The ultimate guide to sex on your period

As part of Sexual Health Month, the experts at Clue outline everything you need-to-know about having sex while on your period

Sexual activity during menstruation has historically been framed as a taboo in many cultures. However, since women and people with cycles menstruate for roughly one quarter of each month, avoiding sex during menstruation often requires negotiation or discomfort in relationships. This is especially frustrating when we consider that taboos around period sex are archaic and outdated—in the 21st Century, we know for a fact that there is nothing “dirty” or “dangerous” about menstrual blood.

In fact, sex during menstruation can be healthy and even has certain benefits. Some women may notice increased arousal during their period and find that period sex strengthens their connection with their partner. There’s also anecdotal evidence that the hormones released during orgasm can help to reduce menstrual cramps!

If you don’t feel like engaging in sexual activities during your period—or ever—that’s also totally fine. Masturbation during your period is always an option and has similar benefits. But if you’re considering engaging in period sex, and you don’t know where to start, here’s everything you need to know about enjoying this perfectly normal and healthy practice:

You might need to plan ahead

3 Tampons with purple glitter on them

How period sex is approached is unique to each couple and what they are comfortable with. It’s best to talk to your partner before engaging in period sex, to make sure you’re both on the same page and that you agree on how to go about it.

Some couples might prefer to have shower sex while menstruating to make it less messy, whilst others will wear a tampon up until intercourse and then use lubrication (although it should be noted that, if following this method, you must make sure you remove your tampon first). Some couples might prefer to lay a towel underneath them, while others might enjoy getting a bit messy. As long as all partners are comfortable with the situation, there is no reason to avoid having sex while menstruating.

You still need to use contraception

Concept with Oral contraceptive, Emergency Pills, Injection Contraceptive and Male Condom

You can get pregnant if you have sex on your period. Your fertile window—the time in your cycle when you are most likely to become pregnant—depends on various environmental and physiological factors, and can still fall within the week of your period. This means conception can still occur if you have unprotected sex during your period.

People with predictable, typical-length (24 to 38 days) menstrual cycles are less likely to be in their fertile window during or right after their period, while people with short or unpredictable cycles are more likely to be in their fertile window during menstruation.

On top of this, if you ovulate early in your cycle—which is more likely as you age—your fertile window can overlap with your period. If you don’t want to become pregnant, use a condom or other form of birth control every time you have sex, including when you menstruate.

Be aware of the risk of STDs

Menstrual blood can change the pH of your vagina, increasing the likelihood of contracting an STI from a partner who is infected with one. As well as this, if you have period sex in the shower, the water can impact the effectiveness of a condom (or increase the risk of it falling off), so you may want to avoid the shower method if you are worried about contracting STDs.

Condoms are important when having period sex with an untested or new partner. Use barrier methods like condoms and dental dams with an untested or new sexual partner during both penetrative and oral sex to reduce STI risks (although this is a habit you should always be practicing, whether you’re on your period or not!).

Read more: The history of Fashion Week

Read more: The evolving language of sexualities

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter