Heather Corinna replies:Can you have sex when you have your period? If so, how?
In fact, because there are extra fluids present, plenty of people find some kinds of sex -- like vaginal intercourse -- more pleasant during menses. People can also experience increased levels of arousal during menstruation because of decreased estrogens in their bodies at that time. For those having the kinds of sex that can result in pregnancy, the typically lower risk of pregnancy during that time of the cycle can increase their enjoyment because of less concern about pregnancy. In addition, via masturbation or partnered sex, sexual activity and orgasm can help reduce cramps and other menstrual symptoms during menstruation. At the very least, it's certainly an excellent and highly effective distraction.
Can it be messy? Of course it can. But you know, sex is usually messy in some way. If not literally, certainly emotionally and intellectually!
With most kinds of sex, we're already dealing with fluids, and ejaculate and lubricants will often stain sheets or clothing, as will menstrual flow. But someone who wants to have genital sex during their period and make things less messy can simply put a towel beneath them that's easily washed or not as likely to show bloodstains. People who want to have genital sex during menses but avoid the mess entirely can use a diaphragm (but not a cervical cap) or Instead-style menstrual cup to contain flow without obstructing the vaginal opening or canal. Or, for somebody who isn't interested in vaginal sex, but in something like external clitoral play only, it's fine to have a tampon in during that sex (though since tampons absorb vaginal fluids, extra lubricant is a good idea). Just be sure not to try and have vaginal sex with a tampon in: that's neither wise nor comfortable.
Just so you don't get freaked out if this happens, because orgasm causes extra uterine contractions, sometimes right after sex during menses, it may appear that your menstrual flow has abruptly stopped, something that sometimes causes people to worry they became pregnant right then and there. But that's not what's going on: rather, those contractions can just push out extra flow more, which means you also may end sex seeing more flow on your genitals or your partners than you did when you started. You may even have pushed out the very last of your flow, so it's not abnormal in the last few days of a period to have sex, then find flow stops. Remember that pregnancy isn't instant: it's a process that takes around a week to complete: we can't instantly become pregnant and have it change our fertility processes in an hour.
Some people won't want to have sex during their menses, and some partners may be squeamish. Sometimes, people can get freaked out by blood, which is pretty darn normal: after all, usually when we see blood it's because someone is hurt or injured, so it can tend to invoke a natural reaction of fear in us, especially if we weren't expecting to see it. Other times, that's because a person feels like there is something shameful or gross about menstruation in particular, which while common enough to call normal, tends to be based in a lack of acceptance of real -- usually women's -- bodies, as well as very sexist, archaic and uninformed ideas about menstruation. Those attitudes aren't just limited to sexual partners, either: some people feel embarrassed about or ashamed of their periods, or just feel that menstruation is a time they'd rather spend alone for any number of reasons, from religious or spiritual beliefs to a preference to lay on the couch and watch movies rather than having sex. And some people don't feel ashamed, they just don't like how it feels.
Do be aware that because there is blood in menstrual flow, some sexually transmitted infection risks can be higher for partners during menstruation, particularly for bloodborne viruses like HIV or Hepatitis. So, while safer sex is always important, it can be especially important -- particularly with more casual partners or with new sexual partners -- for sex during menstruation.
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