A Sexual Forecast for Your Menstrual Cycle6 Min Read
Do your sexual desires, functions, and urges seem to fluctuate day to day or week to week?
In fact, does it ever feel like your body waxes and wanes on a pattern?
If you have, rest assured — you’re on to something.
People who menstruate tend to develop predictable patterns around their cycle, and the best-known symptoms often fall into two categories: emotional or physical (1). For example, you might feel moody and bloated before your period (the luteal phase), but energetic and motivated at other times of the month, particularly during your follicular phase. Yet what you may fail to realize is that the menstrual cycle may also be having a huge impact on your sex life.
Different phases of the menstrual cycle are associated with plenty of things, including different levels of vaginal lubrication, sex hormones, and overall sex drive (1). In other words, if you or your partner menstruate, then chances are it has affected your sex life at least once.
Your partner, for example, “might think that because you went wild over something they did last week you’ll want that same thing again this week,” says author Alisa Vitti in “In the Flo: Unlock Your Hormonal Advantage and Revolutionize Your Life.” “And they don’t understand why it doesn’t have the same orgasm-producing effect week after week.”
In other words, Vitta explains that understanding which factors are working for you and which are working against you throughout your menstrual cycle can help you have a more informed and fulfilling sexual experience and relationship with your body. Using insight from here book, here is how you or your partner’s sexual desires might adjust based on the menstrual cycle phase:
Typically lasts 7-10 days
What is it: During the follicular phase, the body "produced more estrogen... and prepares to release an egg. More specifically, the follicular phase is defined by the release of follicle stimulating hormone (FHS)?"
Strengths: People who menstruate are typically more receptive to novel experiences in this part of their cycles. This is a great time to experiment with your partner — try role-play or a new position, or introduce a sex toy if you’re feeling into it Enjoy the feeling of sexual confidence and creativity (1).
Weaknesses: The follicular phase is one of two “dry phases” that people who menstruate experience throughout their cycle. If you notice a decrease in your natural lubrication during intercourse at this time, try keeping store-bought lube on hand —this guide is a good place to start.
Typically lasts 3-5 days
What It Is: Ovulation is the release of an egg from the ovaries. A new surge of testosterone and estrogen signals the end of the follicular phase and the beginning of the ovulatory phase. As a result, people who menstruate tend to feel well-lubricated and sexually motivated during this period.
Strengths: This can be a great time to tap into your sexual pleasures, and you may find that you have a higher chance of orgasming than at other times of the month. If you’re ovulating, you may notice a difference in the way people interact with you during this phase. Your increase in fertility is accompanied by a perceptible improvement in your communication skills, as well as your overall appearance. In fact, both men and women find women’s facial features and voices most attractive during the ovulatory phase (1).
Weaknesses: Just as evolution made women more sexually appealing and motivated during the most fertile phase of their cycle, it also influenced their preference in sexual partners.The authors of “A Man’s Guide to Women: Scientifically Proven Secrets from the ‘Love Lab’ About What Women Really Want” argue that heterosexual women respond to aggression during the ovulation phase, and to nurturing at other points in their cycle. “The origins are evolutionary: women’s long-standing needs to have children that were strong enough to survive, and to find men who would love and protect their children to make sure they would thrive,” they write. Of course, the urge to find a more aggressive partner might not be as well-founded in today’s context. If you are a single person who menstruates, it’s good to be aware of this instinct and how it plays in your sexual decision-making.
Typically lasts 10-14 days.
What It Is: This is when the lining of the uterus thickens for the preparation of a fertilized egg.
Strengths: Thanks to the continued presence of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, the first half of the luteal phase feels a lot like the ovulatory phase, and is marked by an increased sex drive and vaginal lubrication. This is a great time to enjoy having energetic sex with your partner.
Weaknesses: That green-light comes with a warning. The second part of the luteal phase is typically the most difficult part of the menstrual cycle, from both a sexual and emotional perspective (1). The closer you or your partner get to your menstrual cycle, the less you might experience a sex drive or vaginal lubrication — and you might feel plenty of emotional turbulence. (Does PMS ring a bell?)
The likelihood of feeling dissatisfied in your relationship may feel highest at this point, so if you are the person who menstruates, it’s good to be aware that hormonal changes can influence thought processes and decision-making. If your partner menstruates, knowing this association may help you understand why they may seem distant at certain times of the month.
Typically lasts 3 to 7 days.
What It Is: Otherwise known as your period, the menstrual phase occurs when your body sheds its uterine lining. Contrary to popular belief, that tissue isn’t blood — but you might want to grab a heating pad and curl up on the couch anyway.
Strengths: The uterus increases slightly in size right before a period, resulting in increased pressure on your pelvic floor. This subtle physiological shift can actually lead to heightened nerve stimulation, especially within your inner labia or the “legs” of your clitoris. It can be fun to experiment with these sensations, given how intense they feel.
Weaknesses: Many people who menstruate experience lower sex drives during this part of their cycles. In fact, it is not uncommon to want nothing to do with sex, or to dislike being touched. This is completely normal — it has to do with the way your estrogen and testosterone plunge, especially compared to the ovulatory phase (1).
And despite the fact that the menstrual phase is inherently “wet,” menstrual flow is not a dependable lubricant during intercourse. The discharge can become dry and clotted when it’s exposed to air, increasing the risk of discomfort you or your partner feel. Be sure to include additional lubricant during menstrual sex. You can also try to minimize cleanup and have sex in the shower.
What Does This All Mean?
People who menstruate are often dealing with a lot — and those variables can affect everything from a willingness to engage in sex to how you respond to sexual stimuli. Identifying and understanding “the hormonal lens” can give you insight as to why these drastic changes occur on a near-weekly basis.
Every phase of the cycle has its strengths, and it’s worth holding grace for yourself or your partner for any inconsistencies. Instead of focusing on the discouraging parts, think of the menstrual cycle as an opportunity to bring a new level of dynamically to your sex life.
And to learn more from Alisa Vitti, I suggest checking out her book here!
Vitti, Alisa. In the FLO: A 28-day plan working with your monthly cycle to do more and stress less. HarperCollins UK, 2020.