Periods: Part Three, Period Sex and Mindful Menstruation
author: Sunny rodgers
ILLUSTRATIONS BY ARI SAPERSTEIN
It is not your imagination— you really are hornier when you’re on your period.
In a study at the University of California, Santa Barbara, participants reported frisky feelings and increased sexual activity during their period. Researchers hypothesized that this was due to the rise in the hormone estrogen that begins when bleeding starts. Estrogen promotes libido and desire, so it makes sense that when it increases during your period you find yourself craving sex.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine also published a study that reported participants had more frequent orgasms and greater satisfaction from orgasms experienced mid-period cycle.
Masturbation is important during your period
Orgasms can help ease period pain, as well as stress. As we discussed in The Sex Ed essay Orgasms: Part 1, when you orgasm your body releases dopamine and oxytocin, which are natural pain relievers. Orgasms can relax you and help you sleep better.
Masturbation can help draw blood to your pelvic area, which in turn will help improve your circulation. This can aid in easing menstrual cramps.
Is your vagina more sensitive during your period?
Most people I’ve spoken with experience tender breasts during their cycle, while only a few have told me that their vaginas are extra sensitive during menstruation. Additional blood drawn to the pelvic region to help with uterine shedding during a period may instigate additional sensitivity.
Have you experienced heightened sensitivity during your period? Please let us know!
Let’s talk about period sex
A limited study of sexual activity during menstruation found that the majority of people do have sex during menstruation when they’re in a committed relationship. What do you think? Is period sex taboo for you in a casual hook up? Does it require intimacy for you to freely bleed all over a partner’s sheets? In a poll we took of The Sex Ed community, we found that many of you have had epic period sex outside of a monogamous (or polyamorous) relationship. We would love to hear your experiences and opinions on period sex.
According to Chinese medicine, Qi (or Chi) is life energy that flows through your body by way of meridian channels. Practitioners of Chinese medicine believe that Qi energy can be disrupted during period sex. They believe that period blood flowing out of your body can be energetically stifled by pushing the blood upward during penetrative sex play, rather than allowing it to flow freely downward.
If you aren’t concerned about possibly disrupting your Qi energy, then let’s jump into period sex!
Tips for mess-free period sex
Periods are as unique as the people who have them. You may feel aroused or crave certain foods—and the surge in hormones may cause you to throw your partner against the wall and rip their clothes off. However your period affects your mood and sex drive, here are a few quick tips for optimum period sex—put down a towel, remember to still use lube and keep in mind that pregnancies can still happen during a menstrual cycle.
Periods are natural. Sex is natural.
Menstrual cups and menstrual discs; discussed in depth In The Sex Ed essay Periods: Part 2; can be worn during sex, as long as the cup or disc is made of a soft material. Wearing a sea sponge, also mentioned in Periods: Part 2, is another option to inhibit flow during sex play.
Sex in the shower during a menstrual cycle is a good way to avoid a crime scene scenario and get clean at the same time.
Some people put red-colored sheets on their beds during their period to worry less about mishaps while allowing period sex to be spontaneous. There are sheets and blankets created just for damp sexual situations. Check out Liberator’s Fascinator Throw, a plush blanket created to serve as a moisture barrier for your bedding.
Most of us don’t have the foresight to plan ahead for period sex, leading to numerous messy accidents. We’ve found ourselves scrubbing sheets in the middle of the night with the below homemade cleaning solution—provided to us by hockey playing pals who’ve had years of experience cleaning up “blood on the ice” and on their jerseys. Trust us, it works.
How to remove period stains: Mix ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide with ¾ cup of cold water. Pour this solution on the stain, or soak the material in this solution, before washing.
Proper lubrication is an essential part of sex play whether or not you are menstruating. Some people believe that menstrual fluid provides additional lubrication. It does. Lubrication is slippery and allows for a silkier sexy experience. An excellent lubricant for that time of the month is Agape Personal Lubricant by System JO. This formula is specifically formulated for an optimum vaginal pH level, helping with internal health while it aids in lubrication.
WOO FOR PLAY Coconut Love Oil is also a great choice. This organic personal lubricant is all natural with no harmful chemicals. Their formula does not disrupt vaginal pH levels.
Vaginal dryness during your period
Menstruation can sometimes be a cause of dryness due to fluctuating hormone levels. According to research, 17% of people aged 18-50 experience vaginal dryness during their periods. This can make inserting dry tampons uncomfortable. One thing you can do to help is to drink approximately 8 glasses of water each day of your period.
A vaginal moisturizer is also an option. Replens is an insertable a vaginal moisturizer that provides up to 3-days of moisture. Replens can be used during your period but their website states that a discharge may be experienced during this time.
NeuEve is another brand of vaginal moisturizer and boasts 100% all-natural food-grade ingredients in their formula.
Vaginal dryness can also be aggravated by stress. Meditation, yoga and following a few of the mindful menstruation suggestions below may help.
Yes, unprotected sex during menstruation can lead to pregnancy
Typical menstrual cycles are 28 days in length and the most fertile time is between days 8-19 according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Although you may think it is unlikely to become pregnant during your period— it can happen. Sperm can survive for up to a week, so it is quite possible for pregnancy to occur, especially during the last day or two of your cycle. It is best to use protection during sex play when menstruating if you wish to avoid pregnancy.
Sexually transmitted infections can also be acquired during period sex, so some type of barrier method such as a condom or dental dam should be used.
Menstrual awareness can lead to better overall sexual health and wellness. Use your “time of the month” to mindfully nourish yourself and tune into your body and its’ needs. Make this time a celebration of you!
For many, the first day of your period is the most uncomfortable. PMS, bloating, cravings, and cramps can drain your reserves and drain your energy. This is when relaxing and taking it easy is most important for your overall health.
Meditation for Menstruation
The practice of meditation is a body-mind method involving purposeful attention spent on a thought, moment, state or experience. Meditation is perfect to practice during menstruation because it cultivates a nonjudgmental awareness of your present physical and emotional state, connecting your mind and body. There are many types of meditation including mindfulness meditation, Qi Gong, Kundalini yoga meditation, breathing exercises, Transcendental meditation and guided meditations.
For those of you who might be new to meditation, there’s a wonderful app to get you started called HEADSPACE. We also love UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center’s online, free, guided meditations— available in English and Spanish in a variety of time lengths.
Focus on your Self Care
Warm tea, soups, broth, and stews not only signal you to slow down and relax, their warmth also helps keep your blood flowing, which in turn will make you feel better during your period.
Proper nutrition during your period can help make you feel better and can help you beat food cravings according to this study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. If you experience period-bloat, avoid processed foods, as they tend to be high in sodium which can cause bloating. The same is true of sugar-filled, carbonated sodas.
U.S. National Library of Medicine published a study which found that saturated-fat foods have a strong effect on hormone activity in the body, which can contribute to period pain and inflammation. Lowering your intake of heavy meats and dairy products can also help regulate estrogen levels.
During menstruation, iron levels dip. This explains why many people crave iron-rich food during their periods like red meat, even if they infrequently include meat in their diet. A vegetarian option to replenish your body’s iron resources are leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard greens and Swiss chard. Another option is to take an iron supplement. A study by Science Daily found that iron supplements can improve the quality of for those people who experience heavy flows. We like Vitanica Iron Extra because it is made with a gentler form of iron that is easier to digest.
To satisfy your sweet-tooth while focusing on your health, enjoy dark chocolate during your period. Dark chocolate that is 60% cacao or higher helps regulate serotonin, which contributes to wellbeing and happiness, as well as helps prevent mood swings.
Though we admit to popping Midol to beat the worst of our menstrual cramps, we also use acupressure and reflexology techniques. Modern Reflexology lists 9 points to help with whatever PMS symptom is occurring.
Love Your Health. Love Yourself.
Be patient with yourself during your cycle. Take care of your menstrual health in little ways – which add up to big benefits. And most important, always remember to love yourself. Period.