Maybe you’ve always been innately attuned to your monthly rhythms, embracing the physical, mental, and emotional cycles with grace, humor and wisdom. Or maybe you relate to your period more like a workaholic during a fire drill: “Is this really necessary? I’ve got, like, a lot going on.” For the first 15 of my bleeding years, that was me. (The workaholic—not the paragon of grace.) Period sex? Only rarely, and always with a dash of an apologetic, “ew,” vibe.
It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I began relating to the ebbs and flows of my cycle not as an irritating series of changes to ignore, but as a superpower—a wave I could ride in a way that felt not just manageable but comforting, a little mystical, even fun.
There are four phases of your menstrual cycle, and each one feels a little different because your physical body and your hormone levels are literally changing.
Tapping into these changes connects you more deeply to your body, (read: better sex), AND gives you a science-backed reason to switch up the vibe of your sex life throughout the month, (read: even better sex).
The Menstrual Phase (AKA “On Your Period”)
These are the infamous bleeding days, during which your uterine lining sheds out through your vagina (assuming you’re not pregnant).
This phase begins on the first day of bleeding and ends the day after bleeding stops– about 3-7 days.
Hormones are at their lowest during this phase, so your energy may be on the lower side, as well.
I like to think of this time as having a “winter” energy. You may have an impulse to turn inward, feel more connected to your body, and you’ll probably be especially aware of your hips and pelvic area, (for obvious reasons). This strengthened connection to yourself and your physical being makes it a great time to slow down and reflect on your sex life.
What’s been feeling good about sex these days? What’s been feeling not-so-great? Be as literal and explicit, (“That time we did oral, then penetration, then more oral…that was spot-on.”) or as broad as you want. (“There’s nothing wrong with the sex I’m having, but sometimes I feel like I’m just not fully there for it.”) Trust your intuition, write any insights down, and then, if it feels right, forget about it for a bit.
If you feel like having sex during this phase– go for it. Enjoy the extra lubrication in or out of the shower, and choose lying down or side-lying positions for a more mellow, luxurious vibe. Pay extra attention to how your body feels, and trust yourself to follow your impulses.
The Follicular Phase
This phase overlaps with menstruation, also beginning the first day of your bleed and lasting until ovulation: anywhere between 11-27 days. (Remember to count from the first day of your period.)
Hormone levels rise as your eggs mature, so you may be feeling more energized, positive, ready to take risks and engage with more challenging experiences. This “spring” energy, of growth, inspiration, and new beginnings is fitting.
This phase is all about newness, openness and creativity, making it the perfect time for trying new things: a new toy, a new position, a new (or first) set of characters for role play. (Remember those insights from the reflective, menstrual phase? Now’s the time to put them into action!)
Don’t be afraid to get out into the world: schedule a date to see a show or some art, or just walk around in the neighborhood and see what might spark inspiration before heading back to the bedroom. If you’re in the mood to stay, poke around for some new visual stimulation or erotic fiction.
Bonus assignment for this “superstar time:” If you’ve been wondering what your partner’s thoughts are about your sex life, now is a great time to have those conversations, when you’re more likely to receive feedback in a positive light.
Oh, ovulation. This phase has the ad campaign of a summer blockbuster and, honestly, it’s not all hype.
The peak of ovulation (when the healthiest egg is released and travels to the uterus) only lasts 12-48 hours, but the entire phase lasts for about 6 days, right in the middle of your cycle.
Clearly, this is a great time to have a lot of sex (solo or with a partner), and the sweatier and more passionate the better—dirty talk encouraged.
Take advantage of your hyper-radiance and give your partner a little strip-tease or lap-dance, or send a sexy photo or video, if that’s your thing.
If you’ve got the space, take a cue from your traveling egg and bring the party out of the bedroom—take it to the floor and onto countertops, play in front of mirrors, get creative with the furniture. Think loose, hot, and wild. (If you’ve ever wondered what sex would be like if you just let your animal instincts take over, this phase supports you 100%.)
If there’s something you’ve been secretly dying to try in the bedroom, now is the time to eloquently make your case. Use your irresistible power wisely.
Hint: you don’t have to immediately try out this desire. In fact, maybe wait until the follicular phase to put it into action, when you may be more excited about taking a risk. But now is a great time to get a little vulnerable and talk it through… then have whatever kind of passionate, wall-to-wall sex you know and love!
The Luteal Phase
For about 12-14 days following ovulation, estrogen and progesterone levels rise and your uterine lining thickens.
This autumnal phase can feel like an overall, “winding down.” (Makes sense—your uterus is basically prepping for the winter, building a sort of home where a fertilized egg could hunker down and grow.)
Don’t worry if your sex drive is waning, or if you find yourself more interested in organizing your lingerie drawer than wearing anything inside it. This is a great phase for focusing and completing tasks. A suggestion for where to aim that focus? Your own pleasure, of course!
If ovulation wants to tear off everyone’s clothes right in the middle of dishwashing—soapy, greasy fingers be damned—luteal wants to clean everything up, take a nice shower, put away the work day, and set a proper romantic stage.
You’re primed to notice the little things, so give yourself some delicious details to appreciate—throw a pretty piece of fabric over the top of a lampshade, light a candle, turn on some sultry sounds—romance yourself or you and your partner (or let your partner know that their efforts will be extra-appreciated.)
The second half of this phase, when menstruation is right around the corner, is a good time to dial back the energy you might often offer the rest of the world, and lean into the receiving mode. Invite your partner give you a massage or oral sex session meant just for you. You can return the favor when your follicular and ovulation phases come around again.