Not every couple wants to have sex when a woman has her period. But if both partners are comfortable with it—or are willing to give it a try—there are plenty of reasons to get it on at this time of the month.
Because there’s extra lubrication in the vaginal area, sex can feel especially good when women are menstruating, says Aline P. Zoldbrod, a psychologist and sex therapist based in Boston. There’s also some evidence that orgasms can relieve cramps, she adds. “If you’re up for having intercourse,” she says, “I’ve found that it can actually make you feel better—physically and also emotionally.”
There are some drawbacks, however. In addition to the potential mess (a dark towel or blanket on the bed is a must on heavy flow days), many women aren’t feeling all that sexy during period week. “You might feel crappy and bloated, and even if it’s in your head, you might not want your stomach being the center of attention,” says Holly Richmond, a somatic psychologist and certified sex therapist based in Los Angeles.
Richmond suggests avoiding women-on-top positions during menstruation, which could make women feel self-conscious and may also increase blood flow. But there are plenty of other positions that take advantage of this time of the month and the sexual pleasure it can bring both partners. Here’s what the experts recommend.
Side-by-side facing each other
“This is a good position because you’re not fighting gravity,” says Yvonne Fulbright, PhD, sex therapist and author of The Better Sex Guide to Extraordinary Lovemaking. “Your partner can control thrusting in a way that doesn’t pull out as much blood; in other words, he doesn’t have to go deep, but can choose to do so if neither person is bothered by the blood or the amount of it.”
Marissa Nelson, a certified sex therapist and founder of IntimacyMoons Retreats, recommends a 69-style variation on side-by-side sex, where partners heads are at different ends of the bed. “The woman only has to open her legs a little bit, and it’s still a really great position for penetrative sex and clitoral stimulation at the same time,” she says. “That’s going to maximize your orgasmic potential when you have increased blood flow to the clitoris.”
“Physiologically, I think the number one position for period sex is spooning,” says Richmond. “Your hips aren’t pointed directly down, and your stomach isn’t front and center if you’re feeling self-conscious about it.” Your partner can also hold you closely and intimately—a plus for women who may crave more closeness during these days.
Spooning also allows for easy access to a woman’s clitoris, and lets couples use a vibrator if they choose. Increased blood flow below the belt can make some women more sensitive at this time, says Fulbright, playing with a vibrator may be especially enjoyable.
“Any time you can tilt the pelvis upright a little bit, you’re decreasing the flow that comes out of the vagina,” says Nelson. “I find that missionary position can work well, and you can prop the pelvis up on a pillow or put your legs up or over your partner’s shoulders.”
Missionary is also one of the most intimate positions you can be in with your partner, and one of the most romantic. “If you have someone you really love to kiss, being in this position and kissing them during sex can feel really nice,” says Zoldbrod. “It’s like being taken care of and feeling sexy, as opposed to feeling dirty or not feeling normal for the week you have your period.”
“Many women have bigger breasts during their period—and their partners often notice,” says Fulbright. Focusing attention on the chest can also draw attention away from other areas a woman may not be feeling great about if she’s crampy or bloated, like the stomach. “Lovers can have doggie-style sex in front of a mirror so they can both see her cleavage and get off on its movement,” she says.
Richmond says some people might like a variation on doggy style, with the woman lying facedown on the bed and the man right on top of her. “The supported position of her stomach on the bed can feel good if she has cramps or a stomachache,” she says, “and [the stomach is] not in full view if she’s feeling self-conscious about it."
In the shower
Standing positions may be uncomfortable for women with menstrual cramps—but if you're feeling up to it, sex in the shower can be a great solution when you want to have sex but aren’t crazy about getting blood on the sheets. “You’ll be as clean as can be, and have fun soaping each other down,” says Fulbright.
Your period can be a great time to get in on in the shower for another reason, too: Water actually isn’t a great lubricant, so experts often recommend using a silicone-based lube for sex in the bath or shower. If a woman has plenty of natural lubrication during her period, shower sex can feel nice and slippery—no lube required.
That said, Fulbright notes, having your period and using tampons can also have a drying effect on the vagina, especially if you have a light flow. So no matter what position you’re trying, definitely incorporate some lube if it feels good.
“Sex is not just penis and vagina,” states Nelson. She says couples are sometimes disappointed when they plan romantic vacations and the woman’s period shows up. If they’re not interested in intercourse, she says, she advises couples she works with to experiment with other options and erogenous zones.
“Maybe we try nipple stimulation or explore anal stimulation,” she says, adding “maybe we talk about being more open to oral sex or mutual masturbation, or playing with power dynamics. My goal is to have couples focus on pleasure, whatever that means for them.”
And, of course, Zoldbrod clarifies, the best sex positions for when you have your period may simply be your favorite ones at any time of the month. “There can be a lot of uncertainty and self-consciousness with period sex, especially if it’s the first time or if you’re with a new partner,” she says, “so whatever makes you feel sexy and makes you and your partner feel good, that’s the most important thing.”