I get asked a lot about desire. My clients notice that throughout the month they are either really ready for sex or they don’t want it at all. And then I ask them if they’ve ever tracked their cycle to see if these days coincide with what’s going on in their bodies. Most haven’t. So today we’re going to talk about what is happening in your body during your menstrual cycle and what that means for your sex life!
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I get questions from listeners, clients, and followers that sound a lot like this…
“I’m in the mood for a couple of days and then it just disappears for weeks. Why does that happen?”
“I used to be in the mood all the time, but now I’m not. I think my hormones are just off.”
“My wife seems to want sex about once a month is all. Anything I can do to help her want it more?”
One of the first questions I ask clients is, have you noticed any patterns when it comes to being in the mood? Most haven’t, because they don’t track things. But I’m going to take an educated guess that the few days that they are “in the mood” are very much related to their menstrual cycle. So I thought I’d dive in today and talk about how sex is affected by the menstrual cycle and our changing hormones.
Let me start off by saying that all women are different. Our bodies work differently. So what I am sharing here today are generalities. Things may work differently for you or your spouse. Also, I am not a doctor. So what I am sharing is based on my experience, the experience of my clients, and some research I have done (which is linked in the show notes for this episode). But a doctor should always be consulted if you have concerns.
So let’s go through the four phases of the menstrual cycle and see what we can piece together when it comes to our sex drive.
In this phase, progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone are at their lowest levels. I have found that women usually fall into the extremes during this time of the month. Either they are totally turned on or they don’t even want to think about it.
I think some of it has to do with how we feel about our bodies and our period in general. That can definitely affect your libido. But some women are naturally more aroused because they aren’t worried about pregnancy. Context for sex is so important and a lot of times those worries can really put the brakes on your sex drive. So if you know that you aren’t going to get pregnant, those brakes are lifted and sex is easier. Another idea is that pre-period discharge can increase sensitivity. Before your period, discharge tends to be white and full of cells that are being shed from your body. This discharge can result in more lubrication and allows the genitals to feel more sensitive. For some, that may lead to feelings of arousal.
Now there are definitely lots of women who are like “Hallelujah, it’s my week off!” And that works too. But just because you are on your period, doesn’t mean that sex has to be off limits. Many women are totally fine with laying a dark towel down and just letting it flow while they get it on. Most men I know may not want to perform oral, but are totally fine with intercourse. But if you do want to engaged in penetration and don’t want the blood flow, I suggest either shower sex or my favorite thing, Flex Period Disks. They are a flexible disk that you insert into the cervical space and they catch all the blood while still allowing penetration. You can find a link for them in the show notes or on the resources page of my website.
Some other noted benefits of sex during this time of the month…orgasms can help with headaches and cramps! Yay for orgasms!
The next phase is the follicular phase. In this phase, estrogen and testosterone begin rising. You might be feeling better and have more energy, so your interest in sex might rise.
As a woman, you may notice that you are more interested in sex in the days leading up to day-14 of your cycle, which is typically when women ovulate. Isn’t Mother Nature clever? Our body naturally creates a stronger urge to have sex when we are the most fertile. This urge comes from a peak in your estrogen and testosterone levels which quickly drop after ovulation occurs.
When estrogen and testosterone peak, you may find that your desire for sex increases. You may fantasize more. You may be more inclined to watch romantic movies. A small study showed that women tend to prefer penis in vagina sex over oral sex around this time of the month.
Also, with the peak of hormones and ovulation, there’s also more vaginal discharge, which can heighten sensation and keep sex on your mind, both of which can help turn you on!
And last, but not least is the luteal phase. During this phase, progesterone rises, peaks, and then falls if no pregnancy occurs. Estrogen rebounds slightly before dropping again in the days before you start menstruating. Testosterone continues to drop.
In this phase, you probably don’t have much of a libido. This is also the phase with PMS symptoms which impact your energy and mood. Progesterone is known to make your moodier and more anxious. You tend to feel more stress during this phase, which for most women is a turn off.
It’s always changing
The way you experience sex and your body through your cycle changes. What feels good on Day 14 may be uncomfortable on Day 26. If you start tracking these changes and subtleties you can often tap into when things are and will be better for you so that you can capitalize on them.
Let’s talk about some other changes that might happen in your body with your cycle.
1. Cervical Position
On most days, your cervix is positioned low in the abdomen. But near ovulation, the cervix rises. Because of this, certain positions may work better at different times of the month. Some women report cervical pain during certain times of the month and not others. This may have to do with cervical position and what position you are having intercourse in. Some deeper-entry positions (like doggy style) may work better around ovulation when the cervix is high. Other people find cervical contact or stimulation during sex to be pleasurable. You should also note that as you get aroused the vagina widens and lengthens, which can affect the cervix.
When aroused, women naturally produce our own lubrication (although that can change with so many different aspects of our health and life). You may notice that you lubricate more in the days leading up to and around ovulation. More cervical fluid is produced during that time and the fluid is stretchier and contains more water. If you find you aren’t producing enough natural lubrication for sex to be comfortable, make sure you are using extra lube. Check out podcast episode 75 for the best lubes. Don’t just use ones from the grocery store!
Your breasts most likely feel differently at different times during your cycle. Some research shows that breasts and nipples may be more sensitive to touch during the ovulation phase. After ovulation, in the luteal phase, breasts commonly become fuller and/or sore. So you may want to pay attention to what phase you like your breasts or nipples to be stimulated more than others.
A 2013 study found that women’s attitudes towards romantic kissing varied with where they were in their cycle. Women in the follicular phase rated the importance of kissing more highly than females in the luteal phase. Now, if we think about this in relation to cycles, it suggests that during that follicular phase we use kissing to assess a potential mate right before the chances of conception are at their highest. So interesting, right?
So now that you understand a little bit more about how your cycle affects your libido and sexual desire, also keep in mind that desire is not just from hormones and physical response. So much of it depends on your mindset. And while the physical aspect may be there more during certain times of the month, you can create it and cultivate it anytime you want by the way that you think.
Because we have suppressed our sexual desires so much, a lot of times we aren’t in tune to it when it comes unless it is a strong physical urge. I encourage you to be more mindful and try to recognize the subtleties of your own desire. For example, if your husband walks by and you notice how good he looks in his jeans, rather than quickly dismissing it, lean into it. Recognize it for what it is. Act on it.
And if you are having trouble, come into group coaching! My next group starts Wednesday, June 30 at 7pm MT. I have just a couple of spots left and enrollment for the group closes on Monday, June 21 at midnight. If you aren’t sure if coaching is right for you, you can sign up for a free consultation on the homepage of my website, AmandaLouder.com.
On my website you can also find out all the information for the upcoming retreat October 7-10 in Bear Lake, UT where we are going to be working on the mind body connection! I’ve got amazing speakers coming in, a chef to take care of all of our meals, female photographers, hair and makeup artists to do photo shoots for every woman who attends. This is going to be an amazing weekend of relaxation, pampering, and learning more about your body and sex. Early bird pricing ends soon!