Can protected sex change a menstrual cycle?
December 20, 2008 6:08 AM   Subscribe

Can having protected sex change your menstrual cycle? (Possible TMI)

I'm 30 years old. My period has been regular since I first got it at 11 years old. The only time it changed was two years ago when I had sex with a guy (I usually sleep with women). That time it was about 5 days late, and since the sex happened on vacation, I assumed it was a travel thing, and all ended fine.

On Nov. 21st I had sex -- with a condom. I was due for my period Decemer 11-13th. I have not gotten it yet. I have taken 3 different pregnancy tests, all negative.

I'm getting slight cramps, similar to what I feel when I'm ovulating, but still I'm almost 10 days late. This is only the 2nd guy I've slept with, and the third person. Is it possible that even protected sex can change a cycle like this?

My main concern is not whether I'm pregnant or not, really, it's just that it's the holiday season and drinks are happening. Like I said, I've taken 3 pregnancy tests, all negative, on the day before I knew I might be drinking. Since they've all come back negative, and I've had no other symptoms, I've gone ahead and had drinks.

I guess my ultimate questions is -- is it possible for sex to have this effect, or even being 9-10 days late the drug store tests aren't detecting the "normal hormone levels"?

PS -- I know stress can do this too. I'm not particularly stressed one way or the other though. I'm old enough, make good money, etc. that if I were pregnant...well..okay.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I have no idea for the main part of your question... I usually sleep with boys :) so I don't know the answer to that (though it does seem to make sense that if other women's hormones can affect your menstrual cycle, that men's *might* be able to as well).

However, the real niggler for me was the "slight cramps". This is often a sign of early pregnancy and can usually show up 5-10 days after the first missed period. Maybe it's time to get thee to a doctor - you can have false negatives on even three pregnancy tests, AFAIK.
posted by twiki at 6:15 AM on December 20, 2008

My anecdotal experience is "Yes" though mine has a tendency to change in the opposite direction. I have a hormone thing where I rarely get my period. Not a big deal for me or my doctor, it's just sort of how I'm made. BUT, I started dating a new guy and now all of the sudden for the first time in six or seven years I was getting it again. Me and the fella are long distance which means we see each other on weekends and I'm pretty sure that whatever hormone bump those get-togethers give me is enough to nudge me out of amenorrhea.

The reason I mention this specifically is because we didn't see each other one month (vacations, travel, etc) and then had a weekend together and had a lot of unprotected sex [he'd had a vasectomy and gotten the "all clear" from the docs and we'd both been tested] and then I missed my now-regular period and just about LOST MY MIND when the vasectomy doc called back and was like "um.... we gave you the all clear when we shouldn't have" (unlike you, I'd really like to not get pregnant). I'd had weird mystery cramps too and was forever touching my breasts looking for signs of tenderness or whatwever. My pregnancy tests were negative and I got my period the next month pretty regular-like.

So, if you're really trying to get the go-ahead to go drinking, go to the doc who should be able to give you a more definitive okay. My experience is just holiday stresses and whatever or travel or who knows what else can be enough to pretty much derail my period so if I was in your situation with the three negative tests, I'd be leaning strongly towards the stress/who knows explanation for hte late period and not being pregnant.
posted by jessamyn at 6:33 AM on December 20, 2008

i agree with what's been mentioned above, that a big derailer of a regular period is stress. it's like once you realize your late, your body drags it out even more just to torture you.

are these cramps recent? sometimes i get them for days before it actually starts. maybe it's a good sign? but yeah, i'd go to a doctor just to be sure.
posted by lblair at 6:58 AM on December 20, 2008

It seems conspicuous that you get these issues as soon as a condom is involved. Perhaps an allergy from latex or spermicidal chemicals on them is responsible. In any case, you should most likely see your doctor as soon as possible.
posted by kampken at 7:04 AM on December 20, 2008

Having protected sex should not change the pattern of your periods. Period. (Sometimes people who have polyps or other such things may have bleeding as a consequence of penetration, but that's not your issue.) I really can't think of an obvious explanation for this. Intercourse and orgasm does not change the expression of hormones normally involved in maintaining the menstrual cycle (as far as I know anyway). Although there is potential for latex allergy, this would manifest with other symptoms - not a missed period. And finally, there is no hormonal influence from a male partner as was suggested above.

The first question I would ask is whether or not the condom broke or whether there was any type of contact during foreplay that might involve pre-ejaculatory emissions.

By the time you've missed your 1st period, the pregnancy test should be positive. The urine tests that you buy at the drug store are very sensitive these days. Furthermore, if I did my math right, your last period would have been around 6 wks ago (assuming your cycles are every 28 days or so), which would mean that the dipstick for sure should be positive.

It is also possible that you were pregnant and things have stopped progressing. This might cause a missed period - although to be honest I would still expect a pregnancy test to be positive in the time frame you've described.

If you want to be sure, go get a blood test to detect for pregnancy. If it's positive, you could get an ultrasound scan to date the pregnancy and confirm it's in the right place.

Finally a word about alcohol and pregnancy. If you think you might be pregnant, just refrain. Or at the very least, limit yourself severely. Is it that big a deal??

Now would also be a good time to plug for folic acid. Current recommendations are for 1 mg daily, but there is a movement to increase that to 5 mg daily. Very important during the first few weeks of pregnancy...

Hope this helps and good luck...
posted by commissioner12 at 7:52 AM on December 20, 2008

I don't have an answer for you, I just wanted to say that this:

other women's hormones can affect your menstrual cycle

is an old wives tale. Living/sleeping with other women does not affect your cycle, and there isn't any reason men's hormones should either. Also, if your period is ten days late, the pregnancy tests should be reliable. I don't know which brand you are using, but some are reliable several days before the missed period and even the cheapest all work by the time of the missed period - so if, ten days later, three tests say you aren't pregnant, you probably aren't. Beyond that, I think that the only advice you will get in this thread is to get yourself to a doctor.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:23 AM on December 20, 2008

I'll nth the suggestion to go to a doctor, and also echo that most modern drugstore pregnancy tests are sensitive enough to have detected pregnancy by now, if you were pregnant. I seriously doubt that sleeping with men (whether protected or unprotected) affects your menstrual cycle hormonally, but it certainly could affect it from a stress standpoint. You might not consciously be wigging out about the possibility of being pregnant, but sleeping with men is definitely a change for you, and change is sometimes a stressor even if you don't feel stressed out.

And on an anecdotal note: Last month I started my period on the 7th, this month on the 17th. I have no explanation except that I traveled to Europe twice in between periods. Late periods just happen sometimes.
posted by bedhead at 9:22 AM on December 20, 2008

My experience has been that having sex with a man delays my period, especially if I haven't had sex in a while. Three negative tests at 10 days late? If there were no other symptoms of pregnancy, I'd presume I wasn't pregnant, though I know it's stressful when you're period just won't come. But as you said, many things can delay or stop your period, and stress (even stress from not getting your period) can definitely contribute.

I don't know your stance on this sort of thing, but you might also look into taking black cohosh supplements. Black cohosh is an herb that, erm, can restore hormonal balance, shall we say. I'm not advocating one way or another, but thought you should know about it. IANAD, IANYD, YMMV, etc.
posted by runningwithscissors at 10:13 AM on December 20, 2008

There have been scientific studies relating to pheromones and how each sex releases pheromones which affect the other sex. I think they found that women who smelled men had physical changes of various kinds.

Which is to say that it might not have been the sex; it might have been the rest of the night you spent with him, smelling him.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:55 AM on December 20, 2008

The McClintock effect isn't an old wives tale, though it's a theory that's received its share of criticism.
posted by bubukaba at 10:57 AM on December 20, 2008 [5 favorites]

Just another point of anecdata, having (protected) sex with a new male partner always seemed to accelerate me getting my period. Hormones are weird.
posted by desuetude at 11:02 AM on December 20, 2008

I've only ever slept with boys, but I'm also prone to long periods of celibacy throughout my adult life. It's been my experience - and it's supported by some of the studies Chocolate Pickle refers to above - that my cycle does change when I'm having sex with a man on a regular basis. Since I do the serial monogamy thing and have long stretches of closed relationships followed by long stretches of no sex, it's pretty obvious that my body senses an absence of male hormones in my environment and my cycle changes.
posted by medea42 at 11:38 AM on December 20, 2008

I don't track the how far apart my periods are, but I've noticed that they shorted about three days if I have sex four times or more in a month. This is irregardless of condoms.
posted by Monday at 12:00 PM on December 20, 2008

Yes, definitely, I've had this happen. I've particularly noticed it when it's been a while since I did the do with a man. When Mr G and I were on separate continents for a while, after each visit we'd have about a week or so of possible pregnancy anxiety. It didn't matter so much which of us had jet lag that particular time - if he visited me or I visited him, the result was the same. Once we were reunited and things were more, er, regular, no skipped or delayed cycles.

So yes, it's possible. Just relax. Drink lots of water. If three tests say you aren't pregnant, you aren't. If you went to the docs, they'd have you do a pee test just like the ones you've bought OTC. Get a massage. Eat at regular times. Let your body settle down after your holiday.

If all else fails, resort to fashion voodoo. Buy some really tight white trousers and wear them out.
posted by Grrlscout at 2:29 PM on December 20, 2008

Having sex can change your hormones which can affect your cycle.

Go to a doctor and get a blood test for pregnancy, it's way more accurate than a home pregnancy test.

Drinking this early in the pregnancy, if you are pregnant, is very unlikely to harm the baby, so don't worry about the drinks you've already had. Of course, if you find out that you ARE pregnant (and you plan to keep it) then you should stop drinking.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:30 PM on December 20, 2008

many women have a weird period after the first time with a new partner. some are early, some are late, some are heavy, some are light. i don't know why a lot of people in this thread are suggesting that's not the case.

just plan something you absolutely have to wear white to (sign up as a snowflake in the winter play!) and when you're all suited up the flood gates will open. :)
posted by nadawi at 4:33 PM on December 20, 2008

My periods started changing around age 30 as well (got slightly less regular and also heavier).
posted by fshgrl at 6:42 PM on December 20, 2008

Funny, sex changes my period the opposite way--I used to be freakish and only get my period like, once every 3 months, and when I started having regular sex for the first time with my fiance it made my period regular, almost like clockwork. It coincided with finally feeling like a complete sexual being, in the sense of "potentially on at all times!" for what it's worth. If we stop having sex for a while I go back to feeling unsexy/asexual and I go back to the barely there period. I have never been able to understand this, and it's anecdotal, but my guess was it had something to do with a hormonal feedback loop--having sex and releasing and being exposed to pheromones probably set a churn of hormones that I guess is more normal or regular (and certainly makes sense reproductively) fertility-wise.
posted by ifjuly at 12:11 PM on December 22, 2008

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