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What Is Period Sex?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 30, 2021

Period sex is a phrase used to describe sexual activity that happens while at least one partner is menstruating, or on their period. Period sex can involve:

While some people may prefer to not have period sex, others find sex during a menstrual cycle pleasurable. 

Having sex while someone is having their period might make some people uncomfortable, but for others, it can add excitement and ease. For example, sometimes sexual partners struggle with self-lubrication -- the ability to get and stay wet during sex. Menstrual blood can be a natural lubricant, making intercourse easier.

Because the vagina and vulva (genital organs outside the body) are swollen with blood during menstruation, some people have heightened sensitivity that makes sex more pleasurable.

Period sex can also ease period symptoms. Having sex while having your period may relieve cramps, because sexual activity releases endorphins that lessen pain. Sex may also help relieve headaches or migraine pain for some people.

Make sure you talk to your partner about their comfort level before trying period sex. At times, it can be messy, and some people may not enjoy it.

Myths and Misconceptions about Period Sex

A common misconception about period sex is that you can’t or should not have sex during your period. You can have sex while on your period but there are some risks to be aware of.

Risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Unprotected sex (sex without a condom or other contraceptive) increases the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Some STDs, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), can be passed on more easily during period sex.

To avoid this risk, you can use the barrier method of contraception. That means placing a type of wall in between you and your reproductive organs to prevent skin-to-skin contact. Examples of contraceptives appropriate for this include male condoms, female condoms, and dental dams, depending on the type of sex you are having.

Risk of Pregnancy

In addition to STDs, unprotected sex can also lead to pregnancy, even during your period. To prevent unwanted pregnancy, use birth control such as a condom, diaphragm, or intrauterine device (IUD) or birth control pills. Talk to your doctor to determine what form of birth control is right for you.

How to Explore Period Sex (Solo or with Partner)

Whenever you are trying a new sexual activity, be sure to get consent from all partners involved; this helps ensure boundaries are respected. Communicate your needs, expectations, and emotional boundaries as well.

If you are going to have penetrative sex, including the use of fingers or inserting a sex toy into your vagina, be sure to remove your tampon or menstrual cup if you are using one. Failing to do so may lead to health problems — particularly infection — later.

If you do want to try to have period sex, you may consider these additional steps:

  • Begin with sexual positions where there is less menstrual flow, such as missionary
  • Use a towel to avoid staining your bedding
  • Try sexual positions in a space that is easy to clean, such as the shower
  • Keep tissues, menstrual wipes, or a washcloth nearby
  • Continue to communicate with your partner about your needs

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Bustle: “Here’s How Often People *Actually* Have Sex On Their Periods.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Dental Dam Use.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Female Condom Use.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Male Condom Use.”

Cephalalgia: “The impact of sexual activity on idiopathic headaches: an observational study.”

Cosmopolitan: “Ask Dr. Iris: Does Having Sex Really Help With Cramps?”

Maedica — A Journal of Clinical Medicine: “Is Vaginal Sexual Intercourse Permitted during Menstruation? A Biblical (Christian) and Medical Approach.”

National Health Service: “Can you have sex during a period?”

Nemours: “Can a Girl Get Pregnant if She Has Sex During Her Period?”

Psychology Today: “What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like?”

Rape, Abuse, and Icest National Network: “What Consent Looks Like.”

Seventeen: “What Happens If You Have Sex with a Tampon In?”

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