Having Sex During Your Period: Q&A
Sexual Intercourse During Menstruation
Deciding to have sexual intercourse involves many important considerations. After all, choosing to have sex requires knowledge about both the male and female reproductive systems, STDS, and birth control. Sex can become even more complicated when it comes to deciding when and where to do the deed; in particular, you may find that you or your partner want to have sex during your menstrual period. But is sex during your period safe? Here are some answers to a few of the most common questions regarding period sex.
Is it Safe To Have Sex During Your Period?
Many men and women worry that having sexual intercourse during a woman's period is unhealthy. Though frowned upon in many cultures and faiths, sexual intercourse during menstruation is entirely normal and completely healthy.
Worries about this act generally stem from societal misconceptions about menstrual blood: most girls are taught from a young age that their menstrual blood is unclean and "dirty," and therefore should be hidden and contained at all times. However, menstrual blood is an entirely natural bodily fluid, and does not in anyway affect a man's penis or a woman's reproductive tract. As long as neither person has a sexually transmitted disease or infection, it is entirely alright for you and your partner to have sex during your period.
If either partner has an STD, there is a higher risk of infection during menstruation. Sex can be made safer by using a condom during sexual intercourse. However, if either partner has an STD, it is safest not to have sex at all.
What About Oral Sex?
Though some men and women may find the thought of oral sex during menstruation a little bit off-putting, many partners do engage in this act. If you and your partner are considering having oral sex during your period, rest assured, it is entirely safe to do so. However, if you have an STD, the menstrual blood can contain STD bacteria or viruses, and your partner should use appropriate protection. If you or your partner may be infected, oral sex can be made safer by use of a dental dam. However, if either partner has an STD, it is safest not to have oral sex at all.
Does Sex Help to Manage Period Pains?
Many women find that sexual intercourse actually helps to relieve period pains and menstrual cramps. This is because an orgasm can cause your uterus to contract, enabling it to use up excess prostaglandins in the process. Prostaglandins are hormones produced by your uterine lining. They help to stimulate contractions that move menstrual blood out of the uterus, and are also responsible for those cramps that occur throughout your period.
Can You Get Pregnant During Your Period?
Though possible, it is highly unlikely that you will get pregnant during your monthly menstrual cycle. During your period, your body works to shed the uterine lining that it has been building up over the last month, in preparation for pregnancy. When you don't become pregnant, small uterine contractions begin, encouraging the unfertilized egg and unused endometrium to be shed from the uterus and through the vagina. This means that there is no egg in the fallopian tubes to become fertilized and no lining to help a developing embryo to implant properly.
This being said, there is a small possibility of pregnancy during your period. Women often mistake slight bleeding that can occur with ovulation as their period. Unprotected sex at this time can greatly increase your chances of becoming pregnant. Additionally, sperm can live in the female reproductive system for up to three days. Because some women ovulate at the very end of their menstrual periods, sperm may still be alive at this point, and able to fertilize an egg.
Can You Avoid Catching an STD if You Have Sex During Your Period?
There are a number of myths going around that it is impossible to contract a sexually transmitted disease if you have sex while you are menstruating. Unfortunately, this myth is completely false, and you and your partner are still at risk for contracting any type of STD if you have unprotected sex during menstruation.
If a women is a carrier of an STD then her menstrual blood, like semen and vaginal secretions, will contain the STD whether it is the HIV virus or any other bacteria associated with a number of other STDS, including syphilis and chlamydia. Additionally, many women experience herpes outbreaks during their monthly periods, which may actually increase your risk of spreading this disease to your sexual partner.
According to Alfred Shihata, MD, Medical Director of FemCap Inc., "shedding of the entire lining of the uterus creates a essentially an open wound inside the uterus. This will provide direct access to viruses and bacteria to enter into the circulatory system." So, when engaging in sex, especially during menstruation, Dr. Shihata says it is necessary to wear a condom to help prevent STD transmission if one or both partners is infected.
Can Having Sex During Menstruation End Your Period?
If you have had sexual intercourse during menstruation you may have noticed that your period comes to an abrupt end within a day of intercourse. Though you may be worried that somehow your menstrual blood has "backed up" or gotten stuck somewhere in your reproductive tract, this is not the case. In fact, your period has probably ended because sexual intercourse has stimulated an increased number of contractions in your uterus, causing your body to expel your menstrual blood more quickly.
During orgasm, your uterus goes through a number of muscular contractions, which can help to speed up menstruation; as your uterus contracts, the endometrial lining begins to shift and is forced out through the vagina. Additionally, semen contains prostaglandins, hormones responsible for causing uterine contractions. The combination of prostaglandins and orgasm may contribute to an increased number of uterine contractions and therefore cause the rest of your menstrual blood to be quickly shed.
How do You Avoid Making a Mess When Having Sex During Your Period?
Women and men often dislike having sex during menstruation because of the mess that it can cause. However, with a little careful planning you can keep the mess contained and focus on enjoying the experience. If you are going to have sexual intercourse, try to get your partner to straddle you while you are lying on your back: this will help to slow the bleeding. Lay down some spare towels or sheets beforehand, so that it will absorb any excess blood.
You may have thought about wearing a diaphragm or cervical cap during sexual intercourse, but don't do it. These barrier methods of birth control should not be used to collect menstrual blood as this can put you at risk for toxic shock syndrome. According to Dr. Shihata, "The pooled blood in the vagina at body temperature is an ideal environment for growth of bacteria, if it not discharged to the outside." Although they are similar, diaphragms and cervical caps are not the same as menstrual cups, which can be used safely during your period, if used according to directions.
For more information about sex during your period, check out our menstruation forum.
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