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Free Bleeding: Why Do Some Women Choose It?

The free bleeding movement suggests putting tampons and pads away and letting your menstrual blood flow naturally. It is a growing trend and community that can change the understanding of the body's natural processes. People seek to embrace their bodies and break the stigma surrounding menstruation.

The history of free bleeding

Menstrual products were invented in the late 19th to early 20th century. Before that, women used to bleed freely without any shame. The free bleeding movement started in the 1970s when a woman experienced toxic shock syndrome while using a tampon during menses. It was caused by the bacteria growing in the tampon that she kept in for too long. This condition is very dangerous and is characterized by sudden high fever, low blood pressure, sunburn-like rash, and organ failure. Toxic shock syndrome can be fatal.

Nowadays, the social free bleeding movement promotes the menstruation blood to flow without any disposable products, aligning with reusable materials and eco-friendly practices.

The free bleeding movement

Menstruation is a natural and healthy process that occurs for approximately 26% of the global population, with about 800 million people menstruating each day. The free bleeding movement is a growing announcement against the use of period products, such as tampons and pads, advocating for women to let their blood flow naturally during menstruation. The main idea of this movement is to normalize the view of menstruation in society, protest the stigma surrounding periods, raise awareness of period poverty, reduce the environmental impact of menstrual product waste, and take a stand against the 'tampon tax.' It has no proven health advantages. Supporters of the movement also stand in solidarity with women who cannot afford period products.

American electronic music producer, drummer, artist, and activist Kiran Gandhi ran in the London Marathon in 2015 while free bleeding. The idea of it was to fight menstrual stigma. Other activists and social media influencers also choose to free-bleed publicly to pay attention to menstruating people of all genders.

What do gynecologists think about free bleeding?

From the OB/GYN perspective, it is a person's choice how to cope with menstruation. There are no known serious risks of free bleeding, except for the possibility of an infection due to the lack of hygiene. You should consult with a specialist if you experience heavy bleeding, bleeding with clots bigger than a dime, or start to feel the symptoms of a vaginal infection during a period of free bleeding or after it.

It's important to note that contact with blood can put other people at risk of infections as it may carry bloodborne viruses, including HIV. It's best to avoid exposing others to any bodily fluids without consent, including menstrual blood.

Is free bleeding safe?

As much is known, free bleeding is safe for your body as long as it does not provoke any infections due to improper hygiene. Also, during free bleeding, you may get to know your body and menstrual cycle better.

Why do people choose free bleeding?

There are many reasons why people decide to start free bleeding. Although free bleeding has no proven health advantages, some women choose it for personal and societal reasons:

  • Reduces the risk of toxic shock syndrome associated with tampon use. Since women do not use tampons while free bleeding, it eliminates the risk of this dangerous condition.
  • Normalizes menstruation. It encourages open conversations about periods and your body's physiology.
  • Promotes body positivity and empowers individuals. As menstruation is the natural process of your body, it embraces and encourages you to accept it as it is.
  • Improves freedom and comfort. You can feel unrestricted and independent of the need for tampons and pads.
  • Improves vaginal health. Free bleeding reduces the risk of infection and irritation when using pads and tampons and allows for better airflow.
  • Environmental benefits. You won't need to use thousands of disposable menstrual products in your lifetime and reduce a large amount of waste generation. Also, disposable menstrual products can contain chemicals, such as dioxins and fragrance additives, which can be harmful to human health and the environment.
  • Saves money. On average, you won't spend from $60–120 on pads and tampons per year.
  • Brings awareness to period poverty. Despite menstrual bleeding being a common and vital process, access to clean water, menstrual products, sanitation facilities, and sexual health education is not secured globally (known as 'period poverty'). It is a huge problem in lower and middle-income regions, with many people who are unable to buy pads and tampons or do not have access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene products.

Risks of free bleeding

It is known that the practice of not using any products during menstruation is not likely to cause any life-threatening conditions. Though, it can pose some risks and minor problems. Some of them include stains on clothes and furniture that could not be easily removed. Also, if you do not change your underwear or shower during free bleeding, it may increase the risk of developing genital tract infections. Free bleeding can also worsen hygiene and lead to bad odor. There is also a risk of experiencing discomfort and thigh and buttock irritation from the constant exposure to blood.

How to bleed free?

Free bleeding is a bold challenge to public norms, empowering you to embrace your natural body. This practice is not dangerous, but there are some things you should know before trying it:

  1. Start slowly. Analyze your menstrual flow differences during the period and start your journey on low-flow days. This will make it easier to cope with new challenges.
  2. Consider staying home. Learn what to expect for the few times when staying at home. Don't forget to assess the need to cover the furniture you will be using to protect it from staining.
  3. Be prepared. Prepare yourself for the bloody discharge, and check on photos and experiences of others online.
  4. Choose suitable clothing. The best ones to cover the stains are dark-colored clothes made of natural materials.
  5. Use a towel. It is washable and can be used many times. Try to cover the furniture or areas where you will be sitting or lying for easier cleaning and fewer leaks.
  6. Use period underwear. Period underwear is washable underwear made for free bleeding. It will give you additional security from unwanted stains.
  7. Prepare for cleaning. There will be blood stains on your clothes and other areas where you sit or sleep. The best remedies to remove blood stains are cold water and salt, hydrogen peroxide, or baking soda and water.

How to sleep with free bleeding?

Free bleeding while sleeping could be the best way to start this journey. During menstruation, we bleed less at night compared with daytime. It is because we are less active, and our position lets the blood stay in the uterus and the vagina. Towels or panties could be very helpful at this time — they will absorb the discharge and result in fewer stains on the bed.

The social movement of free bleeding stands for the acceptance and normalization of menstruation without the use of sanitary products, such as pads or tampons. Today, it has gained attention as a way to challenge social stigmas and empower women to embrace their bodies and the body's natural physiology. Free bleeding is environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and a way for a deeper connection with your body. The movement continues to grow worldwide and inspire people to feel free and love their bodies.

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