The Facts About How PMS Impacts Your Sexual Satisfaction

The Facts About How PMS Impacts Your Sexual Satisfaction

By: Maria Suarez -

“PMS is not a one-size-fits all experience, rather, each person’s experience is filtered through social and cultural beliefs that influence how they process symptoms.”

I think by now we’ve all heard, read, or seen something about how sex can help with period pain, specifically menstrual cramps. There’s always someone who’s willing to tell you about their own experience or present you with a diagram of a uterus and start talking about how the involuntary contractions brought on by orgasm will likely help with your symptoms. My problem with these is that they tend to focus on the fact that women probably don’t want to have sex during their period because they’re worried they’ll make a mess or are still hauling old-school ideas on sex. I also find it interesting how it seems that nobody is thinking about how the person with the vagina still has the choice to decide whether or not they want to have sex at that point or at any other moment in their life.

When we hear the media, medical community, people around us, and even ourselves talking about Menstrual issues, PMS is often seen as the main culprit behind discomfort during the days leading to menstruation. But what is Premenstrual Syndrome all about? Well, according to HelloClue, it’s all a little complicated:

“PMS is not a one-size-fits all experience, rather, each person’s experience is filtered through social and cultural beliefs that influence how they process symptoms.”

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But then what happens when your period is right around the corner and you’re trying to fight off the first symptoms of PMS while also trying to maintain your regular activities, sex included? To talk more about how the menstrual cycle is incredibly entangled with the ups and downs of sexual desire, we talked with sex therapist María Mendoza.

“When it comes to sexual desire during PMS, we feel uncomfortable, bloated, in pain, or just don’t feel ourselves. This affects how we perceive our bodies as well as our libido.”

I wonder whether much of what we’ve heard regarding period sex continues along the same lines of anyone who was born female being told what they should or shouldn’t do with their bodies, instead of allowing them to make their own choices. Maybe for one person, with a certain range of symptoms, period sex is the best thing that works for them. Should they push this on someone else who might suffer from debilitating symptoms, or even someone who might not have any discomfort and is still is not in the mood?

“While it’s true that sex can help make PMS or period pain less painful, not everyone is in the mood for sex during those days. And this isn’t even taking into account the misinformation and taboos related to period sex.”

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Yes, we all need to work on our taboos, but that still does not give anyone the right to try to strip another of these. We all have different times and moments to discover whether we agree or believe in what we’ve been taught by family, society, and science. And even when we might agree or disagree with certain concepts or ideas, such as PMS or period sex, each person is in control of their own body and should be the only one deciding on whether they will be engaging in any sexual activity.

“It’s almost like we treat life like a checklist: school, work, relationship, marriage, kids, nice house, good car, etc. Yet nobody asks us if we’re happy, if it’s what we really want or need. If we asked ourselves about what we want or don’t want, we’d stop thinking about whether we’re doing what others expect of us. This of course includes our sex life. So how can we expect to have a satisfying sex life if we’ve been given this checklist since we’re young? How can we discover our true desires if we’re constantly being told that certain women should not do this or that in bed?”

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I think that what I find interesting about this is that although PMS is a natural part of our menstrual cycle, the way we perceive it or deal with it is completely cultural. If we’re taught to act as if we’re fine, even when we’re clearly not, then this translates into us putting aside our needs in order to be the person or partner we feel we need to be.

“When we’re trying to be everything for everyone we forget the most important thing, which is to be fulfilled with who we are and how we feel. We break ourselves into a million pieces for everyone else. But when it comes to ourselves we don’t pay attention.”

There’s another level we talked about with Mendoza, what happens when we’re under some sort of medication or hormonal treatment that affects not only our cycle but our entire biology?

“If our health is compromised or even if we’re under a particular medical treatment, our sexual desire takes a backseat because our mind is focused on something else. This, of course, also includes when we’re under a particular hormonal therapy.”

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So if our desire is becoming secondary, because our brains and bodies are focused on a particular problem, do we still ignore all these signs in order to fulfill the expectations others have of us?

“In a world full of marketing, gender stereotypes, and way too many social expectations, if we don’t look out for ourselves, we are in danger of losing sight of ourselves.”

I finally asked Mendoza about her suggestions to anyone who wants to start paying attention to their own bodies and needs.

“It’s important that every woman knows her own cycle, because each body is different. It’s important to be aware and I think there are now so many apps that help record your menstrual cycle. When we can identify what’s causing our mood changes, sexual desire or lack of it, when we know when our period is going to be, etc, this allows us to discover our bodies, as well as the physical and emotional changes.”

So next time someone tells you whether or not you should be having sex before, during, or after your period. Or even if you start feeling unsure about whether you should voice how you’re feeling regarding your own body, remember that it belongs to nobody but you. So don’t be afraid of acting or doing what you need to find comfort during your most uncomfortable days.

Illustrations by Marlene Juliane Schindler