Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
Periods aren't always fun. Personally, mine likes to make a grand entrance with at least two days of relentlessly unpleasant symptoms. And what I mean by that is that it feels like there's a dinosaur curb-stomping my uterus. But aside from cramping, I've never felt embarrassed by or resentful of my period—it's just my body doing its thing. That being said, I do notice a stigma around it once sex is brought into the conversation. When I spoke with my friends about their thoughts on having sex during your period recently, many of them didn't even know it was safe and healthy to have sex while menstruating. So I reached out to the relationship, sex, reproductive specialist, author, and doula Erica Chidi Cohen behind LOOM, a wellness hub and educational community in Los Angeles, to pick her brain about all things period- and sex-related.
As someone who gives people the tools to feel empowered by and connected to their bodies and minds, we knew she'd be the perfect person to ask about sex during your period. "I think, historically, there's the idea that during your period, your body is unclean. That's the more negative connotation and mythology. In a more positive light, in some cultures, it's that a woman's body is very sacred and needs to restore or recharge during that process." In both interpretations, there's a similar desire to regulate the female body and not give much public attention to it. But the thing is, our lifestyles and bodies pretty much revolve around our periods (not that we're defined by them, to state the obvious). "We're always building up or coming down from it," Chidi Cohen says, which is one of many reasons we might as well talk about it.
And while there's a common misconception that periods aren't often discussed, at least not in a positive way, she does notice a shift. "There's a lot more interest in bodily fluids," as well as "sexuality, sex positivity, queerness, and gender fluidity … and this conversation is bucketed into a more expansive conversation about how your period fits into your life with your partner." Of course, one's level of openness depends on what they've been exposed to and experienced, so it varies. But if you'd like to learn more about it, you're in the right place. Now that we've begun debunking the stigmatizing mythology and social messaging around bodily functions, let's get to the fun part: How to maximize pleasure during menstruation. Scroll through to find out what you should know about having sex on your period so both you and your partner will enjoy it.
As with everything, personal preference varies. Some women may not enjoy having sex while they're on their period because of some of the symptoms, while others enjoy it the most. But as Chidi Cohen explains, "women tend to be more aroused" while they're on their period "because there's more blood flow to the labia and vagina." So if you've never tried it, now you have a good reason to give it a go.
Chidi Cohen explains that sex best practices are specific to how heavy your flow is. For example, if you have a heavy period, "you might be less likely to need lubricant because there is blood there," but if it's light, you may still want to use lubricant. In general, "more lubricant will create less mess." When it comes to choosing a lube, she recommends using one that's "water-based, not silicone- or oil-based, especially if you're still planning to use a condom since those" tend to erode them.
Track Your Period
One of the best ways to prepare for healthy, enjoyable sex during your period is to track it. She swears by Clue, an app that is “all about optimizing and understanding your cycle.” If you track your cycle, you can also share it with your long-term partner, if that happens to be your relationship status (more on that to come). This way, they'll know when you're time is coming so they can just be part of the process too, which can be super helpful. And speaking of bringing your partner into the mix, it's great to talk about what feels good while you have sex on your period, as it may differ from your experience during other times in your cycle. For example, you might be more sensitive, which can be awesome for arousal, but it can also result in overstimulation. The key is to keep lines of communication open.
How to Do It
Now for the nitty-gritty. First, "if you’re going to have sex, and you typically use a tampon or pad, sit on the toilet, bare down (like a bowel movement) and try to gush out any collecting blood.” Then lay a towel out on the area you'll be having sex. Or, "put in a menstrual cup. Chidi Cohen suggests trying Flex Cup, a soft disposable menstrual cup that is inserted into the vagina for several hours to catch the blood. It works by “closing off the entry way of the cervix," and if you don't have a history of UTIs, you can even leave it overnight and not have to worry about cleaning up afterward. Speaking of UTIs, she swears by D-Mannose, a supplement that prevents UTIs by keeping the lining of your urethra slippery so the bacteria can't attach, and instead flushes out when you urinate.
She also says the partner won't feel it, though she does mention that "it could be a concern if your cervix seems pretty low and you don't like deep penetration." As for positions, there aren't any that'll be better or worse during sex. But if your partner doesn't want to get too close to the cervix, Chidi Cohen says to avoid "positions that allow for very deep penetration." Also, remember that a menstrual cup “isn’t a spermicide or diaphragm, it just collects and mitigates the bleeding.”
How to Talk About It
If you're nervous to bring it up with a partner, or you want to have casual sex and don't know your partner as well, Chidi Cohen has a few conversation tips up her sleeve, so don't worry. If you're out or going on a date, "and there's a chance you might have sex, bringing a Flex cup is still a good idea." But before you use one for the first time, just try it out overnight without sex to get comfy with it and see how it feels in your body. And then just let them know, "'Hey, I thought I'd let you know that I'm on my period, but I'm comfortable having sex right now,' and then it won't be a whole big deal." Because "if you are still down to have sex, why deny yourself the pleasure if you have the tools?" Good question. Plus, who knows, you may even "open them up to exploring that time of the month with other partners."
Did you find this helpful? Let's talk about it! Let us know if you have any other questions about having sex during your period in the comments below.