Young woman in shorts wondering if it is safe to have sex during your period

Is it Safe to Have Sex During Your Period?

Medically reviewed on July 11, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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The menstrual cycle consists of key hormonal changes within the female reproductive system that make pregnancy possible. These changes primarily take place within four phases. During the first stage, your period, the uterus lining sheds and most people bleed for about three to seven days. [1]

In addition to bleeding, many people will also experience menstrual cramps, mood changes, breast tenderness, and acne, among other symptoms. [1]

While these symptoms are often uncomfortable, they’re unlikely to make engaging in sexual activity unsafe during your period. In fact, many individuals find that having penetrative sex during their period can provide certain benefits. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind before engaging in period sex to ensure safe sexual practices for a comfortable experience.

Understanding the Menstrual Cycle

Every month, female bodies undergo hormonal changes that prepare the body for pregnancy. It begins during the menses phase, also known as the period. If menses occurs, it means an egg was not fertilized, and a fetus is not present. To “reset,” the uterus sheds its lining, which presents as menstrual blood and mucous. [1]

The body then enters the follicular stage, which is characterized by high estrogen levels, which allow the uterus lining to thicken in preparation for a fertilized egg. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is also stimulated, which will trigger the ovaries to form a mature egg. [1] At this time, your energy levels are often high, and your sex drive may increase.

Once the egg reaches full maturity, it’s released from the ovaries. This phase is called “ovulation” and women or people assigned female at birth (AFAB) may experience: [2]

  • Light cramping or spotting
  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Heightened senses
  • Increased sex drive

The last stage, called the “luteal stage,” is the process in which the mature egg travels through the fallopian tubes and to the uterus. At this time, you may experience increased body temperature, mood changes, tender breasts, bloating, acne, and appetite changes. [3]

The body also releases a hormone called progesterone to prepare the uterus for egg implantation, if fertilization occurs. If it doesn’t, you’ll get your period.

The Safety of Having Sex During Your Period

Is it safe to have sex during your period? In most cases, period sex is perfectly safe from a medical and sexual health standpoint. Actually, orgasms may help relieve menstruation symptoms, such as menstrual cramps and headaches. [4] That said, if you feel pain or discomfort while having sex on your period, it’s encouraged to stop sexual activities.

Endometriosis and Sex

Endometriosis is a disorder in which the uterine lining grows in other parts of the reproductive system, and it’s often painful. During menstruation, people with endometriosis can experience extremely painful cramps, back pain, heavy bleeding, and potentially increased period pain during sexual intercourse. [5]

While some people with endometriosis may opt out of sex altogether when on their period, others may find it helpful to use lubrication, change sexual positions, or opt for non-penetrative sex to reduce pain during sexual intercourse. [5]

Tampons During Sex

If you’re engaging in vaginal sex, it’s important to always remove your tampon first. Failure to do so may lead the tampon to get pushed into the vaginal canal, and it’s unlikely to come out on its own. [6]

Leaving a stuck tampon for more than eight hours can cause several health concerns, including:

  • Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) – When using the same tampon for too long, certain types of bacteria that produce toxins can transfer from the fingers to the tampon and become trapped in the vagina, eventually making their way up to the cervix, uterus, and then into your bloodstream. Symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness, among others. [7]
  • Bacterial vaginosis – The overgrowth of bacteria naturally found in the vagina may also occur if the tampon is not removed. This can cause off-white, gray, or green discharge that smells fishy. [8]

If a tampon does get stuck during intercourse, you can remove it by inserting one or two fingers to find and pull the string. Always wash your hands prior to doing so.

Hygiene may also be of concern when having sex on your period. However, cleanliness practices such as laying down a towel and practicing good sexual hygiene can help mitigate these worries.

Can You Get Pregnant During Your Period?

While the chances of becoming pregnant are significantly lower when on your period, it’s not altogether impossible, and chances may increase during the latter end of your period.9 When having sex and not trying to conceive, it’s critical to use a form of birth control, such as:

  • Condoms
  • Birth control pills or patches
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs)
  • Birth control implants
  • Vaginal rings

Condoms can also protect you and your partner from spreading or contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). [10]

Everlywell Clinicians Are Here to Answer Your Questions

Generally, it’s safe to have sex while on your period. But the question of “Is sex safe during pregnancy?” is another matter altogether. However, if you experience any form of pain or discomfort while having sex on your period, it’s encouraged to refrain from sexual activity. That said, if you or your partner are having reservations about having sex during menstruation, it’s important to respect each other's boundaries and communicate about any discomfort you may be feeling, physical or otherwise.

If you have more questions or want to receive STD treatment online, book an appointment to speak to one of our virtual healthcare providers, who can help evaluate your symptoms or concerns and offer guidance about how to move forward.

  1. Cleveland clinic. Menstrual Cycle (Normal Menstruation): Overview & Phases. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Published December 9, 2022.
  2. Ovulation Symptoms - Am I Ovulating? American Pregnancy Association. URL. Published April 24, 2021.
  3. Luteal Phase Of The Menstrual Cycle: Symptoms & Length. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Published April 11, 2022.
  4. Can you have sex during your period? URL. Accessed July 22, 2023.
  5. Cleveland Clinic. Endometriosis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Tests. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Published 2022.
  6. How To Remove a Tampon That’s Gotten Stuck. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Published September 7, 2022. Accessed July 22, 2023.
  7. Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS): Causes, Symptoms & Treatment. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed July 22, 2023.
  8. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV): Causes, Symptoms & Treatment. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed July 22, 2023.
  9. Admin APA. Can You Get Pregnant on Your Period? American Pregnancy Association. URL. Published May 28, 2022. Accessed July 22, 2023.
  10. CDC. Condom Fact Sheet In Brief. CDC. URL. Published 2019.
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