The Honest, Expert-Backed Truth About Having Sex While on Your Period

Don't worry, your time of the month doesn't need to mean time off from sex.

“A horror show.”
“Ew, disgusting.”
“I’m not into that crazy shit.”
“Step back.”

The above are a sample of responses I’ve received from partners when I disclosed I was on my period.

I always preface any kind of sexual activity by making it clear if I am menstruating, in case that might make my partner uncomfortable—because it does. For a lot of people. While this feedback didn’t put me off the great joys of period sex, it made me wary of sexual partners who treat a simple bodily function as something disgusting or shameful.

That being said, I’ve also had wonderful period sex experiences, where my partners expressed only curiosity and eagerness, which adds to the arousal.

One of the best representations I’ve seen of how normal period sex can be was in an episode of HBO’s I May Destroy You, when lead character Arabella (Michaela Coel) is in bed with Biagio (Marouane Zotti), a very hot Italian man. When he pulls off her underwear, he takes her liner with it, and when he then fingers her, he asks if he can remove her tampon. He even examines the blood clot that falls into his hand as he fingers her, asking polite questions about what it is, admiring its softness. It’s a touching, sensual scene with zero stigma—and totally realistic.

“The world has taught us lots of menstrual shame, and releasing that to make space for pleasure is very empowering—whether you have period sex or not,” explains Luna Matatas, a Toronto-based sex and pleasure educator. “Having an enthusiastic and non-shaming partner can be really healing for menstruating partners.”

If period sex sounds like something you want to try, you probably have more than a few questions, so let’s tackle them with some expert advice.

Discussing period sex can be awkward. Any advice for broaching the topic?

Start before things get steamy.

“Try having a conversation outside of sex and of your period to get a sense of what their take on period sex is. It may be a non-issue or you may discover it’s a solid ‘nope.’ But this conversation can be a lovely opener into all kinds of non-vulva or non-penetrative-focused sexual pleasure that is possible,” says Matatas.

It’s also totally OK to not want to have sex while on your period. And to be clear, not being in the mood does not mean you are obligated to perform oral sex on your partner.

“But many people do experience more horniness during their period due to hormonal changes,” says Matatas. Those changes include, for a cisgender woman, a rise in estrogen levels, which Matatas explains can make it easier to reach orgasm and experience greater sensitivity. What’s not to love?

OK, so how does having sex on your period work? 

Period sex functions exactly like regular sex, with this wonderful plus: you’ll have more and natural lubrication due to the menstrual blood. Although you might want to protect your sheets or wherever you decide to hook-up. More on that below.

Right, isn’t period sex super messy?

Absolutely, one cannot wax poetic about period sex without addressing the sheer messiness of it all. Because yes, it gets wet, it gets bloody and it gets potentially everywhere. But there are ways to take cover. If you want to keep the focus on stimulating the clitoris, for example, you can wear a tampon, tampon sponge or menstrual cup (ones that are particularly comfortable during penetration include SoftDiscs or Ziggy Cups). For lighter blood flow, you can also try using internal condoms, also called female condoms.

Otherwise, dark towels are your friend. Some people have a jerk-off towel, why can’t you have a period towel? You can also put down disposable incontinent pads, a mattress protector or waterproof sex blankets (like this one or this one), which are also called “squirt sheets.”

(Related: We Tried Knix’s Super Leakproof Period Underwear)

Can you have unprotected sex while your period?

The answer here is the same whether you’re on your period or not. Because like other bodily fluids (e.g. semen, vaginal fluids), blood can transmit sexually transmitted infections (STIs)—so using a condom is still important.

Dr. Christine Derzko, a physician at St. Michael’s Hospital and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Toronto, says simply, “It’s not wise.” Why? “Because rarely— but sometimes—there is enough estrogen and therefore cervical mucus there to nourish sperm and give them a place to survive until ovulation. It’s also easier to pick up an STI during your period.”

(Related: Sex After 40: The Shocking Truth No One Talks About)

Wait, is it possible to get pregnant from period sex?  

Pregnancy is totally possible (though less of a risk during menstruation) as sperm can still easily find a warm home as Derzko noted above. If getting pregnant is not of interest, other than condoms, you can also turn to birth control, dental dams and gloves. 

Can having sex affect your period? For instance, does having sex on your period make you bleed more?

It’s complicated. “Male or female orgasmic release can change your cycle’s bleeding via a rise in prostaglandins (lipid compounds that are found in human tissue and have hormone-esque effects), which are involved both in coagulation and in cramping,” says Derzko. “That can lead to potentially less bleeding, more or less cramps, while the female orgasm can relieve some of those cramps.” 

So, sex can affect your period cramps?

Yes. In fact, many experts consider this one of the major potential benefits of period sex. Because an orgasm can release those kinds of chemicals—oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins—that make you feel happy, period sex can also ease the pain of cramping, and that is a true win.

However, not everyone agrees. Dr. Gail E. Robinson, a physician at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, says the belief that sex can ease any kind of period pain is nothing more than “an old wives’ tale.” It seems more than a few things when it comes to women’s health are still up for debate, but the divisiveness here might be all the more reason to experiment. Wink wink. 

Will having period sex postpone your period?

No, period sex won’t delay your menstrual cycle, unless of course you get pregnant, in which case…yes, by about nine months.

Robinson explains, “When your period begins and ends has nothing to do with sex. Your period is determined by chemicals that are secreted from an area of your brain, go down to your ovaries, tell your ovaries to start producing an egg, then the system goes back to your brain and it tells different chemicals to come out and tells that egg to be released.”

(Related: Can Cannabis Help Kick-Start My Sex Drive?)

Is it possible to have better sex on your period?

Blood can be quite beautiful—sexy even—if you let it.

“You can eroticize your period,” says Matatas. “We do it with jizz through facials and body shots, but blood can be that way, too.”

For example, she says, here are some things you can do while having sex on your period that you can’t at other times of the month: body blood stamping, which can be a part of primal play or dominance and submission. Or watch menstruation together in the mirror while masturbating or touching each other and possibly discover a new sensual element together.

If and when you do give it a shot, it’s worth remembering: regular sex is super messy with sweat, sperm, discharge and even breast milk in some bedrooms. Fluids are our friends, not something worth taking an entire seven days off.

Next: Samantha Bitty Knows Good Sex (and Wants You to Know It, Too)