The Purification Process of Niddah
The halachot on this page are specifically for married individuals.
There are five stages in the process of a woman becoming purified from her Niddah (impure) status during which she is prohibited to her husband. These stages include: (1) waiting 4 or 5 days, (2) performing a Hefsek Tahara, (3) counting the Shiva Nekiyim and checking during those days, (4) preparing for the mikveh, and (5) going to the mikveh. This page presents the various laws regarding each of these stages.
Waiting Before Doing Hefsek Tahara
- A woman who sees her period needs to wait 4 days according to Sephardim or 5 days according to Ashkenazim and then she can perform a hefsek tahara in order to begin the shiva nekiyim. According to Sephardim, these 4 days are counted from the time when she was last with her husband. Nonetheless, a woman can never count her shiva nekiyim until she did a hefsek tahara and didn’t see any blood. However, according to Ashkenazim, these 5 days are counted from the beginning of her period whether or not she was with her husband recently and even if her husband wasn’t in town.
- For example, if a woman sees blood on Shabbat, according to Ashkenazim she could do her hefsek tahara on Wednesday afternoon and according to Sephardim she could do her hefsek tahara on Tuesday afternoon. This minimum waiting period only applies if she stopped bleeding before that time, if not she can not do a hefsek tahara and needs to wait another day. If the Shiva Nekiyim continue successfully she can go to mikveh the next Wednesday night.
- The 4 or 5 days are counted according to halachic days starting at night. If a woman saw blood during sunset and nightfall a Rav should be consulted as to determine which day she can begin she 4 or 5 day waiting period.
- If a woman sees blood during the day after she, her shul, or community prayed maariv early she can count the 4 or 5 days from that day and she doesn't have to begin her count or 4 or 5 days from that night.
Exceptions to Waiting Five Days
- If a woman sees blood in the middle of shiva nekiyim she needs to start again, but she doesn’t have to wait 4 or 5 days before she can do a hefsek tahara. Rather she can do the hefsek tahara that day and then start counting the shiva nekiyim the next day.
- A bride the first time she is impure after she got married because of hymenal bleeding (or beilat mitzvah) could do the hefsek tahara on the fourth day and she doesn't need to wait until the fifth day as long as she stopped seeing blood on or before the fourth day and she didn't see her regular period afterwards. This only applies if they didn't have tashmish during Ben Hashemashot. If she saw her regular period she must wait to do the hefsek tahara on the fifth day from when she started seeing blood (i.e. the hymnal blood and not restart when she saw her period). See The_Night_of_the_Wedding#After_the_First_Biyah for more details.
- A bride before her wedding according to most poskim doesn't need to wait 5 days before doing a hefsek tahara.
- If a woman saw blood on a Monday and if she would do the hefsek tahara on the fifth day her tevilah night would be Friday night and if the Friday night which would have been her tevilah night follows a Yom Tov, according to some poskim, she may do her hefsek tahara on the fourth day as long as she stopped bleeding by the time of the hefsek tahara. A rav should be consulted.
- If a woman sees blood after going to the mikveh before she returned home, she must do a hefsek tahara and count shiva nekiyim, but does not have to wait a minimum or 4 or 5 days. Some poskim the same is true even if she returned home but didn't have relations with her husband yet.
- The hefsek tahara is a very critical bedika done right before night prior to beginning the count of shiva nekiyim. If a woman didn’t do a hefsek she remains a niddah and can’t begin her count of shiva nekiyim even if days or years passed.
- Even if a woman stops seeing blood after 2 or 3 days she shouldn’t perform the hefsek tahara until the 4th day according to Sephardim or 5th day according to Ashkenazim.
- The bedika for hesfek tahara should be performed after mincha ketana (2.5 halachic hours before sunset) and initially it should be performed as close to sunset as possible.  If it was performed earlier than mincha ketana initially it should be redone after mincha ketana, however, after the fact, the hefsek is valid.
- The bedika for the hefsek tahara must be finished before sunset. If she forgot and didn’t do a bedika before sunset she should ask an Orthodox rabbi what to do.
- If she is going to daven maariv before sunset or if the majority of the community is going to daven maariv before sunset she should do the hefsek tahara before that time. After the fact she could do a bedika afterwards until sunset.
- If she did a bedika before she davened maariv or the community davened maariv and then saw blood she should do a bedika afterwards before sunset.
- Initially, a woman should do a bedika with a moch dachuk and leave it there all of Ben Hashemashot. 
- The moch dachuk should be left inside during the entire length of Ben Hashemashot. For Ashekanazim, a woman should leave it there the amount of time they would wait to end Shabbat after sunset, however, if it is difficult she can take it out earlier. For Sephardim ben hashemashot can be assumed to be 15 minutes.
- If it is very painful or if she’s concerned that doing a moch dachuk will cause bleeding she shouldn’t do the moch dachuk at all since she already did a good bedika before sunset.
Counting the Shiva Nekiyim
- The seven days of shiva nekiyim must be consecutive and if she sees blood even on the last days she must start again. 
- A woman who in the middle of her count thought that she was tameh and stopped counting for some days and then realizes that really she was tahor, some poskim write that the woman needs to begin counting again, however, others argue. A person should consult with their rabbi if this situation arises.
- A woman doesn’t need to verbally count each day of the shiva nekiyim.
- During the shiva nekiyim a woman should wear white undergarments.
- Although the strict halacha is that it is sufficient to use clean bedsheets during shiva nekiyim, many poskim say that the minhag is to use only white sheets. Some hold that this isn't necessary today.
- On each day of the shiva nekiyim a woman should do a bedika once in the morning and once in the afternoon before nightfall. For a woman for whom checking twice a day is likely to cause her to see blood because of a wound may check only once on day one and once on day seven. A woman should only do so after checking with a rabbi.
- After the fact, if a woman checked on days 1 and 7 twice a day, the woman may go to the mikveh the night of the 7th. In general if she missed bedikot she should consult a rabbi.
- After the fact, if a woman only checked once a day and not twice a day, some poskim hold that is sufficient.
- A blind woman can do a bedika and show it to her friend to check that it is clean.
- A deaf person who can speak or a mute who can hear are considered perfectly healthy and can do bedikot for themselves. However, a woman who is deaf mute or one who became deranged needs a healthy woman to perform bedikot for her and help her calculate her vestot.
- A woman who wants to perform more bedikot than are necessary whether she is in her shiva nekiyim or is tahor is praiseworthy. However, if she has a bruise in that area and might bleed, she should not perform extra bedikot. Additionally, she should not perform extra bedikot before and after tashmish as described elsewhere. 
- Ashkenazim are strict about how to treat a ketem (stain) during the first three days of shiva nekiyim, whereas in the last 4 days sometimes a ketem is tahor because we assume that it came from something else. However, a ketem that’s a k’gris or smaller is tahor even in the first three days of shiva nekiyim. If a woman has a bruise in that area that is actively bleeding and stained during the first three days of shiva nekiyim needs to consult a posek. Sephardim treat the ketem the same during the first 3 days as the last 4 days.
- It is ideal to use a soft white cotton, wool, or linen cloth for a bedika or hefsek tahara. After the fact some other materials could be acceptable but one should consult their Orthodox rabbi.
- Halachos of Niddah (Rabbi Eider p. 33)
- The gemara Niddah 42a explains that a woman who emits semen is impure and can't count that day for her Shiva Nekiyim. Tosfot Niddah 33a s.v. roeh concludes that a woman can't begin her hefsek tahara until the fourth day after she began to see blood if she was with her husband right before she started seeing.
- Shulchan Aruch 196:11 rules that a woman who sees blood needs to wait 4 days until she can do her hefsek tahara and on that fourth day she can the hefsek tahara. Also, those 4 days are counted from the last time she was with her husband. However, the Rama YD 196:11 rules like the Trumat Hadeshen who says that a woman who sees blood can only do the hefsek tahara on the fifth day and begin the shiva nekiyim the next day. Also, waiting these days applies whether or not she was with her husband recently or even if he wasn't in town at all. The Rama concludes that this is the Ashkenazic minhag and one shouldn't deviate. Halachos of Niddah (p. 33) concurs.
- Sephardic Minhag: Rav Ovadia Yosef in Taharat Habayit (v. 2, p. 392) rules like Shulchan Aruch. On p. 413, he adds that if a woman knew that she only needed to wait 4 days and was machmir to wait 5, if she wants to change her minhag she needs to do a hatarat nedarim. Ben Ish Chai (Rav Paalim 4:20) maintains that the minhag Baghdad was to wait 5 days and it should be maintained. Orot Hatahara 10:23-4 (Rav Zecharya Ben Shlomo) writes that some Sephardim wait 4 days and some 5 days. He adds that the Yemenites hold that immediately after she stops seeing blood, she should wash that area from shichvat zera if they had tashmish within the last 4 days, and then she could do a hefsek tahara.
- Halachos of Niddah p. 34
- See Halachos of Niddah p. 35 who quotes Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe YD 4:17:20) as holding that if a woman saw blood within 9 minutes after sunset she can begin counting her five days from that day and not the night.
- Shach 196:19 quotes the Maharshal as saying that if she saw after she davened maariv she needs to count her 4 or 5 days from that night. The Shach, however, disagrees that it is acceptable to count from the day. Badei Hashulchan 196:161 and Halachos of Niddah (p. 36) are lenient like the Shach.
- Shach 196:22, Taharat Habayit v. 2 p. 419
- Taz YD 196:5 quoting the Maharal of Prague writes that a bride after beilat mitzvah doesn't have to wait 5 days because the impurity of dam betulim is only rabbinic. However, if they really had tashmish during Ben Hashemashot then she can't do the hefsek tahara until the 5th day after the beilat mitzvah. Igrot Moshe YD 4:17:18 writes that if she sees menstrual blood certainly she needs to wait 5 days and not 4 since that is biblical and not rabbinic.
- Halachos of Niddah p. 47
- Pitchei Teshuva 196:15 quotes the Shlah as saying that it is better to do the hefsek tahara on the fourth day to avoid the issue of separating the washing before the mikveh and the tevilah which occurs when her tevilah is on a Friday night that follows a Yom Tov. The Shlah is only lenient if she wasn't with her husband from a day before she saw blood. The Sidrei Tahara 196:42 is lenient even if the couple was together before she saw blood. Halachos of Niddah p. 45 seems to follow the Sidrei Tahara. Halachos of Niddah p. 45 fnt. 100 quotes Rav Moshe Feinstein as applying this even if it is only one day Yom Tov before Shabbat.
- The Pitchei Teshuva 196:16 quotes a dispute between the Nodeh Beyehuda and Peni Yehoshua if a woman who saw blood after having gone to the mikveh needs to wait 4 or 5 days before the hefsek tahara. The Sidrei Tahara 196:39 is lenient like the Peni Yehoshua and Meil Tzedaka, though he quotes the Minchat Solet who is only lenient if she didn't return home yet. Halachos of Niddah p. 48 quotes Rav Moshe Feinstein as agreeing with the Minchat Solet's compromise.
- Mishna Niddah 68a, Rashba (Torat Habayit 23b), Tur and S”A 196:5. See Taharat Habayit v. 2 pp. 229-254 whether the need for the hefsek tahara is biblical or rabbinic. The majority opinion including the Rambam (Isurei Biyah 6:20-3) is that it is biblical unlike the opinion of the Or Zaruah 1:338. Nonetheless, based on the Zichron Yosef YD 9 who presents an argument based on rov that today the hefsek is only rabbinic. The argument is discussed at length in the Taharat Habayit. He concludes that in cases of extreme need where a proper hefsek is impossible one should consult a rabbi whether there is room to consider the leniency that was discussed by the Nodeh Beyehuda YD 59.
- S”A and Rama 196:11. Badei Hashulchan 196:160 says that she shouldn’t do her hefsek tahara on a day earlier than she can begin her shiva nekiyim the night afterwards unless there is a need.
- Taharat Habayit 13:1. Badei Hashulchan 196:17 cites a machloket Raah and Bet Yosef whether the gemara was referring to mincha gedola or ketana. Aruch Hashulchan 196:19 advises doing it within a half hour or hour before sunset.
- Shulchan Aruch YD 196:1
- Badei Hashulchan 196:15
- Rama 196:1, Taharat Habayit 13:1
- Badei Hashulchan 196:13
- Taharat Habayit v. 2 pp. 265-274 writes that it is acceptable for a Sephardi woman to rely upon a hefsek tahara during ben hashemashot of 13.5 minutes.
- Rama 196:1 quoting the Trumat HaDeshen writes that once she davens maariv or the community does it is considered nighttime and she can no longer do a bedika. The Rama also cites the Maharil who argues that for purposes of niddah the night is determined by sunset and not maariv or tosefet shabbat. Badei Hashulchan 196:31 writes that initially one should be strict for the Bach to check before accepting Shabbat and again afterwards right before sunset.
- Rama 196:1, Badei Hashulchan 196:32, Orot Hatahara 10:25
- Badei Hashulchan 196:31
- Orot Hatahara 10:25
- Rama 196:1, Badei Hashulchan 196:33
- Shulchan Aruch YD 196:1, Taharat Habayit 13:1
- Badei Hashulchan 196:21
- Taharat Habayit 13:1. See Taharat Habayit v. 2 p. 261 where he writes that even those who are strict for Rabbenu Tam don’t need to be strict to leave the moch inside during all of shem hashemashot of rabbenu tam.
- Badei Hashulchan 196:21, Taharat Habayit v. 2 p. 261
- Shulchan Aruch YD 196:10, Taharat Habayit v. 2 p. 371
- The Meil Tzedaka (no. 63) writes that a woman must be cognisant of the days of her shiva nekiyim in order for them to count, however, if she thought she was tameh in the middle of her shiva nekiyim and then realizes that she was tahor she is considered tameh and needs to start again. Pitchei Teshuva 196:4 quotes this. Rav Ovadia Yosef in Taharat Habayit p. 338 writes that the majority of poskim argue with the Meil Tzedaka and so in a case of need there’s what to rely on to not follow the Meil Tzedaka.
- Shlah (Shaar Ha'otiyot, Ot Kuf, Kedushat Hazug, no. 377) writes that there is a mitzvah of a woman to verbally count each day of the shiva nekiyim. Radvaz 4:27 (no. 1102) writes that there is no mitzvah for a woman to verbally count the days of her shiva nekiyim. He explains that it is different than sefirat haomer because the mitzvah of counting shiva nekiyim is dependent on whether she wants to purify herself to her husband, however, sefirat haomer is an obligatory mitzvah. Maharam Rotenburg 4:292 agrees that there's no mitzvah for a woman to count verbally. Rav Mordechai Willig (Niddah Shiur 3 on yutorah min 51-2) explained that a person shouldn’t tell his wife to follow the Shlah as we’re certainly not on his level of piety.
- Rama 196:3 writes that the minhag is that a woman should wear white garments when she is in shiva nekiyim, unless she is on the road and doesn't have white garments and then she can war any clothes are that are clean and checked from ketamim. The Gra 196:10 cites the source for wearing white during shiva nekiyim from the gemara Shabbat 13b. Shulchan Aruch 196:3 only mentions wearing clean clothes and sheets and not whites. Rav Ovadia Yosef in Taharat Habayit v. 2 p. 293 writes that essentially the actual strict law only requires wearing clothing that are clean from ketamim and the minhag is to wear whites. Orot Hatahara p. .306 writes that Sephardim have a minhag to wear white undergarments even though the strict halacha only requires them to be clean from ketamim.
- The Mordechai (Shavuot no. 737) writes that during shiva nekiyim a woman should use white or clean sheets and this is quoted in Shulchan Aruch 196:3. The Badei Hashulchan s.v. ubalayla writes that the minhag is to use white clean sheets during shiva nekiyim even though he writes that it seems unnecessary if she's wearing tight undergarments. Shiurei Shevet Halevi p. 284 agrees that it isn't necessary but it is the minhag.
- Taharat Habayit v. 2 p. 292 writes that a woman should use white clean sheets during shiva nekiyim, though in the notes he points out that according to Shulchan Aruch it is only necessary to have clean sheets. Orot Hatahara p. 306 also notes that for Sephardim it doesn't seem necessary to have white sheets. Aruch Hashulchan 196:22 implies that there's no need to use whites. Igrot Moshe 4:17:27 writes that it is proper to only use white sheets during shiva nekiyim since undergarments aren't uniform and it might also depend on the position the woman is in. The Laws of Niddah v.2 p. 215 quotes Rav Moshe and concludes that woman should use white sheets during shiva nekiyim.
- Rabbi Mordechai Willig (Niddah Shiur 12) holds that a woman shouldn't use white sheets during shiva nekiyim since she might forgot to change them when she's tahor and it'll cause issues.
- A bedika generally can not be done at night (Tosfot Pesachim 81a s.v. kesavar, see Chazon Ish YD 92:12).
- Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 196:4.
- The Rosh (Niddah 10:5) writes that a woman should do a bedika each day of the shiva nekiyim lechatchila. This is also the opinion of the Rashba (Torat Habayit 24a) and Ramban (Hilchot Niddah 9:23).
- The Mordechai (Niddah no. 737) quoting the Roke’ach (317 s.v. boel) as saying that the women should do a bedika twice a day. The Bet Yosef adds that it seems to be against many rishonim who hold once a day is sufficient. Nonetheless, Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 196:4 writes that one should check daily twice a day.
- Taharat Habayit v. 2 p. 301 is lenient to allow a woman to only check on day one and seven once if that might cause her to see blood because of a wound on a ketem.
- The Tenayim in the Mishna Niddah 68b argue if a woman only checked days 1 and 7 if that works, Rabbi Eliezer says it does, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Akiva hold that it doesn’t. Rav and Rabbi Chanina in 69a argue whether according to Rabbi Eliezer after the fact if it is enough to just check day 1 or 7 or both are necessary. The Rambam (Isurei Biyah 6:22), Rosh (Niddah 10:5), and Rashba (Torat Habayit 24a) rule like Rav that after the fact day 1 or day 7 works. However, the Smag (Lavin 111 s.v. halacha lmaaseh) writes that one should be strict for Rabbi Chanina since it isn't clear who the halacha follows and even after the fact day 1 and 7 is necessary. He concludes that there shouldn't be more than 5 days between bedikot. The Shulchan Aruch writes that one should be strict for the Smag.
- If she only checked one day one or seven, even though Shulchan Aruch 196:4 is strict even after the fact, Taharat Habayit v. 2 p. 311 writes that in an extenuating circumstance one could be lenient. See further Aruch Hashulchan 196:25-6.
- Sidrei Tahara 196:16. Rav Mordechai Willig (Am Mordechai on Shulchan Aruch p. 125) and in a shiur on yutorah.org (Niddah Shiur 13, min 40-50) is even lenient initially to avoid a woman causing herself to bleed unnecessarily and also because of how difficult it often is to check before nighttime. He added that if one wanted to be strict one should check the 1st and 7th day twice. Also, the one bedika should be done in the morning.
- Shulchan Aruch YD 196:7
- Shulchan Aruch YD 196:8
- Mishna Niddah 13a, Shulchan Aruch YD 196:9
- Badei Hashulchan 196:132-3, Taharat Habayit v. 2 p. 370
- Rama 196:10
- Rama 196:10 is lenient, but the Shach argues. Badei Hashulchan 196:146 is strict unless this bruise will bleed for a long time.
- Shulchan Aruch YD 196:10, Taharat Habayit v. 2 p. 372)
- Taharat Habayit v. 2 p. 338
- Taharat Habayit v. 2 p. 344 quotes those who are lenient (see Badei Hashulchan 97) to allow a bedika with a thick napkin that for example could be used to clean up a spill.