Understanding period sex

Having sex during the bloodiest part of a period requires a little forward planning, primarily because it can get pretty messy.

Here we go through a few tips and tricks for navigating period sex successfully (read: without leaving a murder scene and making it fun).

Here’s the period sex shortlist:

  • For lying-down sex, put a dark-coloured towel underneath
  • Make it quick (unless there’s some true period appreciation going on)
  • Warn a partner prior to vagina-facing oral sex
  • Vagina-facing oral sex works well with a tampon in place (push string in or cut off)
  • Be respectful if someone isn’t really into it
  • Use a sea sponge to block blood at the source if you want a long session/don’t want your partner to know
  • If you use tampons, leave a tampon in until close to the sex, remove it, and use lube (it’ll be dry) (then be quick!)
  • Aim to remove tampons and menstrual cups first (but don’t worry if you don’t manage to unless you are ability-challenged in fishing it out)
  • Once it gets sloppy, enjoy, stop or modify

There is no right or wrong way to have period sex; just better and worse for comfort, pleasure and cleanliness.

If you’re not sure what is even happening during periods, you should start at periods and period etiquette, then work your way back here.

Where the blood comes from

Period blood comes from the uterus, at the top of the vagina, not the vagina itself. The blood comes out at a regular pace, but bumping away at the cervix with a penis, fingers or toy can make the blood come out faster.

Period blood comes out first with the contraction of the uterus, then gravity. This process occurs at its own pace.

Female Reproductive Tract

Just how much blood is there going to be?

A little blood can go a long way. How much of a bloody mess you end up with will depend on which day of period you’re doing the sex on.

Day 1, 2 and 3 are likely to be the bloodiest, but each person is different in terms of how heavy periods tend to be and on what days. Some perfectly normal periods are light and short, while others can be long and heavy.

Is period sex good?

Many of you get extremely horny during your periods. We’re still not sure why this occurs and what hormones this arousal is linked with. It’s clearly nothing to do with reproduction since, at the height of the menstrual period, it’s generally very difficult to get pregnant.

So, period sex can be great – if you’re into it. Not everyone is keen to get hot during their periods, and not all partners are very excited about it either. It’s best not to surprise someone with period sex; talk it over first and make sure everyone’s ok with it. A common scenario is where neither partner wants to give up the sex for the sake of a little blood, so you just figure it out. But, you never know.

The uterus and cervix are very sensitive and often tender during bleeding (because it’s their job), so penetrative sex can be painful, but the extra sensitivity can also increase sensation and intensity.

The cervix is low and hard during bleeding so toys or penises, especially large ones, may bump it, which can be painful. The cervix can be a very sexually sensitive area, and with the extra inflammation that comes with periods, be an extra source of pleasure. Treat it gentle.

What to do when it gets sloppy

One of the main issues with period sex is the loss of friction that occurs when there is too much moisture – in this case, blood. Once the blood starts flowing, the vagina will get super slick and sloppy, making penetrative sex start to become pointless. We need friction for arousal/orgasm.

There are some ways to counteract this wetness. You can mop it up (tissue, towel), but the issue is coming from deep inside and by mopping the outside, you’re just putting out spot fires. The wet will always return, and sooner than you want it to.

There are two main solutions for the sloppiness: using a tampon before sex to dry out the entire vaginal canal to you buy some time, or using a sea sponge during sex.

You can also use a menstrual cup or tampon during sex, but this isn’t really recommended – you may rob yourself of an orgasm! Plus, you want to avoid possible sources of damage or infection.

Leaving a tampon or menstrual cup in during sex

It’s usually best to avoid leaving a menstrual cup or tampon in during sex because it can interfere with pleasure. You can also have a hard time fishing them out afterwards.

But it happens – sometimes you forget it’s in there, you just couldn’t figure out how to navigate taking it out before sex, or you decided to leave it in to stop the blood flow.

A tampon will get jammed to the top of the vagina (and you’ll likely lose the string and it will be turned sideways – tricky to get out!). A menstrual cup tends to be as easy or difficult as usual to get out, though it will be pushed up further and may be dislodged from its usual position.

Some menstrual cups are now being advertised with the ability to have sex while they’re in as a feature (such as Nixit).

Using a tampon before sex

Using a tampon before sex will only work for those of you who use tampons and can get the tampon out without incident before anyone dives into the vagina.

You’ll need to manage a trip to the bathroom at precisely the moment you don’t want to – when you’re turned on and close to sex, but before your vagina is involved.

Duck out, remove the tampon, then use lube/saliva to get wet before penetration (or it’ll be dry). You’ll lube up quick enough, so that’s usually no issue, but don’t hurt yourself with dry sex.

Then, be quick – you only have a little while before the blood will start flowing. You may have 30 minutes, you may have 10, you may have two. You will know when Niagara Falls because it’ll start getting sloppy and your partner’s fingers, face, toy or penis will become bloody.

Using tampons during oral sex

If vagina-facing oral sex is on the cards, it can become much cleaner in an instant by using a tampon (or sea sponge) during the glorious act and the eater-outer is spared the red face.

If you want to make the tampon string disappear, you can cut it off or stuff it inside so you can pull the tampon out easily later.

When oral sex involves fingers, the fingerer may be able to feel the tampon, but keep in mind that tampons get wet, warm and soft once they’re in for a while. An untrained fingerer may not know the difference.

Using sea sponges during sex

Sea sponges are natural sea plants used as bathing or make-up sponges. Avoid synthetic sponge.

A piece of sea sponge for vaginal use is about the size of a golf ball. Run the sponge under water to soften it, then push the sponge up into the vagina as far as you can.

You won’t be able to feel it and neither will a sexual partner. Sea sponges can interfere with orgasms for the wearer, however, especially those orgasms that stem from the cervix or deep vaginally.

Only leave the sponge in for as long as you need to and do not leave overnight.

Getting sea sponges out can be problematic for some (like a lost tampon), and sea sponges do not protect against sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy (though they do offer a barrier and are better than nothing).

Cleaning up after

If you use pads or panty liners, you may like to have one ready by the bed/in your underwear nearby to climb into afterwards to do a bathroom dash.

If you use tampons or a menstrual cup, you’ll want to replace it as soon as practical to avoid further leaks.

Clean up after period sex quickly – blood stains fabric, and getting to it quick is the key to thorough removal. Do not douche. Blood rinses off skin easily in plain water.

Things to watch out for during period sex

Clean up sheets, clothing and underwear quickly to avoid staining

  • Wet bloodstains with cold water immediately
  • Wash fabric in cold water, not hot or warm
  • Soak bloodstained clothing in a bucket or tub overnight if required
  • Use stain remover if required
  • Don’t allow blood to dry if possible

Go easy!

Be gentle on yourself/your partner during periods. The whole pelvis is doing a thing, a big thing, and will be inflamed and possibly very tender. There may be extra feelings floating around. Be nice.

Keep checking in

Keep talking during your sex play and make sure everyone is always having fun and is not in pain or grossed out. It’s ok if those things are true, but it’s not ok for it to continue if you know about it. Check in with each other. Blood can be gross! It’s ok.

Period pain and orgasms

Cure period pain with an orgasm! It can be difficult to imagine being able to feel sexy when your uterus is fisting itself with a sharp knife, but if you have some time to yourself, you could try gently masturbating or having sex, with the intention being to orgasm your way out of period pain.

We’ve written a lot about curing period pain (in non-sexual ways) – read on.

Keep laughing

Laugh if it gets gross! Don’t try to be all serious and sexy during period sex – it’s almost certainly going to deteriorate at some point if you keep going long enough. That’s the risk you are taking. Periods are normal, but there’s always a first time for everything.

Is period sex immoral or unethical?

Each of you has to make your own decision about whether period sex is for you! There are no medical reasons why you shouldn’t do it, but you may have religious or cultural factors that influence your decisions.

Or, you might think it’s gross or simply not be into it. Ultimately, you’re the boss! Do whatever you want with your body.

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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)