Although periods are normal and healthy, there is a stigma around menstruation. Some women feel uncomfortable and ashamed to have periods or even talk about them. However, more and more women join the free bleeding movement, which is the practice of choosing to menstruate without using products like sanitary pads or tampons to contain the flow. What are the reasons? Is it beneficial or dangerous?
Free bleeding is the practice of deliberately having a period without using any menstrual products designed to collect the blood.
Free bleeding is a movement to bring awareness to period poverty and break the stigma around menstruation.
There are no known health risks associated with free bleeding.
Free bleeding can have additional benefits, such as saving money and reducing waste.
The history of free bleeding
Although its popularity is growing, free bleeding isn’t new. It has been around since the beginning of time because menstrual products didn't exist, and women had to free bleed. Some women used self-made rags or sponges, while others allowed their clothes to absorb the period's blood. Menstrual products were invented in the late 19th to early 20th century.
The free bleeding movement
The free bleeding movement advocates against the use of period products and instead encourages women to let their blood flow out naturally. Women who support the movement avoid using sanitary pads or tampons when they are menstruating.
It is not clear when the free bleeding movement began, but it is growing in popularity now. It is a protest that aims to normalize the view of menstruation in society and to protest the stigma surrounding periods.
Furthermore, it helps to raise awareness of period poverty and to take a stand against the “tampon tax.” The supporters of the movement stand with women who cannot afford period products due to their cost. Moreover, the movement stands against the waste that menstrual products produce.
Free bleeding benefits
Although free bleeding has no proven health advantages, some women choose it for personal and societal reasons:
- Feel natural. With free bleeding, there are no limitations during your period, and there is no need to change your daily routine. Women claim that letting their period flow naturally makes them feel more at ease.
- Break stigma. Free bleeding helps to normalize menstruation and to break the shame around it. It is a way to shift the perception of menstrual bleeding and encourage women to quit hiding it.
- Decrease health risks. Free bleeding lowers the chance of toxic shock syndrome, while tampon use increases the risk.
- Reduce pain. Some women say free bleeding reduces period pain.
- Raise awareness. It brings awareness to period poverty. According to research, period poverty is a major issue in lower and middle-income regions, with many communities that do not have access to facilities for water, sanitation, and hygiene.
- Reduce waste. It is environmentally friendly. During the course of her life, the average woman will use 5000–15,000 sanitary pads and tampons. By practicing free bleeding, women reduce the amount of menstrual waste;
- Save money. The average woman spends $15–20 every month on period products.
Risks of free bleeding
There are no scientifically proven health risks related to free bleeding. Nevertheless, not everyone wants to do it. Some people believe it is unhygienic and uncomfortable. Whether or not you use period products, it’s highly important to practice good hygiene during your period to prevent an infection or irritation.
What to know before trying free bleeding?
This practice is not dangerous, but there are some things you should know before trying it:
- More mess. It might be a bit messy, and you may need to wash yourself more frequently.
- Be prepared. Analyze your period pattern to know which days are the heaviest and prepare accordingly.
- Consider staying home. Some people suggest staying at home in the beginning, to learn what to expect during your period. While staying at home, you might want to cover the furniture with a towel to protect it from staining.
- Start slowly. Some women suggest starting slowly by trying free bleeding in public on your lighter flow days. It’s a great idea to have some spare clothes or underwear with you, just in case it is too much for you and you want to change.
- Experiment. There’s no right or wrong way to practice free bleeding. Some women use reusable period underwear, which is a great alternative to disposable sanitary products.
- Learn to clean. A great way to remove period blood stains from your clothes is with hydrogen peroxide or scrubbing bar soap into the stains and washing it with cold water.
Free bleeding is not only a trend but also a movement to bring awareness to period poverty and break the shame around menstruation. It has a lot of additional benefits, such as saving money and reducing the environmental footprint. Every woman has a right to choose whatever she wants to use during her menstrual cycle. So f you don’t want to try free bleeding, you might benefit from using reusable period products, such as period cups or menstrual underwear.
- International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics. Menstruation: Environmental impact and need for global health equity.
- UNICEF. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).