Menstrual cycle and STIs: what is the connection?

Se protéger des infections sexuellement transmissibles avec le préservatif

Human immunodeficiency virus ( HIV ), gonorrhea , trichomoniasis … Scientific terms with somewhat barbaric overtones to describe a truly worrying medical reality: sexually transmitted infections ( STIs ). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than a million people contract an STI every day across the globe 1 . In women, this type of disease can cause chronic pain , infertility or even cancer . But what is it exactly? Is there a link between menstrual cycle and STIs? And if so, what type is it? Full report below.

Sexually transmitted infections: what are we talking about?

What is a sexually transmitted infection?

A sexually transmitted infection, or STI, is an illness caused by pathogenic germs that are transmitted primarily sexually. Indeed, certain micro-organisms harmful to health contaminate and attack the human genital tract. They are responsible for inflammations and lesions in the mucous membranes and genital organs. They are found in biological fluids such as blood, vaginal secretions, love juice, semen or pre-ejaculatory fluid. During sexual intercourse, partners can transmit these infectious agents to each other, by direct contact with infected areas or by exchange of these organic fluids. Some STIs also pass from mother to child, during pregnancy, during childbirth or during breastfeeding, through maternal blood or milk.

The most common sexually transmitted infections

We now know of around thirty infectious agents – such as bacteria, viruses or parasites – which can be transmitted during oral, vaginal or anal sex, with or without penetration.
The most frequently contracted STIs are eight in number:
  • syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis are bacterial or parasitic infections that can be cured by treatment;
  • Hepatitis B, genital herpes, human papillomavirus and HIV are incurable viral infections.

Symptoms of sexually transmitted infections

In the majority of cases, STIs are silent: no physical manifestation reveals the presence of the infection. But when they exist, the most common symptoms of STIs are:

  • inflammation – irritation, redness, burning, itching, swelling, pimples, etc. – or lesions in the genitals;
  • abnormal discharge (due to its quantity, color or smell) from the vagina, penis, urethra or anus;
  • pain in the lower abdomen;
  • pain during sexual intercourse;
  • a burning sensation when urinating;
  • associated signs such as headache or fever.

Symptoms vary from one STI to another. They also differ between men and women. In the latter, the lack of detection and medical care can lead to very serious complications, for them directly or for their baby: sterility, cervical cancer, peritonitis, loss of the fetus, extra-pregnancy. uterine, severe damage to the newborn (prematurity, malformation, blindness, death). The diagnosis is all the more difficult because the symptoms resemble those of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menstruation. Hence the importance of monitoring your menstrual cycle to detect any unusual changes. But we can then ask ourselves the following question: does the menstrual cycle have an influence on STIs, and vice versa?

Sexually transmitted infections: is there a link with the menstrual cycle?

Yes, the menstrual cycle influences sexually transmitted infections

Periods at the start of the menstrual cycle can have an effect on susceptibility to STIs.

  • The presence of menstrual blood in the vagina during sexual intercourse increases the risk of transmission of blood-borne STIs, such as HIV and syphilis 2 .
  • Like fatigue or stress, menstruation is a trigger for genital herpes outbreaks 3 .
  • The use of certain sanitary protections, such as tampons, or their incorrect use during periods can cause inflammation in the vagina, thus increasing susceptibility to STIs.
  • The probability of contracting an STI would be higher due to changes occurring within the female reproductive system during menstruation (diversification of bacteria constituting the vaginal microbiota, increase in the concentration of certain substances involved in the management of inflammation and immunity) 4 .

Yes, sexually transmitted infections affect the menstrual cycle

According to a study conducted in 2016 by the University of Oxford using data collected using the Clue 5 application, carrying an undiagnosed STI puts you at greater risk of having violent PMS symptoms. The likelihood of experiencing cramps and headaches, and of experiencing negative emotions such as sadness in the days before the onset of menstruation, would be doubled for women with an undiagnosed STI and not taking medication. hormonal contraception.

The menstrual cycle has an effect on STIs, and vice versa. Making love during your period is not contraindicated, but it is advisable to be extra vigilant during this period. Using a condom, whether male or female, is the most effective way to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections. It is also important to get tested regularly, and to follow treatment in the event of a positive result.

To extend reading:

Written by cd


  1. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) . (2022, August 22).
  2. How is an STI caught through the blood?
  3. Causes of genital herpes . VIDAL.
  4. We must make the link between the menstrual cycle and the transmission of STIs . (2022, May 31).