Period sex gets a bad rep. People think it’s gross, unhygienic, unsexy - you name it, we’ve heard it. In a survey by Bodyform, only 20% of people said that the idea of period sex ‘doesn’t both them at all’, with an alarming 78% saying the idea of it was either ‘disgusting’ or ‘not great’.
But period sex is not only totally normal, it can be the hottest sex you’ve ever had. Plus, getting down and dirty between the sheets on your period can even help with some of your dreaded menstrual side effects.
Yep, that’s right. Due to the powerful hormones and neurotransmitters that get released in your brain and throughout your body during sex, the numerous benefits of sex during your cycle might surprise you.
To set the record straight, here are the most common myths and questions about sex and periods explained by a Sexologist.
Are you hornier on your period?
Ever noticed that you feel particularly frisky when you’re on your period? You’re not alone! There are a couple of things going on in your mind and in your body during your cycle that may cause this.
Firstly, as Sex Therapist Dr Jack Morin explains, anticipation and longing are huge aphrodisiacs when it comes to sex and erotisicm. This means that when we feel we can’t have sex, we crave it even more. This might sound frustrating and counter intuitive, but have you ever been turned on by a long distance lover or partner? Or been driven absolutely crazy when being teased in the bedroom? Or perhaps you’ve found yourself fantasising about somebody you can’t have?
If that sounds familiar, plus you think you “can’t” have sex on your period, this denial might become a huge (sub-conscious) turn on! The more you feel you can’t get off, the more you may want to.
Plus, there is strong evidence to suggest that your sex drive also spikes during your period due to your hormone levels. This is because the hormones oestrogen and progesterone have a huge impact on libido, and the levels of these hormones in your body change drastically throughout your cycle.
In a nutshell, oestrogen promotes libido and desire, while progesterone suppresses it. At the beginning of your period, your oestrogen levels drop. But after 2 or 3 days it starts to rise again and keeps on building. At the same time, your progesterone levels are at their lowest.
So progesterone is low, and oestrogen is high, and voila, you feel ready for action!
Can pleasure help with period cramps?
We should never underestimate the power of sex and pleasure when it comes to our bodies.
It has been proven time and again that sex and plessure are beneficial to both our physical and our mental health. There is also a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggests sex and orgasms are an effective form of pain relief. For example, a 2020 study on period pain and masturbation, found that 90% of women would recommend masturbation as a way to reduce menstrual cramps and pain.
This is partly because sex, pleasure and orgasms release powerful hormones and neurotransmitters in our brain and throughout our bodies. Each chemical has a different purpose and resulting health benefit.
For example, endorphins are a form of hormone that are naturally produced in your pituitary gland and hypothalamus within the brain, and are released during pleasurable activities such as exercise, laughing and sex. They can also boost your mood. This is why people talk about getting a ‘runner’s high’ after a workout, or get the giggles during sex!
Endorphins are also the body’s natural pain relievers. It has been shown that their presence makes pain far more tolerable, which is why our body also releases them when we suffer from some form of physical trauma, such as rolling an ankle.
The presence of endorphins partially explains why being spanked during sex can feel amazing, but the exact same spank when you’re not aroused really hurts! We basically have a higher pain threshold when our body is pumping full of endorphins.
So, in the context of period cramps you can see why sex could be a fun, natural form of pain relief.
Period pain is the result of your uterus contracting to release its lining. When you have an orgasm, the muscles in your uterus and pelvis contract and then release. It has been suggested that this ‘release’ can bring a moment of much needed comfort.
However, as always, every body is different. Some people find that sex during their period is actually more painful, and can aggravate their cramps further. This is especially true for people who suffer from chronic pain conditions such as endometriosis.
As always, listen to your body, communicate to your partner, and do what feels best for you.
Can sex and pleasure help with other menstrual side effects?
It sure can! The cocktail of hormones released when we feel pleasure can have a whole heap of positive side effects during your time of the month.
For example, the hormone dopamine (also known as the happiness hormone) is released during orgasm, and is what makes us feel desire, pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. This is especially beneficial if you suffer from mood swings or anxiety during your period.
We also experience a surge in oxytocin after sex, which is what gives us feelings of love, connection and attachment. If you tend to feel a little emotionally vulnerable or needy during your period, sex can help you feel closer to your partner and give you the connection you are needing.
Can you get pregnant on your period?
Despite what old wives’ tales tell us, you can get pregnant during sex on your period. Although it’s unlikely, remember to use your regular form of contraception.
How to have great period sex:
It’s starting to sound like periods and sex can be perfect together after all. Here are our top tips for making the experience as hot as possible for everyone involved.
Listen to your body
Remember, you are the master of your own body, and only you know what feels fun, sexy, and hot for you.
Although period sex in the shower might sound like a great idea for one person (no messy bed sheets!), the idea of standing upright in a slippery, brightly lit room with cramps could be another person’s idea of hell.
Remember, although period sex feels very similar to regular sex, you might notice some different sensations. For example, many people feel more sensitive in your vulva due to increased blood flow. This could feel amazing (more sensation!), or could mean gentler stimulation feels better.
Also, the cervix tends to sit lower at the end of your cycle as your womb is heavier, which means deeper penetration may feel uncomfortable during your period.
Listen to your body, and ask yourself what you are craving.
Talk to your partner
How you feel about period sex might be very different to how your partner feels, and it takes empathetic communication to make sure you are both on the same page.
Whether your partner bleeds or not, they might hold some of their own prejudices or miconceptions when it comes to sex and periods. They therefore might need a bit of sex-positive reasurance that period sex is totally safe, normal, and can be great for both of you.
According to a 2011 study, published in Feminism & Psychology exploring attitudes towards period sex, people who got periods attributed their nervouness about period sex to partner discomfort and the emotional implications of dealing with that discomfort. Basically, people were too nervous about what their partner would think, and wanted to prioritise their partners’ needs.
Even if you’re both totally cool with it, it’s often a good idea to let somebody know before turning their bedsheets into a crime scene if you can help it!
As with anything, it’s better to be as clear and transparent as possible, and keep a curious and open mind to your partner's feelings and perspectives. If they are unsure about it, explain why it’s not a big deal (it feels great and is safe and fun for both people - plus you’re super horny). If you are unsure, explain what’s worrying you (your flow is too heavy, your cramps are too bad, you’re not feeling sexual - whatever it is). And in return, listen to each other's perspective and respect your boundaries.
Some people will find it easy to talk about their cycle with complete openness, while other people won’t. But practising normalising the conversation is a great start. Generally speaking, euphemisms don’t help as they can lead to misunderstandings.
If you’re wanting to bring it up for the first time with a partner and are not sure how they will feel, you could try something like “I’m feeling super turned on tonight would love to connect sexually with you. I’m on my period and I know that’s not something we’ve done before. Is that something you’d be into?” If the answer isn’t a “hell yes!”, without defensiveness ask some follow up questions to understand what their uncertainty is (messy bed sheets, getting light-headed when they see blood, misinformed hygiene worries etc.) and see if you can use some of our tips to make you both feel comfortable. It’s also okay to start slow - perhaps using a toy or keeping to only external play - and in time you both might feel differently.
As with anything, consent is vital. So remember if your partner is uncomfortable, you shouldn’t make them do anything they don’t want to do. But open, empathetic, sex-positive communication is a great first step to understanding their concerns and creating a happy, consentual environment where you can both explore.
Towels or drop sheets
For many people, laying down a dark towel onto the bed will be all that it takes to enjoy period sex without worrying about the mess.
Even though it may feel like more when you see blood in the shower, the average person only loses 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood over the course of their 4-7 day cycle. A couple of towels or a drop sheet should be enough to save your bed spread!
If either you or your partner are struggling with the idea of period sex for any reason, introducing a toy like a dildo or a vibrator could help you get out of your head and into your body.
The Darcy is a great versatile option. Its longer arm and curved end is perfect for internal g-stop exploration, but it can also be used externally on the clitoris and vulva if you’re not in the mood for penetration while you’re menstruating. It also has 8 different vibration functions, from super gentle to very powerful. This means you can increase or decrease the level of intensity, depending on where your body is at.
Consider alternatives to V penetration
If - for whatever reason - you are not vibing penetrative period sex, remember that “sex” doesn’t ever need to invovle penetration. You can get all of the same pleasure benefits from a mutual masturbation session, a sensual massage, or external clitoris stimulation with your fingers or fave sex toy.
The Quinn by NORMAL is a great example. Instead of penetration or vibration, it uses pulses of air pressure to stimulate the clitoris with a sensation that replicates amazing oral sex. A great option if your body is craving something different during your period.
Plus, for those that enjoy anal sex, your period is a great time to enjoy that too!
If you’re really worried about making a mess, options that don’t involve vaginal penetration are also great because you can still enjoy them with a tampon, cup, or pair of period undies on. Just lie back and enjoy.
Remember to never wear a tampon during penetrative vaginal sex - it could get lost, which can be really dangerous.
Even though we might feel super wet and slippery down there, period sex is still enhanced by using lube.
This is because we might be a little bit more sensitive, and blood doesn’t have the same lubricating qualities that the vagina natually produces during sex.
In addition, lube always makes outercourse, cliteral stimulation and sex toys feel much better, and is always essential for any form of anal play.
Finally, consider what position might make period sex feel best for you.
Missionary is a great one, as gravity helps keep things from getting too messy! Spooning is also a great option, as it feels cosy and comforting, and doesn’t involve too much deep thrusting which might be uncomfortable.
Good luck and enjoy!