Periods, Pregnancy and STDs

One might wonder what these three have in common, but the fact is that questions abound about the connection between menses and pregnancy as well as menses and STDs.

There has been a debate about whether or not a woman can conceive during menses for many years. The common thought was that if you were menstruating, then you couldn't become pregnant. It is that theory that has prevailed, especially among practicing Catholics who are bound by the Church to practice only rhythm birth control. It just made sense that if a woman is menstruating she can't get pregnant. However, that theory has proven incorrect over time. So, the short answer to the question is: Yes, a woman can get pregnancy during menses.

Pregnant On Your Period?

The fact is that every woman is different, which means that there is no set time frame for the length of a menstrual period or the exact time of ovulation. There are, however, generalities. Many women menstruate on a cycle of 28 days. However, some have their periods during a 22 day cycle. Women generally ovulate on average 14 days before the start of their menstrual cycle. Yet, even for women who have regular periods, this timing can fluctuate from month to month. Perhaps there has been a lot of stress for a time - she may miss her period altogether. On the other hand, stress or infection may cause her to have extended periods, or what seem to be extended periods.

Ovulation Timing

Sometimes ovulation bleeding follows right on the heels of menstruation and a woman may think she's having an extra-long period that month. In fact, what may be occurring is ovulation. Having sex during menses at this time could easily end in pregnancy. On this note, vaginal bleeding during ovulation may be mistaken for menses when in fact a woman is at her prime point to conceive. In some women, ovulation occurs before she's even completed menstruating and in others it may occur within just a few days of cessation of menstruation. Either way, it can result in pregnancy.

Additionally, we have the sperm factor. We know that the egg will live for about 24 hours after it has been released from the ovary. However, sperm has a much longer lifespan - two to three days in the woman's body - or in a perfect scenario, five days! Just when she thought it was safe ...

Contracting an STD

The other question often posed around menstruation has to do with contracting STDs. The question as to whether period sex increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases is definitely more straightforward than the pregnancy question.

Especially in the case of HIV, it is highly likely that it can be transmitted through period sex - after all, it is a blood-borne disease and menses certainly has a lot of blood to which a sexual partner can be exposed. There is research supporting this notion as well as the idea that period sex can also increase the chances of transmitting other types of STDs.

Even sexually transmitted diseases that are not blood-borne can be more readily shared during period sex. There are several reasons why this may be so. One reason is that the flow of menstrual blood acts as a conduit or carrier for viruses and other pathogens and it can also increase bacterial growth.

An interesting fact about ascending infections lies in the timing of them since they occur most frequently during the week after menstruation. The reason for this may be that any infections that are preexisting are more likely to ascend to the uterus and express the symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) during menstruation, even if the infection was contracted at a different time.

So, again, the short answer to this question is: Yes, STDs can be contracted during period sex.


Learn more about Sex On Your Period


To learn more about Menstruation and the various issues around it, keep reading here.

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