The joy of our periods isn’t always obvious and sometimes the sheer surprise of its monthly arrival can be the most doomed part & easily ruin your day, especially if it’s early or catches you off guard.
Free Instinctive Flow (FIF) is a method of controlling the flow of menstrual blood as it leaves your body without any form of period protection, and managing your periods the same way as going to the toilet. By listening to your body and being conscious of where you are at, you can learn to feel what is happening inside and thereby go and “empty” yourself when the time comes.
FIF is different from free bleeding as FIF is about controlling the flow versus accepting you publicly bleed into your underwear or clothes.
WHAT IS FREE INSTINCTIVE FLOW & HOW DOES IT WORK?
The exact origin of FIF is a little mysterious. Although it is suspected that women were most likely using this technique in medieval times, the modern method officially started in the United States & really took off in France in 2015. The powers of the internet and our social platforms and engagements, saw the word quickly spread across the world from menstruator to menstruator.
Several times during our menstrual cycle the uterus contracts so that the endometrium lining, or menstrual blood, can detach from the walls of our uterus. Contrary to what we might feel or believe, it is not actually a constant flow of blood throughout the period week.
The idea of the FIF method is to stay attentive to your body, in tune with what’s going on inside, feel the contractions as they happen and the moment the movement of blood is passing through the cervix. Armed with this knowledge you can instinctively contract the perineum to keep the blood in the vagina until you go to the washroom, as you normally would, to release it.
Free instinctive flow is based on the contraction of the perineum to restrict the flow of blood during menstruation and retain it until convenient to release it. The perineum or pelvic floor is a group of muscles and ligaments that extends into the small pelvis, between the pubis and coccyx. It is designed to support the organs located in the pelvis including the bladder, rectum & uterus. It also allows the vagina to contract and participates in the mechanism of urinary and faecal continence.
The technique will come as you practice. Try a quiet weekend, evening or the holidays to start learning. Take some time to build up your perineum strength and control, and then test this control technique on a day of light to moderate blood flow.
ARE THERE ANY BENEFITS OF FREE INSTINCTIVE FLOW?
Any avoidance of using disposable and chemically treated protection forms is certainly an improvement to your period protection and maintenance, and far better for our bodies & the planet. We also gain from this practise a ‘listening’ understanding of our body, which in turn potentially give us a better understanding and harmony with ourselves, and our menstrual cycles.
Environmentally this is a big winner, disposable pads and tampons account for so much global waste. 45 billion sanitary pads are thrown away every year worldwide, each of them taking about 500 years to decompose. Eliminating that from our monthly routine has huge benefits to the environment.
It’s also more economical for you. Disposable pads and tampons are up to a $6000 life-time cost. Imagine what you could do with that money instead!
A lot of people can’t tolerate tampons and pads due to sensitivity; practising FIF gives them the freedom to menstruate freely and safely. It also eliminates the chances of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) by not having any foreign chemically treated objects in your body for lengthy periods of time.
There are also psychological benefits to this method. You gain a deeper understanding of the workings of your body and are better able to control of the flow of your period. This then can make you more relaxed, reducing pelvic pain. A further benefit is in learning to cope with irregular periods, listening to your body and knowing the feeling of the flow and movement helping you to avoid surprises.
ANY DISADVANTAGES OF FREE INSTINCTIVE FLOW?
The time it takes to get used to the practise of instinctive flow and the control and understanding of your body is a slow process and takes effort and patience, however there may also be some other disadvantages and setbacks involved.
In daily practise, it can be restrictive to your environment as the method requires you to be relatively adjacent to a washroom, which is not always possible. You also have to have the freedom to go to the washroom whenever you feel the need. This can be more of a challenge for a heavier flow as this requires a stronger hold and most likely more frequent release.
Physically we may also have challenges; vaginal gap and genital prolapse can present a test when it comes to holding back blood and resisting the gravitational draw we can feel. An overly relaxed perineum can also hinder the instinctive flow process, putting some at a disadvantage.
In theory this technique should be achievable by many healthy menstruators, with some practice. You have to get used to it and this can certainly take several cycles to achieve and adjust. You will need to accept that success will not come immediately and that potential failures and mishaps will occur, it’s part of the whole practice of free instinctive bleeding.
The first few times you give it a go, try the flow at home when you’re relaxed and not distracted or around any source of stress, and can reduce the risk of time restrictions and interferences while you adjust to the instinctive way.
A great back up to the learning curve is wearing reusable sustainable period panties in case you fall short of the washroom once or twice, or need a little extra security while learning the intuitive flow way.
Photos (c): Cristina Gareau