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Sex During Period & Sexual Dysfunction Women
August 8, 2022
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Sex During Period & Symptoms Of Sexual Dysfunction in Women

Here’s everything you need to know about sexual intimacy during that time of the month, from infection risk to birth control & discover how to treat issues like vaginal dryness and low libido so you can have a happy and healthy sex life.

Just because you’re having your period doesn’t mean you have to forego sexual activity. For some women, sex during menstruation can be even more pleasurable than at other times of the month.
The need for lubrication lessens during your period, and having an orgasm can soothe period-related symptoms, such as cramps. Plus, a study published in Cephalalgia concluded that sexual activity may reduce migraine and cluster headache pain for some.

“Sex is a normal part of life and should be enjoyed by all women,” says Carrie Coleman, MD, an ob/gyn at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “Basically, ensuring you have good contraception and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention throughout the menstrual cycle should make it even more safe and enjoyable.”

But before having sex, make sure you understand the risks of STIs, other infections, and pregnancy — even during your period.

Here’s what you need to know about having safe sex during your period.

Infection Risk From Sex During Your Period

It’s crucial to practice safe sex while you’re having your period because you could still get or transmit an STI, like HIV, during this time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus may be present in menstrual blood. Therefore, doctors strongly encourage using a condom to decrease this risk.

Lauren Streicher, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, says that anecdotally speaking, there are two reasons for this risk. “Any bodily fluid can carry HIV or [other] STIs, and [during your period], the cervix opens slightly, which might allow viruses to pass through,” she says. “My message to women is you’re not off the hook as far as using protection.”

You may also be more prone to some infections in general at this time. Your vagina maintains a pH level of 3.8 to 4.5 throughout the month, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). But during menstruation, that level rises because of the higher pH level of blood, and yeast is able to grow more rapidly.

Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are more likely to occur the week before your menstrual period, and intercourse during this time can exacerbate symptoms. But clear evidence is lacking for any increased risk of getting a yeast infection if you have sex during your period.

There’s also the dreaded UTI. “Some women can be more prone to having urinary tract infections after intercourse,” says Dr. Coleman. “This is most likely related to bacteria being able to easily travel to the bladder with intercourse, but it may happen at any point during the menstrual cycle.”

Risk of Pregnancy During Your Period

Yes, you can get pregnant when you have your period, especially if you have a shorter menstrual cycle (21 to 24 days) and you have sex toward the end of your period. Sperm can remain viable in your vagina for up to five days, so pregnancy is possible, and it’s important to continue to use birth control.

Less Need for Vaginal Lubrication

You’re less likely to need lubricants if you engage in intercourse during menstruation because menstrual discharge tends to provide enough lubrication. If you do need a lubricant, then “water-based lubricants are widely available and safe both for sex and for condoms,” says ob/GYN James Simon, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. “Silicone and hybrid lubricants that are water-based and silicone-based are likewise safe for both sex and condoms. Oil-based lubricants, especially mineral oil-based lubricants, can deteriorate condoms — increasing the risk of breakage — and are not recommended with latex condoms,” he says.

Period Sex as a Pain Reliever

If you experience symptoms such as cramping, feelings of sadness, or depression during your period, having sex at this time may be beneficial. Dr. Streicher says that because orgasms release endorphins — feel-good hormones like oxytocin and dopamine — in theory, they could also decrease some period symptoms. “There’s no harm in trying,” she says.

Women who have endometriosis, on the other hand, may experience more pain and other symptoms when they have their period, as well as pain that occurs with sexual activity or orgasm. However, treatments are available, and sex doesn’t have to hurt. Talk to your doctor as soon as possible; the earlier you speak up, the sooner you can feel better and enjoy sex again.

Sexual Arousal During Your Period

You may feel more sexually aroused and sensitive during this time of the month because of the changes in your hormone levels. Some women experience an increased feeling of congestion in the pelvic area, which can also ramp up their sex drive. But for some women, this extra sensitivity may make it uncomfortable to have sex during this time. (If you don’t like having sex when you have your period, there are birth control options that can make your period shorter, lighter, and/or less frequent, or even eliminate your period altogether.) Remember that there’s nothing shameful or dirty about having your period — it’s totally natural, and there’s nothing wrong with having sex during that time of the month. The bottom line is to make sure that both you and your partner are comfortable with the situation. “Don’t assume anything,” Dr. Simon says. “Open questions with honest answers beforehand are paramount.”

Signs of Sexual Dysfunction in Women

Sexual dysfunction — which includes problems with desire, arousal, orgasm, and resolution — is common in both women and men. In fact, 43 percent of women, and 31 percent of men, report some degree of sexual dysfunction, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

And while both genders may deal with issues during intercourse, it’s often easier to pinpoint the problem in men, says Brett Worly, MD, an ob/GYN at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. Plus, “male sexual problems have become more socially acceptable to discuss with a doctor in ways that female sexual dysfunction has not,” he notes.

If you’re dealing with problems in the bedroom, it’s crucial to talk to your doctor, since sexual issues can be a sign that something else is going on with your health. Read on to learn about five common sexual problems in women — and what you can do to resolve them.

1. Vaginal Dryness

Why It’s Happening: Vaginal dryness can result from hormonal changes that occur during breastfeeding or menopause. In fact, a study of 1,000 postmenopausal women published in January 2010 in the journal Menopause found that half of the postmenopausal women experience vaginal dryness.

What You Can Do: Reach for an OTC lubricant before and during intercourse, such as K-Y Jelly, Aqua Lube, or Astroglide, suggests Dr. Worly. Also, consider vaginal moisturizers like Replens. “Both lubricants and moisturizers can be used in tandem,” says Wally. “I tell my patients to use ‘lubricants for lovemaking’ and ‘moisturizers for maintenance.’” If your body needs a little extra assistance, ask your doctor about Osphena, a non-estrogen oral pill available by prescription that helps alleviate dryness and pain attributed to menopause.

2. Low Desire

Why It’s Happening: As hormones decline in the years leading up to menopause, your libido can go south, too. But low desire isn’t just a problem for older women: Half of females ages 30 to 50 have also suffered from a lack of lust, according to a national survey of 1,000 women. Low libido can result from a number of issues, including medical problems like diabetes and low blood pressure, and psychological issues like depression or simply being unhappy in your relationship. Certain medications, like antidepressants, can also be libido killers, as can hormonal contraceptives, according to a study published in June 2010 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

What You Can Do: There’s no one-stop solution to boost libido, so talk to your doctor, who can help you get to the root of the problem. If the issue is emotional or psychological, they may recommend seeing a therapist. “A traditional or sexual therapist can help couples evolve from having the same old conversation patterns, life habits, and sexual habits to having a sexual relationship that’s fulfilling, invigorating, and romantic,” says Wally.

3. Painful Sex

Why It’s Happening: As many as 30 percent of women report pain during sex, according to a study published in April 2015 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Pain can be caused by vaginal dryness, or it may be an indication of a medical problem, like ovarian cysts or endometriosis, according to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Painful sex can also be related to vaginismus, a condition in which the vagina tightens involuntarily when penetrated.

What You Can Do: Talk to your healthcare provider to rule out medical issues like ovarian cysts, endometriosis, or vaginismus. If those aren’t the problem, your doctor may recommend pelvic floor physical therapy, medication, or surgery to treat the cause of pain, says Worly. “It’s important to understand that the first treatment doesn’t always work, and sometimes multiple attempts at treatment are needed before you find success,” he says.

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READ ALSO: Probable Reasons for Pain While Sex

4. Arousal Problems

Why It’s Happening: The inability to become aroused may be due to a number of reasons, such as anxiety or inadequate stimulation (aka, you need more foreplay). If you experience dryness or pain during sex, it can also be harder to become turned on. Hormonal changes due to menopause or a partner’s sexual issues (like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation) can also make it more difficult to get in the mood.

What You Can Do: Work with your healthcare provider to ID the underlying reason you can’t become aroused, recommends Worly. He or she can help connect you with the right form of treatment to correct the problem, whether that’s seeking out sexual therapy, a medication (like hormones), or treatment for your partner’s problem, he says.

5. Trouble Reaching Orgasm

Why It’s Happening: “About 5 percent of perimenopausal women experience orgasm problems,” says Worly. Aside from hormone changes, an inability to reach orgasm may also be due to anxiety, insufficient foreplay, certain medications, and chronic diseases.

What You Can Do: Just like other forms of sexual dysfunction, it’s key to talk to your doctor to address the underlying problem before trying to treat it. In the meantime, try being more mindful while you’re getting it on by paying attention to the sensations as they happen. Research published in June 2015 in the Journal of Sex Research suggests that being mindful during sex can make it easier to achieve orgasm. It may also be useful to add a vibrator to your sexual repertoire, says Worly. “Vibrators are now sold at most pharmacies, both in the store and online, so it’s possible to buy them discreetly from the comfort of your home,” he notes.

Read Also: What Are The Reasons Behind Low Sex Drive in Men?

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