5 Health Benefits—and Risks—of Period Sex OBGYNs Want You to Know
Doctors share the pleasurable benefits of having period sex—as well as the risks to keep in mind.
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Does having sex during your period freak you out? If the answer is no, well, you may actually benefit greatly (wink, wink). In fact, experts say having sex during your period can actually heighten pleasure for females while also dulling some of those pesky period pains.
And yet, while there are some pleasurable differences for women during period sex, there are still precautions to take like any other session of penetrative intercourse. The Healthy @Reader’s Digest spoke with two doctors, including a board-certified gynecologist (OBGYN), to better understand how sex is similar—or different—when someone is on their period.
“Having sex on your period is perfectly safe,” says Dr. Melanie Bone, a Palm Beach-based OBGYN and member of Daye’s medical board. “Unless you have an STI, your menstrual fluid is free from pathogens and is not dangerous for your partner. In fact, it could be beneficial to have sex on your period.”
Here’s what to know before trying any type of sexual activity while menstruating.
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A period can make sex more pleasurable
“For some, [period sex] can be more pleasurable due to heightened sensitivity of the vagina and vulva during menstruation,” says Karla Robinson, MD, Medical Editor at GoodRx. “That’s because there is increased blood flow to the vagina during your period. It can also provide ease for individuals who struggle with vaginal dryness and self-lubrication. The menstrual blood can serve as a lubricant to decrease friction.”
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It can help with painful menstruation
If you’re prone to dealing with painful cramps during menstruation cycles, having period sex may actually relieve some of that pain.
“Sexual activity stimulates the pituitary gland, triggering the release of ‘feel-good hormones’ like endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin, and acetylcholine,” says Dr. Bone. “If you have an orgasm during painful menstruation, you are likely to experience fewer menstrual cramps, as orgasms release dopamine, which is a natural neurotransmitter involved in pain management.”
Period cramps may not be the only type of pain women experience during menstruation. According to Dr. Bone, “many women also experience migraines during their period, and according to one study, 70% of people who engaged in sexual activities during a migraine reported moderate to complete relief.”
It may put you at higher risk of STIs
Both Dr. Bone and Dr. Robinson point out that you can still be at risk for passing a sexually transmitted infection (STIs) when having sex on your period. In fact, research shows it may even put you at a higher risk of passing particular diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Over 20 different types of STIs can be transmitted through period sex similarly to normal sex including human papillomavirus (HPV), genital herpes, chlamydia, viral hepatitis, and more.
Be sure to remove your tampon before period sex
While this step may seem obvious before having penetrative sex on your period, Dr. Bone points out that this step can be easy to forget. “Sometimes people forget to do that and period care items get lodged inside their vaginal canal,” she says. “If this happens, often it is not noticed until there is an unpleasant odor. Luckily, a quick trip to the doctor can fix it without worrisome consequences.”
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Can you get pregnant? There’s always a possibility.
“It is a common misbelief that you can’t get pregnant if you have sex during your period,” says Dr. Robinson. “While it certainly is not as likely as during other times of the month, it is still possible.” It all has to do with one’s particular cycle; Dr. Robinson points out that an overlap of your fertile window during your period and/or the fact that sperm can live in the cervix for five days can make it a possibility of still getting pregnant.
So while the chance of getting pregnant during your period may still be small, there is always the possibility, which is why both Dr. Bone and Dr. Robinson recommend using protection even during period sex. Especially when trying to avoid the passing of any STIs.
“It is possible to get pregnant while menstruating, and it is also possible to contract an STI, as well as to pass one on,” says Dr. Bone. “Period sex is not an excuse to skip protection!”
“If you would like to prevent pregnancy, you should be sure to avoid intercourse or use some form of birth control, even when on your period,” says Dr. Robinson. “Some people also use a timing method, called the rhythm method or calendar method, to prevent pregnancy. The rhythm method involves tracking your menstrual cycle to predict when you’re ovulating. But, it’s only effective about 75% of the time with typical use.”