If the mere mention of sex while you are on your period makes you cringe, you’re not alone. The thought of getting intimate while bleeding doesn’t exactly seem like a blast, and many of us avoid it just out of fear of an extremely uncomfortable situation. But you might be surprised to find that sex during your period can actually feel great — and it doesn’t have to involve plastic sheets.
Let communication flow
The first step to feeling comfortable having sex while on your period is talking to your partner about it. Yes, some guys are a little weirded out by menstruation, but that’s mostly because they’ve never experienced it for themselves. If you have an open dialogue about that time of the month, you might be pleasantly surprised to find your significant other isn’t as squeamish about a little blood as you might have thought.
Keep it clean
OK, making a huge mess while having sex during a heavy period is a legitimate concern — and having to lay out a million towels doesn’t exactly set the mood. But there are other options.
Turns out menstrual cups are not only environmentally friendly, but they’re also a dream for women who don’t want to avoid getting off just because they’re on their period. Just make sure to wear the disposable kind (not the reusable variety), and remember that you still have to use protection — you can get pregnant or contract an STD while on your period.
“While it is easy to forget you are on your period while wearing a menstrual cup, it is important to remember that reusable menstrual cups are not a contraceptive device and should never be worn during intercourse,” Vili Petrova, creator of the Lena cup, told SheKnows.
“Disposable menstrual cups can be worn during sex, as they are positioned directly below the cervix, are made of soft material and are intended for a single use. Reusable menstrual cups are made from sturdier, long-lasting silicone and are designed to sit lower in the vaginal canal, away from the cervix, making them unsafe for use during sexual intercourse.”
And if menstrual cups aren’t really your bag, sex in the shower is always hot. Take some fun shower sex positions out for a spin.
Sex with benefits
Heavy cramping is another reason sex might sound like a chore, but a little lovemaking can actually help ease your physical pain.
“The endorphins that are released during an orgasm closely resemble morphine, and they effectively relieve pain,” says Cindy M. Meston, Ph.D., director of the sexual psychophysiology laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of Why Women Have Sex, via ABC News.
Not only that, a 2013 medical study suggests that sexual activity can lead to partial or complete relief of headache in most migraine patients. You can’t beat that with a stick.
Lighten things up
As if being a pain remedy wasn’t enough, turns out sex can also make your period lighter and shorter.
“When a woman orgasms, her uterus contracts, and in the process, rids the body of cramp-causing compounds,” says Meston. “The increased number of uterine contractions can also help expel blood and tissue more quickly, helping to end your period faster.”
Music to our ears.
Unless you’re trying to get pregnant, don’t make the mistake of having unprotected sex during your period (if you’re sleeping with a guy, that is). Just because you’re flowing doesn’t mean you aren’t ovulating. Take the same precautions you normally would, and use appropriate birth control while on your period.
You’re also more susceptible to STDs when you’re on your period because the cervix opens to allow blood to pass through.
“Unfortunately, this creates the perfect pathway for bacteria to travel deep inside the pelvic cavity,” according to Abha Khetarpal, author of Going with the Flow: A Handbook on Menstrual Management & Hygiene for Women with Disabilities. “You are also more likely to pass on blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis to a partner during your period and more likely to develop yeast or bacterial infections because the vagina’s pH during menstruation is less acidic.”
Long story short, if you’re having sex with a dude, use a condom.
What are your tips for successful sex during your period?
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.
Originally published April 2012. Updated January 2017.