Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine the practice of sexual intercourse during menstruation and the relationship of this practice to the experience of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) among women in the United States.
Methods: Logistic regression technique was used to conduct an analysis of population-based data from a national sample of 1586 sexually active 20- to 37-year-old women to examine the patterns of sexual intercourse during menstruation and its relationship with STD outcome.
Results: More than one fourth of the women reported that they usually have vaginal intercourse during their menses, and 16% reported that they had had vaginal intercourse during their last menstrual period. Proportions of women engaging in this practice were higher among those who reported greater frequency of intercourse and larger numbers of lifetime sex partners. Almost half the women who had intercourse more than twice a week and more than one third of the women who had more than seven lifetime sex partners reported that they usually have vaginal intercourse during menses. The findings suggest that this practice is relatively more common among the better educated, young, white women and their sex partners. Most interestingly, despite the fact that sex during menses is most common among women in relatively low-risk groups, we were able to observe a strong statistical association between sexual intercourse during menstruation and self-reported STD history.
Conclusions: Sexual intercourse during menstruation may emerge more consistently as a risk factor for the heterosexual transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted pathogens in future studies. If future epidemiologic studies continue to bolster this finding, then public health efforts should promote abstinence during the female menstrual period and target those groups of women among whom this practice is prevalent.