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Illustration: Marta Pucci

Pleasure

Masturbating during your period

by Clár McWeeney, Former Content Manager at Clue
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Masturbation—touching yourself for sexual pleasure—is normal behavior and can lead to orgasm. Often a person’s first orgasm comes from masturbation, so it can be a great way to understand your body and explore your desires. Masturbation can help you become comfortable in communicating your needs to a sexual partner.

Unfortunately, taboos about masturbation can condition people to feel shameful about doing it. If you’re not harming yourself or others, masturbating is completely safe and normal.

Talking about arousal around the time of your period is even more taboo. The belief that sexual behavior must be avoided while menstruating is unfounded—there is nothing “dirty” or dangerous about menstrual blood.

Some women even notice increased arousal during their period (1, 2). The endorphins released by orgasms may help relieve menstrual cramps—and stress—for some people (3, 4).

But if you don’t feel like engaging in sexual activities during your period—or ever—that’s also totally fine.

Here are some tips for masturbation during your period:

Lubricant helps.

Touching, pressing, or massaging your genitals with your fingers, or with an object such as a sex toy, can be sexually satisfying and can lead to orgasm. Arousal fluid, personal lubricant (lube), and/or menstrual blood can help make masturbation a more pleasurable experience. But before you start, be sure to wash your hands and/or the objects, to prevent possible vaginal or urethral infections.

What about using a tampon or menstrual cup?

You can still masturbate if you’re using a tampon or menstrual cup. Using lube can be helpful here if you’re experiencing skin chaffing or irritation, as the tampon or menstrual cup might be absorbing the fluids that would smooth the process along. Try directly stimulating the clitoris, nipples, and/or the other parts of the vulva. The clitoris is the primary source of female sexual pleasure and is located above the vaginal canal and urethra (5–7).

Anal stimulation can feel good too, but note that bacteria in your rectum can cause vaginal or urethral infections. So if you want something that’s been in your butt to go into your vagina, wash it first or put a condom on it. Washing and using condoms on sex toys are good practices to prevent infections (and STIs if you’re sharing toys with an untested or new sexual partner) (8).

What if I’m not using a tampon or menstrual cup?

If you’re not using a tampon or menstrual cup, you can try including stimulation to the vagina (remember: the vulva is all of your external genital organs, while the vagina is specifically the canal between the uterus and vulva). Find out what feels good for you. If you’re inserting fingers into your vagina, you can keep tissues nearby in case you need to clean up any menstrual blood.

Preventing stains: If you’re bleeding heavily and worried about stains, try putting a towel beneath you or masturbating while in the shower. Showerhead or water stream stimulation can also be sexually satisfying, but don’t ever spray water into the vagina.

Washing the inside of the vagina with water or soap — also known as “douching”—shouldn’t be practiced. It can disrupt vaginal pH levels and healthy bacteria populations, which can lead to infections (9–11). The vagina cleans itself.

Are there any risks?

If you’re masturbating with a partner (mutual masturbation) and touching each others’ genitals to and fro, there’s a still a possible risk of pregnancy (if ejaculate gets into the vagina and you’re in your fertile window) and/or STIs (with an untested or new sexual partner). However, research has found the probability of being in your fertile window on the first couple of days of your period is close to zero, and may rise to about 2% on day four (12).

You should feel pleased to please yourself during any time of your cycle.

Do you notice increased arousal during your period? Track your sex drive and bleeding in Clue.

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