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Many people question if having sex before, during, or right after their period is safe. People can continue to have sex during menstruation, but many of the considerations about infection and pregnancy remain the same.
There are also a few other factors that people may wish to take into account when considering sex during menstruation in order to make the experience as comfortable as possible.
In this article, we address some common questions related to having sex during menstruation, including the benefits and risks.
There is a risk of infection when having oral, anal, or vaginal sex, or any form of skin-to-skin genital contact — even during menstruation.
Unless a person uses birth control or has a same-sex partner, there is also a risk of pregnancy when having sex during menstruation.
We look at the possible risks of sex during menstruation below, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy:
What is the risk of infection for sex during menstruation?
There are two types of infection that may occur due to sexual activity: STIs and problems caused by changes in normal vaginal flora, such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
While yeast infections can also occur without engaging in sexual activity, people may have a higher risk of getting a yeast infection due to the hormonal changes during a period.
Vaginal-penile sex can also spread yeast infections, causing the head of the penis to become inflamed. This condition is called balanitis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate there are 20 million new sexually transmitted infections annually in the United States alone.
Sexually transmitted infections include:
- genital warts
- hepatitis B
- human papillomavirus (HPV)
- molluscum contagiosum
- scabies and pubic lice
The only way to protect against STIs is to use barrier methods such as condoms or dental dams. These protective measures do not guarantee that a person will not contract an infection, but they can significantly reduce the risk when used correctly.
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, most women experience a 28-day menstrual cycle.
This cycle lasts from the first day of menstrual bleeding to the day before bleeding begins the following month. The length of the cycle varies between individuals, but is usually between 26–32 days long, with 28 days being the average.
The most fertile time of the menstrual cycle is between days 8 and 19.
This is the time when the egg is released from the ovary during ovulation and travels down the fallopian tube where fertilization occurs. If fertilized by a sperm, the egg makes its way to the uterus for implantation.
Although timing is everything, some important facts to consider include:
Following ovulation, an egg can stay alive and viable in a woman’s fallopian tube for 24 hours.
Sperm can live for 3 to 5 days after being ejaculated into the body.
Changes in menstrual regularity can make it more challenging to accurately determine which days a woman is most fertile. Menstrual regularity may be influenced by:
- breast-feeding or pregnancy
- eating disorders
- weight loss or extreme exercise
- polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- premature ovarian failure
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- uterine fibroids
Because of these fluctuations, a woman can theoretically get pregnant at any time. Unless people are in a same-sex partnership or are trying to conceive, birth control should be used even if a woman is menstruating.
Sex can have a positive impact on overall health, though not all the benefits have been scientifically proven.
In general, the possible benefits of having sex during menstruation include:
Having sex during menstruation can sometimes be messy. However, there are some steps people can take if they are worried about this, including:
- using towels to cover sheets or other surfaces
- having sex in the shower
- staying in the missionary position or laying on one side
- using a condom. A range of condoms is available for purchase online.
- using a disposable menstrual cup
Disposable menstrual cups are available to purchase online. Reusable cups are thicker than disposable ones and should not be worn during penetrative sexual activity.
Having a period does not mean sex is not an option. It is important to remember, however, that people can still become pregnant or get an STI while on their period.
As such, people should continue to use barrier methods of contraception during sexual activity, such as condoms or dental dams, to prevent unintended pregnancy and infections.