Sex
Painful sex during or after your period could be a symptom of endometriosis.

If Sex Hurts During Or After Your Period, Here's What You Should Know

Certain positions can help you feel comfier.

By Caroline Burke and Emma Glassman-Hughes
Updated: 
Originally Published: 
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Your body's response to sex is not a static thing. It can depend on a whole host of variables, from feeling sore after a workout to your emotional connection with your partner, and yes, even to the stage of your menstrual cycle. But if you experience painful sex after your period, you are not alone.

Pain during sex after your period is quite common for a few reasons. For one, menstruation involves the shedding of your uterine lining, which means your uterus is especially tender in the days immediately following your period, known as the proliferative phase of your menstrual cycle. This means you may be more sensitive to the physical sensations of sex, whether that’s pleasure or pain.

Dr. Adeeti Gupta, NYC-based OBGYN and founder of Walk IN GYN Care, explains that there may be other explanations for why sex hurts after your period. “There are several conditions when sex might hurt after the period. One of the most common ones would be endometriosis,” Dr. Gupta tells Elite Daily. “Other conditions in which the painful sex may occur after the period are adenomyosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or even some gut disorders.” She adds that certain sex positions may feel more or less comfortable for you during that tender proliferative phase.

If sex hurts at any time during your cycle, it’s not automatically an indication of something more serious. But if it persists, or if it feels like it’s getting worse, whether or not it’s after your period, it’s always best to check in with your doctor to make sure the coast is clear. Read on for more about how to avoid painful sex after your period.

Is It Normal To Have Painful Sex During Or After Your Period?

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While there’s no evidence to suggest that it’s normal to experience any type of severe pain from sex even after your period, some discomfort is totally fair game. Alternatively, sex during your period is thought to actually relieve cramps and heighten pleasure, largely due to the increased hormone levels and all that glorious, natural lubrication.

What Causes Painful Sex During Or After Your Period?

Some people experience vaginal dryness after their period, which is sometimes attributed to the totally unsubstantiated myth that tampons absorb all the natural moisture from inside the vagina. While a tampon’s job is to absorb period blood, there’s no indication that tampon usage is linked to vaginal dryness. If you're having trouble getting wet, there are plenty of other potential culprits to consider — including estrogen levels. Dryness in the days after your period may be linked to a drop in estrogen that affects the overall moisture level of your vagina. Dryness during sex creates friction, which can be anything from uncomfortable to quite painful.

And while a temporary slow-down in lubrication right after your period isn't a huge cause for concern, severe pain or cramping after sex is. If you're experiencing substantial pain while having sex at any point of your menstrual cycle, Dr. Gupta says it may be an indication of endometriosis, which is when tissue from the uterine lining grows outside the uterus. “Even though with endometriosis, the pain is most common before and during the period, the pain may be more after the period is over in some cases,” Dr. Gupta says. Endometriosis affects “one in 10 women during their reproductive years,” according to Endometriosis.org, and can cause serious sensitivity and pain in the pelvic area.

What Should You Do If You Have Painful Sex During Or After Your Period?

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There are a few totally normal reasons why you could feel some cramping during or after sex, regardless of when you last had your period. It could be as simple as some bladder irritation, or some triggered contractions from your uterus being touched a certain way. However, if you suspect the pain may be an indication of something more serious, Dr. Gupta recommends speaking to your doctor ASAP. “People need to pay attention to any associated symptoms such as fever, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, or abnormal vaginal bleeding,” Dr. Gupta warns. “If any of these are present, then they need to get a full check-up including an ultrasound to make sure that there is no active inflammation or infection going on. If all the test results are normal and painful sex is an ongoing issue, then identifying the [sex] positions that are better or worse [for the pain] is extremely important.”

If you feel that uncomfortable pressure in your lower abdomen during doggy style but not when you’re on your back during missionary, then stick to missionary. “Especially for women with endometriosis or adenomyosis, positions that put less pressure on the uterus are better,” Dr. Gupta says. “Once you identify the positions that work, then it’s best to guide your partner and use those positions. Putting a pillow or two under the buttocks can also help.”

Sex should be an enjoyable experience for all involved, regardless of where you are in your menstrual cycle. To anyone experiencing vaginal dryness: Lube is your friend. For all the endo-cuties out there: Test different positions and props to find something that feels good for you. (Your doctor might even be able to give you some suggestions specific to your bodily needs.)

And don’t hesitate to communicate with your partner — if you’re in pain or you’re not enjoying something they’re doing, tell them. If they’re a good partner, they’ll not only be understanding, they’ll be grateful that you clued them into how your body is feeling.

So when it comes to your tender uterus, do yourself a favor and handle with care.

Experts

Dr. Adeeti Gupta, NYC-based OBGYN and founder of Walk IN GYN Care, the nation's first walk-in center for complete women's health

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