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Q&A: Sex During Menstruation

November 26, 2013
The CSPH

howlingwolfEach week, The CSPH answers questions asked on our site and through social media outlets like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. This week’s question is:

How do I get period play into my sex life without freaking my partner out?

Sex during menstruation has been a taboo subject for too long, perhaps because menstruation has always been perceived as private, mysterious, and undesirable. Most adolescents develop a negative attitude towards menstruation as soon as, if not before, they reach puberty. Periods are viewed as a disgusting and embarrassing hygienic disaster that a vulva-owner is expected to secretly yet ferociously handle. Sometimes, the last thing a menstruating person or their partner is thinking about is messing around with the “mess” between their legs. However, they might be missing out on many perks.

Historically, menstruating women were perceived to be carrying unknown evil forces and their husbands and members of the community were strongly discouraged from even coming in contact with them during this period. The notion of “Niddah” is a perfect example of such beliefs. Considering that at any given time one in five fertile vulva-owners is dripping blood between their legs, such alienation seems absurd. Today, we know that most hygienic concerns regarding menstrual blood lack scientific backing; in fact, menstrual blood carries an abundance of anti-bacterial agents. Moreover, it is highly praised for its promising medical potential in the scientific community. There is no reason to fear playtime in the crimson waves because of sickness or dirtiness.

Furthermore, sex during menstruation can be an extra rewarding experience for the audacious play partners. Many vulva-owners report a higher sex drive during their period due to the low progesterone levels, as progesterone is a libido inhibitor. Orgasms help reduce the intensity of cramps and flush out the blood lining at a higher rate, which could mean a shorter period. As an extra bonus, the swelling of the vaginal canal also provides a tighter grip, and, though it may take a while to get used to the idea, think about the wonderful lubricating power of menstrual blood! Your period might just turn out to be your favorite time of the month.

With all this glory ahead, how do you actually prepare for this grand adventure? If you think your partner may dislike a proposal for menstrual sex, try understanding what is causing their discomfort. Is it the sight or smell of blood that makes them feel funny? Could it be the fact that the blood comes from a uterus? Are they concerned about getting blood on their body or specific parts of their body? Remember that it is as important—if not more so—to evaluate your own boundaries in this process. Once you have a basic understanding of your and your partner’s comfort level, you can begin to experiment with all the fun aspects of period play.

If seeing or smelling blood is a problem for either of you, you can easily block the flow or focus on non-vaginal sex; used correctly, tampons and menstrual cups do a decent job at catching the blood. Some menstrual gear such as diaphragms and Softcup allow for blood-free vaginal penetration as they can be worn during sex, while tampons and silicone cups (e.g. Diva Cup, Keeper Cup, etc.) have to be removed before vaginal penetration. If vaginal sex still does not seem very appealing, try mutual masturbation or having some oral or anal fun. Our Q&As, Safer Oral Sex and Squeamish About Anal Play, may come in handy here.

Should your concern lie in blood getting on fabric, remember that the shower is the adventurous couple’s best friend. You can plan to shower together and have sex while the blood easily washes away. Or you can always finish off the fun with a toasty shower: if you prefer doing it in the bedroom or a dry place, simply lay down some towels and put them in a cold wash shortly after your fun. Experiment with positions that keep the uterus in a horizontal position—e.g. the side or missionary positions—and make sure to have some wipes handy to clear excess flow or remove dried blood.

While chances of pregnancy are lower during menstruation, a bleeding uterus is more vulnerable to STIs and HIV. At the same time, menstrual blood is still blood and could carry infections if the person is already infected. Since most menstrual gear does not prevent STIs and pregnancy, make sure to take the necessary steps to protect yourself. Wearing a condom not only helps with STI/pregnancy prevention, but also provides a barrier against menstrual blood, especially helpful if your partner is concerned with getting blood on their body. Similarly, wearing a body-safe glove will leave your hands blood-free during finger play.

Every menstruating body goes through certain changes that you and your partner want to be aware of: breast tenderness is very common and may limit heavy breast play to some extent; since the cervix slightly drops during menstruation, deep vaginal penetration may not be as pleasant; and while menstrual blood provides a nice lubrication, some vulva-owners can experience vaginal dryness. Feel free to use some of your favorite lube if any of these should occur. Pay attention to your flow and cramp pattern and decide when would be a better time for you and your partner to engage in period sex. Also, take note of other bodily changes that may be unique to you and communicate them to your partner.

Remember, most people’s limits when it comes to period sex are mental and not physical. In the short-term, you want to validate your partner’s discomfort and address it by choosing the best method that accommodates your boundaries. In the long-run, you and your partner can work together to develop a more positive attitude towards menstruation. Menstrual blood may seem disturbing and uncomfortable at first, but at the end of the day it’s just another bodily fluid that comes out of vulvas, and not a scary monster.

  • Myssie

    Please don’t forget about sea sponges. I cannot say enough good things about the sponges (I use sea pearl), they are great for those who find cups uncomfortable and you can have sex with it in!
    My male partner (who wears condoms) swears he doesn’t notice it. It changed our sex life, I have short cycles and menstruate twice each month. Sex helps with cramping and the emotional roller coaster of life. With sponges we don’t have to forgo anything.