Many couples might wonder if they can (or should) have sex during a period.

In short: you can.

But in some cases, there may be risks involved, particularly if you don’t use a condom.

Some couples may prefer not to do it due to religious reasons, or simply because of personal taste.

In this post, we’ll discuss some of the most commonly asked questions around sex and periods.

Some period facts

Periods are a normal and healthy part of the female reproductive cycle, and can vary greatly from one person to another. Some women might experience light bleeding accompanied by mildly uncomfortable cramps; whereas others may have heavier bleeds along with pain.

The average menstrual cycle is 28 days.

The average period bleed tends to last between three and seven days.

A woman can expect to have over 300 periods during her lifetime.

If you bleed on average for five days and you have 400 periods in your lifetime, then you could live through 2,000 days of menstrual bleeding (a significant portion of your life). So it’s understandable to want to have sex during your period.

Can I get pregnant?

Yes, it is possible to become pregnant after having sex on a period.

For most women the chances are very small, but if you have a short menstrual cycle and long periods then it can happen. Many people may not be aware that sperm can actually survive inside a woman’s body for up to seven days.

If you do not want to get pregnant, then you should take the necessary precautions and use contraception.

Are there any infection risks?

If you don’t use protection, yes.

Practising safe sex at any point during a menstrual cycle is important.

Many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be transmitted from one person to another through bodily secretions, such as sperm and vaginal fluid, and menstrual blood.

During a period the cervix opens up slightly to allow the blood from the uterus to be expelled from the body. It is thought that this small opening could leave you more at risk of contracting infections, than at other times during your menstrual cycle.

The vagina usually maintains a pH level of 3.8 to 4.5 but this can increase during menstruation due to the pH levels of the blood. A higher pH level may provide an environment where yeast is more likely to grow. Excess amounts of yeast in the vagina can lead to fungal infections such as thrush. Thrush symptoms may not always be present with an infection, but if you have sex it can make symptoms worse.

You can get more information on STIs or thrush from your local GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinic, pharmacy or GP.

Can having sex on my period alter my cycle?

Not in a significant way. A female orgasm can cause the uterus to contract which in turn may cause the lining of the womb to shed at a marginally quicker rate. But it’s likely the effects of this will only be temporary.

Are there any benefits to having period sex?

Really, it’s all down to personal preference.

Some women do think that there are benefits to having sex on a period, such as:

  • Pain relief. Period cramps can be painful and have a big impact on how you feel. Some women report that period sex acts as a form of pain relief. This could be due to the release of certain ‘pleasure’ hormones such as oxytocin, prolactin and endorphins.
  • Lubrication. Having sexual intercouse during your period could aid lubrication. A lack of which can make sex uncomfortable, therefore the presence of menstrual blood may work as a natural lubricant.
  • Sensitivity. The change in hormone levels during your period may make you feel more sexually aroused or more sensitive to the sensations experienced during sex. For some this extra sensitivity could increase the pleasure experienced during sex; whereas for others it could make the experience more uncomfortable.

Will there be lots of blood?

This can vary depending on the person, at what point during their cycle they have sex, and even the position used. Heavier cycle days may cause more blood to be noticeable.

According to the NHS the average amount of blood lost during a period is 30-40 millilitres. Therefore if you have concerns about the amount of blood which might be present during period sex, it is likely to be minimal.

It is perfectly normal to want to continue enjoying sex whilst on your period. It is also perfectly normal to not want to have sex during your period. Ultimately, the decision is up to you and your partner and how you both feel.

But as we’ve discussed, it is advisable to take precautions and use contraception, whether you’re having sex on a period or not.

Bleeding during or after sex when not on a period

If you have sex and notice blood afterwards, and you are not on your period, then you should see a doctor. This can sometimes be a sign of an illness, and may need to be investigated.