Sex during periods. As a sexual health educator, I am asked about this subject a lot.
“Do other couples do it?” “How does it work?” “Will I get pregnant?”
There are some myths and half-truths floating around about sex during a period, so I’m going to try to set the record straight…
Can you have sex on your period?
Yes. But like all issues surrounding sex, communication is critical. This means checking in with your partner. Depending on whether you’re the one menstruating or not, questions might include: “How do you feel during your period? Would you ever want to have sex while you’re menstruating?” or “I’m on my period right now. How do you feel about having sex while I’m menstruating?” For many folks who menstruate, sexual desire changes during different times of the menstrual cycle. For example, a person might experience increased desire during menstruation or ovulation – it all depends on the person. Be sure to talk about desires and feelings to ensure everyone is on the same page from the beginning.
Is having sex on your period bad for you?
No. Having sex while one or more partners are on their period is not harmful. In fact, there are a few ways in which it might be helpful! First, the contractions of orgasm might help relieve menstrual cramping. Second, sex might feel particularly great because the vagina can become super lubricated from menstrual secretions. If you or your partner worry about a mess from the blood, consider spreading out a towel or having sex in the shower to minimize post-coital cleaning.
Can I get pregnant if I have sex while on my period?
Yes. We get a lot of questions about specific situations on this – but the short answer is always “yes, it’s possible to get pregnant at any time during a menstrual cycle.” To put that in writing again – if you have unprotected vaginal/penile intercourse during your period, it is possible to get pregnant. This can happen if you have sex before, during or after your period.
You are most likely to get pregnant if you have sex around the time of ovulation. Ovulation is when an egg is released from the ovary, and it usually occurs about 14 days after the start of your last period. Many women have unpredictable ovulation or may have spotting at the time of ovulation, which could be confused with a period.
Plus, sperm can live in a vagina for up to five days. Yup, five days. So if an egg comes around at any point during that time, you could become pregnant.
If you have had penile-vaginal sex without contraception and you don’t want to get pregnant, consider Emergency Contraception (such as Plan B, ella, Plan B One Step or a Copper IUD). Many of these are available at most pharmacies over the counter and are pretty darn effective for up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
There are more reliable methods of contraception than Emergency Contraception. We encourage you to speak with your pharmacist or medical provider about contraception options that might work for you.
Are other people having sex on their period?
Based on the number of folks who are reading this blog article – yup. But really, it doesn’t matter if other folks are doing it or not. Having sex during menstruation is a personal decision, so we cannot stress enough–talk with your partner to see how they feel. If nothing else it can be another opportunity to get to know your partner and their likes, dislikes and comfort level.
This article has been edited for clarity and updated formatting since it’s original publishing date.
Most recent edit: March 1, 2016