Everything You've Wanted to Know About Sex and Your Cycle
We all know sex makes you feel good. I mean, it's sex, right? But the literal health benefits of having sex don't get enough air time as far as we're concerned.
At OHNE, we're able to relate almost anything to periods, so you best believe we've learnt how to use the near-magical powers of getting off to hack our menstrual cycles.
Your period and hormones might seem like an unpredictable mystery at times, but they're actually super easy to track - and, as a result, optimise.
Whether you want to stick it to your cramps, combat hormone-induced mood swings, or go up against your PMS-induced stress, here are some of our top tips for working with your menstrual cycle to get the most out of your sex life.
Week One: Time to whip out your vibrator
So the menstrual cycle starts when your period does; day one of your menstrual cycle is the first day of your period. A period is, in simple terms, the shedding of the uterus lining... which can bloody hurt (pun intended).
In order to shed the lining of the uterus, the uterus muscles aggressively contract to compress the blood vessels lining your womb. While contracting muscles can be a source of pain in and of themselves, this process also prevents oxygen from reaching the uterus, which contains tissues that release chemicals that trigger pain when they are deprived of oxygen.
You promised me sex talk? Right. Your period is actually the perfect time to whip out the vibrator, whether you're having sex with a partner(s) or masturbating. This is because vibes are not just awesome sex toys, they're also a total heavyweight when it comes to taking on period pain. Sounds weird, I know, but vibrators can actually help to ease your cramps because the vibrations stimulate blood flow and oxygen to genitals.
Vibrations also awaken your nerve endings more than stimulation from fingers, a mouth, or someone else's genitals can. So, uh, hello, 8,000 clitoris nerve-endings!
While using vibrators in the bedroom definitely ranks at the top of our list of period sex priorities, if you don't own one yet, don't despair. The main goal here is to get the muscles to chill out, lessen the contractions, and therefore the aforementioned blood vessels which are in desperate need of some O2.
So if you opt for vibe-free sex, it's the endorphins and rush of oxytocin that's going to be lending your aching uterus a helping hand. Missionary, doggy style, and good ol' shower sex are the easiest positions to opt for if you're trying to avoid leaving a crime scene in your wake.
You can also thank your period for being a natural lubricant, making shower sex way less of a hassle than it usually is and lending a helping hand to keep things comfortable and friction-free.
Genuinely, though, you'll probably be surprised by how little blood - which is actually comprised of a cocktail of cervical mucus, endometrial tissue, and vaginal secretions as well as blood - actually leaks onto the sheets or towel, unless you're going at it for hours (you absolute champ). Period sex can even potentially speed up your period - as in, literally shorten the amount of time you are bleeding for.
Well, the orgasm can.
You've probably noticed that your vagina contracts when you're climaxing - but so do your anal sphincter and your uterus. Which, as mentioned above, is exactly what happens when you're menstruating. The uterine lining can be expelled faster the more the muscles work to shed it - and who wouldn't volunteer for a shorter period? Plus, with orgasms strengthening your pelvic floor, you'll be increasing your resistance to the pains induced by contracting uterus muscles.
Oh, and remember to do your kegel exercises regularly, because strengthening these muscles can heighten the intensity of your climaxes. Truly, the muscle that keeps on giving.
Week Two, Part One: Time for a relaxed solo session
Post-period, oestrogen and testosterone start to rise again (all your sex hormones reach an all-time low right before your period hits). This gives you a renewed sense of energy and motivation in the few days following the end of your period.
But as women's health expert and author of Period Power, Maisie Hill recommends, it's best to not go crazy immediately after your period; that energy will continue to build up until ovulation, when you'll feel more like embarking on some wild sexcapades.
In the couple of days following your period, why not opt for a chilled ménage-a-moi? Your hand, some tunes, and some quality me-time is all you need to relax your body and let it recover.
Note that an average period is usually between three and eight days long, so if your period is shorter than a full week (as are many people's) this stage will occur at the end of week one.
Week Two, Part Two: Time to go crazy
Okay so ovulation is where the real fun happens. Ovulation occurs roughly in the middle of your cycle; if you have the average 28-day cycle, that'll be at around Day 14. Put simply, you can expect to be horny AF in the build up to, and day of ovulation.
Your sex hormones (oestrogen, testosterone, progesterone) are all spiking, and they all want to get you pregnant. You know, evolution and all that. Even if you have absolutely no intention of getting knocked up or having the kind of sex where that would be possible, you'll still feel the effects of this stage of your cycle.
With increased energy levels and mood at a high point, your hormones are totally wingman-ing you: boosting your confidence, making your face more symmetrical, and even clearing up your skin. Oestrogen increases blood flow to your genitals which makes you feel turned on, progesterone helps strengthen your pelvic floor (see above for why that equals better orgasms), and testosterone increases sex drive.
This is the time to go out on hot dates, experiment with your partner, and shoot for the more ambitious positions and longer, wilder sex sessions. Your hormones have got your back.
Week Three: Time to cuddle
Feeling blue? Post-ovulation, which would be around week three in an average 28-day cycle, your sex drive will likely be at its lowest ebb of your whole menstrual cycle. With progesterone (sometimes known as the 'sedating hormone') spiking and oestrogen and testosterone dipping, it's understandable that your mood begins to take a dive too. But, if you do feel like getting some action, sex (or variations thereof) is ready to help you out yet again. And this time, you don't even need to make orgasming the goal.
During and after any type of physical contact, ranging from hand holding to sex, oxytocin and endorphins are released which have both been found to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
Now, obviously we're not suggesting that you should be shagging away your actual mental health problems if you have been diagnosed with Depression or an Anxiety Disorder, but for soothing your hormonal blues and increasing your readiness to cope with any stressors that come your way, sex could well be the answer. It might sound like a bit of a catch 22: sex could improve your mood but your low mood means you don't feel like having sex, so your mood persists...
... But fortunately, you don't have to go at it like bunnies to feel the effects of oxytocin and endorphins if you're not feeling up to it. Even hugging can cause a release of oxytocin, so the focus at this stage should be on physical intimacy.
Even if you're alone, you can touch yourself sensually, rather than sexually, or give yourself a pamper session involving a hot, candlelit bath, a full body scrub, and moisturising your whole body. For those who are partnered up or dating, we'd suggest taking that candlelit bath with your fave person (look, we're just really pro-bath at this not-so-fun stage of the cycle), spending a lot of time cuddling in front of a movie, or wrapped up in bed kissing and touching each other.
You might find this eventually leads to you feeling horny and wanting to have sex or masturbate; when your genitals are touched, even without the intention of reaching climax, it stimulates blood flow to the area which will increase your feelings of desire. Sex could well give you the flood of good-vibes you're in need of during this week but, even if you want to keep it PG-13, you'll still benefit from the oxytocin release/endorphin rush of non-sexual touch and intimacy.
Week Four: Time to show PMS who's boss
So premenstrual syndrome is pretty much universally acknowledged to be a bit of a bitch. Towards the very end of your cycle, right before your period is due again, you'll experience the luteal phase, commonly referred to as PMS. Your hormones straight-up abandon you: oestrogen levels drop to their lowest ebb and you're also experiencing low levels of testosterone and falling levels of progesterone.
While the physical symptoms really start to build up before your period arrives - think tender boobs, bloating, and premenstrual headaches - this stage isn't utterly hopeless. One perk of this time is that your sex drive will start to pick up again...
Many (but not all) people who have periods experience a heightened libido in the last couple of days before their period arrives, as well as during their period itself. This is because progesterone has finally dropped - remember, we know the sucker as the sedating hormone - and your uterus is preparing to shed its lining once more (yep, again. It happens every month, sorry boo).
This stimulates the nerve endings and blood flow to your genitals, which results in arousal. Not only are you likely to feel like getting some action right about now, acting on your desires could well kick your PMS symptoms in the ass. Having sex in this pre-menstrual stage promises benefits such as mood-balancing, stress-reducing, and potentially even easing your premenstrual headaches...
And then we go back to the start, and repeat and repeat ad infinitum. That is, until menopause, which usually occurs between the ages of 45 to 55, when you'll have to learn to reckon with menopausal hormones!
So there we have it, your guide to sex, sex drive, and the menstrual cycle. It's also worth noting that the more sex you have, the more your libido will grow, and the more sex you'll want. And if there's anything we've learnt here, it's if in doubt, get yourself off.
According to your hormones, you're pretty much horny all the time anyway (let's all collectively agree to forget about week three, okay?).
So, listen to your body, engage in sexual activities that match your energy levels and desires, and refer back to this article when your roommates ask you why they can hear your vibrator buzzing for three days straight every month.
This article was written by Isabella Millington at OHNE. A bespoke, organic tampon subscription service and the creators of the UK's first pro-period CBD oil, OHNE are on a mission to give everyone the easy, chill, sustainable period they deserve. Oh, and to keep you informed about everything they should have taught you in school about your own body.
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