Yes, you can have sex on your period

12 min read

There’s still so much women don’t know about their periods. And if you’ve been wondering if it’s OK to have sex on your period, we have the answer you’ve been looking for.  

Periods. The most integral part of the female experience. Your mum has them, your nan had them and your daughter will have them. Yet there are still so many of us who know so very little about them.

Most know that it’s part of your monthly menstruation cycle that prepares your body for pregnancy, but beyond that? So. Many. Questions. Like, why is my period irregular? Why do I bleed so much? Why am I not getting mine? When am I most fertile? Should I use tampons, a menstrual cup or period undies? What is cycle hacking? And can I have sex on my period? According to a recent survey of Aussie women by sanitary-product brand Moxie, this is the most FAQ.

And if you were also wondering, we’re going to give you the answer once and for all.

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But first…

The REAL question we should all be asking is: why all the mystery? Shouldn’t we know all this stuff about our own bodies?

Moxie founder Mia Klitsas says it’s because we’re still trying to shake off the taboo around menstruation. “Periods have a long history of being perceived as something that’s embarrassing or shameful [because menstrual bleeding has been deemed to be] dirty and unhygienic,” she tells us.

“Over time, society has conditioned us to believe that periods are something to be ‘hidden’ and should be managed privately and discreetly. This stigma not only affects the way we feel about our periods, but our bodies, too, and ultimately impacts how we manage our intimate health.” That’s a stark warning, because the less we talk about it to each other, to our friends, to our mums and our daughters, the less we all know.

Upsettingly, the Moxie survey revealed that almost half (48 per cent) of Aussie women don’t fully understand the ins and outs of their period, and yet one in five feel embarrassed, ashamed or judged when talking about menstruation.

So in our efforts to be part of the solution and not the problem, body+soul is here to answer some of those questions you may be wondering about but are too embarrassed to ask. So…

Can you have sex on your period?

The short answer is YES. The long answer involves asking yourself whether you want to and what that involves.

Sexologist Jacqueline Hellyer suggests you “go with your flow”. She says your menstrual cycle affects how you interact with the world and you need to “experience it from the inside out, not the other way around”. In other words you need to let your body and emotions guide your decisions – not what society says is OK or what your partner wants.

For some, she explains, your period is an inward time where you feel like being gentler on yourself – especially at the beginning where you may be experiencing a heavier flow, cramping and moodiness (if that’s how you experience your period, that is). So sex may be the furthest thing from your mind.

Indeed 41 per cent of the women surveyed said they stop having sex during their period, and one in three stop masturbating, but 67 per cent say they feel horny during this time of their cycle. So there’s clearly an overlap here where there are some women who WANT to have sex and orgasm, but are too embarrassed to do so. If you’re one of them, read on.

Period sex: separating fact from fiction

Before you get too excited, the first thing you need to know is that your period doesn’t protect you from the usual risks of unprotected sex – you can still catch an STD or fall pregnant during menstruation. If that’s not an issue for you, then there’s no reason why your period should get in the way of your pleasure.

And pleasure is the name of the game. “Orgasm releases chemicals including endorphins, serotonin and dopamine – all of which serve to relax the body and improve mood,” says Dr Pav Nanayakkara. So whether it’s partnered or solo sex, you’re guaranteed a mood boost, which is always a welcome side effect.

And what about all the other good stuff you’ve heard can come from masturbating or having sex while menstruating? Those are all things that affect everyone differently and different ways.

Like, can an orgasm shorten your period? Please, doc, say this one is true. “In theory, anything that increases the contractions of the uterus could potentially increase the speed at which the lining is pushed out or ‘shed’,” Dr Pav explains. “ However, this is a theoretical assumption only, and there is nothing to say the difference may only be a reduction of a few minutes or hours of your period rather than days. It certainly would not be advised as a treatment option for women with heavy periods.” Oh well…

And what about the one where it’s said orgasm can relieve period cramps? “During orgasm, certain chemicals are released that can have a pain-relieving effect to help improve menstrual cramps, as well as relieve stress and tension to assist with mood symptoms,” she says. “But pain is a complex concept and the same principles of pain relief do not apply to everyone. There are some conditions, such as endometriosis and fibroids, that can result in very painful, distressing periods and for women with these conditions, the changes in chemicals may have little effect on their pain.”

And relief from migraines? “Some studies by neuroscientists and neurologists overseas have suggested that orgasms play a role in migraine relief,” Dr Pav says. “Although the studies are only small, about 60 per cent of participants in a German study had relief of their migraines with sexual activity. A study in the US examining how a woman’s pain tolerance could be improved by 75 per cent by orgasm, found increased activity in the areas of the brain that reduce and manage pain.” Well that sounds promising. Still, you’ve got nothing to lose, right?

OK, now what about all that blood?

Jacqueline reminds us that penetration is not the only way to orgasm. You can still wear a tampon or a menstrual cup, or keep your clothes on entirely, and still have a very satisfying sexual experience – either with your partner or on your own.

You can still climax cleanly with outercourse and if you want to have penetrative sex, either put a towel down over your sheets, or hit the shower for some good, clean – and dirty – fun.

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