have 21 days between the first day of your last period and your next period, you are likely to ovulate on day 10 of your cycle,” she says. “If your period lasts a week and intercourse is on the seventh day, the sperm can live for 3-5 days, so you can get pregnant on the 10th day.” In addition, bleeding does not always mean a period, and in some cases it can be a sign of spotting between periods.
It is best to assume that it is still possible to get pregnant with penetrating vaginal penetration and plan accordingly. “Always stay safe and use reliable birth control, even when you are on your period,” advises Ross.
It can make things really intimate.
Menstrual sex can be an intimate experience.
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Of course, menstrual sex is different for everyone. For some, this is NBD, but for someone, trust and absolute comfort are required. Exposure to bodily fluids such as blood creates real intimacy, and some consider occasional sex to be a soul connection with another person. While there is no official science (your brain releases the same chemicals during sex, no matter what part of your cycle you’re in), if you don’t want to have sex with someone, it’s pretty obvious.
But if you want to try, don’t let that stop you! “It’s definitely a personal choice,” Ross said. And you shouldn’t feel like something is wrong or bad when you get your period – it’s just your body doing its thing.
It can make your period pain free
If something that links an entire generation’s sexuality sounds like a hippie phrase to you, there’s a very interesting reason why you might want to try it. When we talk about menstrual intercourse, we’re usually talking about the feel and the logistics of keeping bleeding to a minimum. But this misses an important principle: intercourse during menstruation (alone or with a partner) will reduce pain during menstruation and shorten the duration of menstruation.
“Enjoying sex during your period can help relieve the pain associated with menstrual cramps,” explains Ross. Here’s one of the weird things that happens to the brain after sex: When you ejaculate, your body releases chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin that help relax your muscles. This, in turn, can relieve menstrual cramps and discomfort.
During ejaculation, the lining of the uterus and blood are ejected with each contraction. While it won’t affect how much bleeding, it may shorten the time it takes for bleeding or spotting after a period. “Some people think that menstrual intercourse shortens the menstrual cycle because the uterus flushes out blood more quickly,” says Ross. So, if your period gets shorter after you’ve started having sex, that could be one reason.