In recent years menstrual period protection has made some vast improvements, especially in the light of the environmental impact of disposable chemically produced protection. We have also begun to work on the taboo around periods, period protection and period shaming. Improved products have been developed in the market, reusable period underwear, reusable tampon applicators and period cups.
However you may have also heard of free bleeding. And if you have, you may have some questions on the subject. What exactly is free bleeding? Should you be doing it? Where did it stem from? These are all valid questions, so, here’s what we can tell you about it.
WHAT IS FREE BLEEDING?
Free bleeding is, technically, as it sounds! You don’t do anything to block or collect your menstrual blood during your period. You publicly bleed into your underwear and clothes. As a result, things can get messy.
The free bleeding is practiced among a select group of women, who choose not to wear a tampon or pad during menstruation and instead let the bleeding go naturally, even in public.
The idea behind it is that menstruation is a natural process that women shouldn’t be ashamed of. Why should girls who can’t afford a pad or tampons have to miss school or work due to their cycles? Advocates of free bleeding also point out the environmental problem of disposable tampons and pads.
WHERE DID FREE BLEEDING START?
Free bleeding is a movement. It has been used to challenge period stigma and taboos, to protest high prices of period products, and to draw attention to the environmental issues relating to disposable pads and tampons. But where did this movement come from?
It has been growing slowly over the past 10-15 years, with different movements having varied impacts on the progression and the message it is expressing.
The earliest online discussion of free bleeding seems to be in 2004. A blogger wrote: All About My Vagina. The author discusses her epiphany about blood stains and how she decided to sometimes abstain from using menstrual products:
“I don’t mind rinsing my panties out in the sink, or getting blood in the sheets now and then. I like not feeling like I have failed somehow when a product leaks… Mainly it is just about being comfortable with menstruation. I am not lazy! I am not irresponsible! I just think it is OK to overflow sometimes!” —Sarah, All About My Vagina
The free bleeding practice initially grew as a protest against taxes on tampons and similar feminine hygiene products in the U.S. As it turns out, there are still only a very few states in America where there’s no tax on such products.
The concern is also environmental. With the quantity of menstrual products thrown away each year by every menstruator, there’s a need for more sustainable products. Speaking freely about menstruation experiences, raising the media’s awareness and drawing attention to the taboos and shames as well as the affects, is one way to raise public consciousness.
In 2015, London Marathon runner Kiran Gandhi decided to run the marathon without using period protection. Photos of her stained leggings went viral, raising awareness about period shaming, period taboo and period poverty.
“It would have been way too uncomfortable to worry about a tampon for 26.2 miles… I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist. I ran to say, it does exist, and we overcome it every day.” —Kiran Gandhi, Musician
IS FREE BLEEDING UNSANITARY?
Women’s opinions do differ on this matter of the free bleeding movement. Some are comparing free bleeding with breastfeeding in public. They see the practice as completely sanitary and as a natural bodily function, choosing to bleed freely on their clothing or skin.
You are not at risk of contracting any medical conditions with free bleeding. However practically, any blood that comes into contact with clothes and furniture can leave stains that are hard to remove. What’s more, once it’s exposed to air, blood can develop a bad smell. For this reason, frequent changes of clothes would be necessary.
Not considering it as unsanitary, supporters of the free bleeding movement advocate viewing the trend as a call to action; to openly discuss menstruation, challenge stigma, and consider the environmental impact of menstrual products.
However, some medical opinions are that is not necessarily the best option for menstruation. Several types of viruses, including hepatitis, can live in dried blood for up to 4 days. So blood that gets left behind on public surfaces has to be treated as potentially infectious. Any area where you were free bleeding in public would need to be disinfected for safety.
ARE THERE HEALTH BENEFITS TO FREE BLEEDING?
By free bleeding you are removing the use of tampons from the equation, so you significantly reduce your risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a life-threatening condition you develop when you leave a tampon in for too long. You are removing the need for products that have been produced with chemicals or harmful substances that are then inside your body.
That being said, using reusable period underwear is another way to reduce those risks.
In conclusion, there haven't been any proven health benefits to free bleeding. For women who experience severe cramps that can be heightened by wearing tampons, free bleeding can be more comfortable.
Some women say it feels freeing, often described as liberating and feel that it is nothing they need to hide or feel ashamed of.
Ultimately, free bleeding is all about you. You decide how you want to go about it and how often and where you want to do it, if at all. Even just talking about alternatives to traditional menstrual protection and having open discussions is an important step in ending the stigma around periods.
If you fancied giving it a go, or you wanted to ditch the use of disposable pads and tampons, but you’re not quite ready for the laundry pile and public nature of free-bleeding, Rosaseven reusable period underwear is a great way to let your body bleed freely and comfortably using environmentally friendly, reusable, absorbent underwear without the public and messy nature of the free bleeding movement.
FREE INSTINCTIVE FLOW
Similarly to free bleeding, free instinctive flow is to go without using any menstrual protection. However instead of freely bleeding into your underwear and clothes, free instinctive flow, or FIF as its also known, is to be in tune with your body, and learn to feel the moment when the blood passes through the cervix, and to then contract the perineum muscles to keep the blood in the vagina until you go to the bathroom to empty yourself. It’s something you have to ‘relearn’ and get used to, and it can take several cycles to get there. If you’d like to learn more about this, check out our upcoming blog article on the Free Instinctive flow in more detail.