Truth: I’m a hot mess during my period. I’m bloated and moody, and my boobs hurt like hell. Every inch of my body aches and my uterus thanks whomever developed on-demand in-home massage services. I scarf chocolate like there’s an impending zombie apocalypse. Most notably, though, is how high my sex drive is during my period. And more specifically the day before I bleed, when I want constant clitoral play and penetrative sex. And if I can’t have it IRL, I marathon masturbate. It’s one way to MacGyver your period pain away.
I’m no medical professional, but can attest to all the wonderful ways orgasms have helped my mental and physical health. At a time when my PMS symptoms are the absolute worst, sex helps alleviate my cramps and extreme mood swings. Orgasms increase blood flow and release into the brain a cocktail of chemicals, including the happy hormone oxytocin, which is basically nature’s off-brand version of Advil.
“The strength and intensity of an orgasm can relieve cramps,” Judith Golden, a registered sex therapist in Toronto, told Best Health magazine. “Women who masturbate often report it helps relieve menstrual cramps and even improve the symptoms of PMS, such as irritability and crankiness.”
According to a 2017 Time article, the average adult enjoys sex 54 times a year, or a little more than once a week. I’m well above average, yet still want more. In my perfect world, I’d have sex every single day, multiple times if I could finagle partner participation. During my period — I want it nonstop. It can be a messy situation, but I love period sex like nobody’s business. Like, I love it-love it.
But why does this happen? And is it just me, or do other menstruators have the same experience?
Turns out vulva-owners may feel a little more in the mood during their period because they feel safe from risk of pregnancy, OB-GYN Dr. Carolyn DeLucia tells SheKnows.
“Unfortunately, this is not always completely safe either,” she says. “Women who have short cycles, for example only 21 days between periods, will ovulate on Day 7. Sperm lives for 72 hours, so even though they are still bleeding on Day 4 and have sex, they can get pregnant.”
DeLucia points out that women may also experience an increase in arousal around ovulation (Week 3 in a four-week cycle). “With our hormone fluctuations, we naturally are more interested mid-cycle with ovulation,” DeLucia says. “The peaks of estrogen at that point makes our libido spike, and we desire sex more.” Maybe it’s our evolutionary drive to reproduce or the fact that we’re more fertile within this window, but sex seems to heat up around this date.
Hormonal contraception blocks ovulation, so it may dull libido. “Many women notice a decrease in libido while on oral contraception,” DeLucia notes. “Hormonal IUDs do not have this influence, as they do not stop ovulation.”
Other factors that may affect libido include work and stress, which can also affect our mood. “When we are stressed and unhappy, it’s rare to feel interested in sex,” says DeLucia. So depending upon your birth control, it may work for or against your sex drive. Take note.
The bottom line: There’s a definite connection between your sex drive and menstrual cycle. Some people with vulvas may feel increased sexual energy during ovulation. For others, it’s during their actual period.
Like many areas of women’s health and sexuality, there aren’t a lot of studies or research that speak to this topic. That said, biologically speaking, it makes a lot of sense that women feel extra sexy around ovulation. We do know that there’s a surge in estrogen and testosterone, which can boost a woman’s libido. Plus, from an evolutionary standpoint, chances of reproduction are more likely during this time than other stages of the menstrual cycle.
So, if you're feeling particularly sexually charged before or during your period, you're not alone. And even if you don't have a partner readily available, never be afraid to take matters into your own hands.