We women have got complicated sex drives. Sometimes we’re on cloud nine, feeling refreshed from a solid sleep schedule and an actually effective self-care routine, and sometimes outside stressors have us totally feeling like recluses overwhelmed by the thought of intimacy. Whatever the outside factors may be that affect how “in the mood” we are, did you know that internal factors like our hormones matter just as much – if not more – when it comes to having a healthy sex drive?
Researchers have found that the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone play a major role in our sexual appetite, which leads people to believe that if you’re having regular, healthy hormone cycles you could easily predict your sex drive. You know what that means? On the flip side, if you’re having irregular hormone cycles, then there’s no knowing when you’ll be in the mood…if at all! Life is already full of enough stressors, so if you’re interested in biohacking your body to feel more va va voom in the bedroom, then read on to get all our best tips and tricks for a better sex life through cycle-centered knowledge.
Let’s Get a Quick Refresher on the Four Phases
New here? No worries! Most of us weren’t actually taught much beyond surface-level information about our menstrual cycles when we were in school, so there’s a lot to unpack. That said, it’s really valuable information to have handy because menstrual cycles are so much more than simply when you’re bleeding and when you’re not. Your menstrual cycle says a lot about your mental and physical state and can be used to inform your food choices, exercise choices, and, yes, it even can forecast your libido.
Let’s start with the menstrual phase. This phase starts on the first day of bleeding and ends when you stop bleeding, so roughly anywhere from 3-7 days. During this time of restoration, your body is shedding its uterine lining, so your energy levels are low and you’ll likely want to slow down a bit.
Then, there’s the follicular phase. This phase signals a new cycle and starts at the beginning of menstruation but lasts until ovulation. During this time, your energy levels are awakening and you’ll likely feel more inspired to take on the world.
Next, there’s the ovulatory phase. This phase is when your healthiest egg is released, and you’re as fertile as can be. This fertile period is strongest for about 12-48 hours, but the ovulatory phase lasts around 6 days. During this time, your mood will peak and you’ll likely feel your sexiest.
Finally, there’s the luteal phase. This phase is when your body is prepping the uterine lining for its next bleed (or pregnancy) and lasts for about 12-14 days. During this time, your energy levels will start to wind down and you’ll likely feel a bit less motivated.
So knowing all of this, let’s thoroughly analyze how your differing hormone levels throughout the phases can inform how often you should be initiating sex, trying out some new techniques and positions, or when you should be laying back and letting your man take the reins.
How To Have the Best Sex, No Matter What Phase You’re In
It’s worth getting the menstrual phase out of the way first before diving into the more exciting parts. During your menstrual phase, your estrogen levels are at their lowest of lows, and your sex drive might be feeling like it's in hibernation. At Evie, we call this the “Restore” phase, where you’re probably inclined to turn inward and be more introspective.
This might mean that you choose not to have sex and instead choose to reflect on your sex life by journaling or talking things through with your husband so that you have better sex later on. What felt good? What might have felt painful? Take advantage of your introspective energy during the menstrual phase to connect with your body, give yourself some rest, and evaluate how you want to see your sex life improve.
If you’re choosing not to have sex while on your period, you might want to prioritize other forms of intimacy instead. Spend more time having deep, meaningful conversations, or bare your emotions to your husband instead of your body. Cuddle up on the sofa together and just be present with each other. Sex therapist Shannon Chavez, PsyD., told Well+Good that even a few minutes of eye gazing can be a meaningful way to stay connected without sex.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t have sex during menstruation, but it certainly isn’t your best time to get experimental and try out any of your or your husband’s new desires. You shouldn’t feel ashamed about the fact that you’re bleeding, but if you’re really not comfortable having sex during this time, then that’s perfectly fine. If you do choose to get physically intimate, perhaps suggesting shower sex or more comfortable positions (like lying down or side-lying) in bed with a towel underneath you would feel best. Also, you should be aware that orgasms can actually relieve period-related cramping, so now’s a better time than ever to make sure your man takes you there!
Alright, so your period is over and you’re onto the follicular phase. At Evie, we call this the “Awaken” phase, where you might feel a spark in creativity, inspiration, and are ready for new beginnings. This is because your estrogen is steadily rising while your progesterone levels are low. If there was ever a perfect time to try something new in the bedroom, it would be your follicular phase.
Get exploratory with your man. This is a great time to try creative foreplay, touch differently, and massage more. Itching to put on a sexy little ensemble you bought but weren’t quite ready to rock? Thinking you want to switch things up with a new position? Harness the “Awaken” energy of your follicular phase to suggest creative new ways to spice up your sex life.
“Over time, in relationships, partners can become too familiar,” Kate Balestrieri, licensed psychologist, certified sex therapist, and founder of Modern Intimacy, said in an interview with The Healthy.
So what are some ways that Balestrieri suggests you get creative with sex? One method is trying an adult subscription service like The Play Box, which could give you and your man a chance to sample new accessories or activities.
“Adult subscription services are all the rave, as they give couples the opportunity to sample different accessories and activities and have a new theme each month,” said Balestrieri.
Plus, each box has a monthly theme so you and your man can anticipate something exciting and new each time you receive a box. Balestrieri also suggests role-playing games like Lovehoney’s Oh! 52 Weeks of Role Play.
“Adult games take the fuss out of getting creative,” said Balistrieri. “They are designed to get your creative and sexual juices flowing.”
Once your ovulatory phase comes around, both your estrogen and testosterone levels are peaking so you’ll feel the most vixen-like you can be. You’re a Victoria’s Secret Angel, you’re a Baywatch Lifeguard…okay, well, you might not become a total sex icon at this time, but your hormones will genuinely be making you feel your sexiest! In fact, studies show that your estrogen levels could even rise as much as 800%, if not more. Take full advantage of the fact that you’re feeling radiant, passionate, and on top of your game by initiating more sex, and more vibrant sex at that. Since your cervix is at its highest position, now is a great time for sex positions with deeper penetration.
Do you sometimes shy away from getting sweaty? Let go of your anxieties, get moving with your man, and bonus: you’ll burn plenty of calories in the process. Talk dirtier, tease more, dance for your husband, try out the wild things he’s been itching to try, and just embrace a more animalistic instinct. We don’t call it the “Perform” phase for nothing! Research has actually suggested that men can tell when a woman is ovulating and feels most attracted to her during this time.
Feeling confident? Sexologist Megan Stubbs recommends trying sex with the lights fully on. Not sure if you’re there yet? Try soft candlelight, and then slowly work toward having sex in full light so you can get out of your comfort zone and let your husband take all of you in.
"For some, this idea is terrifying, but when you share that vulnerable space with your partner, you are helping to deepen your bond," Stubbs told Insider.
Do note, however, that during your ovulatory phase you’re at your most fertile. If you’re not ready to conceive, you might not want to take your chances. Your body is ready for baby-making, not just love-making. If you are ready to conceive, then let yourself loose, and you might just have an easier time getting pregnant than your female peers who don’t understand their cycles as well as you do.
All blissful things come to an end, however, and once you’re into the luteal phase your progesterone levels start to rise. Don’t be surprised if your sex drive seems to take a dip during what we at Evie like to call your “Balance” phase. Your body is winding down and preparing itself for the next bleed, so those PMS feelings might kick in. Just because your libido is slowing down, it doesn’t mean sexy time has to end. In fact, this could be the best time for you to get romantic with your man and approach sex in a more sultry manner.
The luteal phase is perfect for slow-burning pleasure. Put some time and effort into planning a night-in, whether that’s “Netflix and Chilling” after a home-cooked meal or taking a weekend trip to a destination near or far where you can go out, enjoy a glass of wine, and come “home” and enjoy some romancing in a new location.
Since your estrogen is lower in this phase, and low estrogen contributes to vaginal dryness, you might want to have some lube on hand. Your cervix is also lower, so positions with shallower penetration or where you can control the depth might be more comfortable.
Once you reach the end of your luteal phase, you might want to become the receiver instead of the giver. Ask your man for a massage, and perhaps it leads to some oral pleasure for you. Be patient, though, as during this time you might need more foreplay to get in the mood or more stimulation to reach a climax because of your lower estrogen levels.
Additionally, sexologist Sadie Allison, Ph.D., recommended to Well + Good that, when more tired, you should remember that sex is much more than just penetration. “You want to choose a position that is the least amount of work necessary,” said Dr. Allison. An example of this would be spooning during sex, since you don’t really exert as much energy as you would while having sex in other positions. Bonus points for the dreamy, physical intimacy that spooning allows for!
So that’s that! Not only is it the fluctuation of progesterone levels and estrogen peaking during ovulation, but all of your womanly hormones can help clue you into the best times to initiate experimental sex, slow down a bit, or ramp things up. Getting in touch with your hormones is easily one of the most important things you can do while you’re young since they act as a fifth vital sign. Your own body might not follow these trends to a tee, but in most circumstances, if outside stressors are removed and your body is cycling through natural hormonal cycles, then you should definitely harness the unique energies you have in each phase to tailor your sex life for your and your husband’s pleasure!
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