In the most recent issue of The Monthly I briefly wrote about my experience with free-bleeding. The idea of free-bleeding was not something I was familiar with as a teen, it wasn’t until I was 30 that I actually tried it out. If you are not familiar, free-bleeding is just what it sounds like: allowing your menstrual blood to flow naturally without trying to capture it.
Now, this may sound like a ridiculous idea, especially considering we are socially conditioned to be repulsed by menstrual blood. And many women spend a good amount of energy throughout each period trying to avoid bleeding into their pants, so why would anyone want to do it on purpose?
Well, I will tell you, from my personal experiences with free-bleeding, it is quite peaceful. Ritualistic, actually. I choose to free-bleed in the privacy of my own home onto a dedicated towel while I enjoy a good book or my favorite movie. Some women bleed into a specific pair of underwear while others have a collection of comfortable leggings they use. No matter how you choose to free-bleed, the intention is the same: to let your body do its thing.
Have you ever thought about how much time and energy you dedicate to catching your menstrual flow each time you’re on you period? How about avoiding certain activities or wearing your favorite pair of skinny jeans during your period in case you “leak”? Chances are, you probably aren’t aware of the amount of mental and emotional strain managing your period can have on you. Not until we remove the desire to control something do we actually see it as a stressor.
How often have you had your blood pressure rise when you feel that “gush” during your period? It happens to me all the time. Then I spend the next however many minutes trying not to freak out as I look for a bathroom and hope I haven’t bled all over myself.
Free-bleeding helps to diminish that feeling.
With that being said, if you have never free-bled before, but want to give it a try, here are my tips on getting started:
Decide what you want to free-bleed onto.
As mentioned above, you can sit bare-assed on a towel, bleed into underwear, leggings or sweatpants, or just let it flow.
Decide how you want to free-bleed.
I like to stay seated and bleed onto a towel, some women choose to free-bleed only in the bath or shower, and some will throw on a dress and go about their business.
Decide where you want to free-bleed.
Again, I like to free-bleed in the privacy of my own home, but if you want to go to work or run errands while free-bleeding I recommend using Thinx. Or, if you are a real bad-ass, use nothing. It’s up to you.
Decide when you want to free-bleed.
If you are new to this, I always recommend trying it for the first time on your light days. It can be awkward when you first start free-bleeding because we have been conditioned to be reactive to the sensation of a leak. Just remember, what you are doing is not gross, disgusting or unsanitary, it is completely natural. So relax.
Decide who you want to involve.
Is free-bleeding something you want to do alone? While snuggled up on the couch watching a movie with your partner? Or maybe you want to do it among a group of fellow menstruators? You are starting a new period-positive ritual for yourself, do what feels most comfortable, but don’t dismiss the power of menstruating among friends.
Free-bleeding gives you a chance to relinquish control over your body, to let it be in its most natural state, and to let yourself NGAF about making a mess, even if just for a few minutes. If you think about it, modern menstrual care products have only been around for a hundred years or so. What do you think women did before the age of Tampax? Many of them free bled*.
In some cultures, the smell and sight of menstrual blood was considered an aphrodisiac because it was symbolic of a woman’s fertility. And while modern society has eroded any sense of joy or excitement of the menstrual period, choosing to free-bleed can be incredibly empowering.
Consider incorporating free-bleeding into your menstrual care routine. Free-bleeding can make you more comfortable with your menstruating body and your menstrual blood. It may be the most comforting thing you can do for yourself during your period. If you’re a free-bleeding first-timer we would love to hear about your experience. Email us your story and it may be featured in our next edition of The Monthly.
*It is important to note that while many upper class women free-bled by choice, this was not the case for everyone. Many poor women did not have access to rags or old clothing items to cut up for catching their flow. They free-bled because they had to. It is also important to note that modern free-bleeding is a privileged choice for many in the U.S. Not having access to menstrual care products is a huge concern for women here and all around the world—this reality is not lost on me, or Cycledork.
Amy is a period-positive advocate, educator and writer. She prefers tackling topics like reproductive health, fertility, sexuality, feminism, social justice issues and all those tricky subjects you avoid talking about at family gatherings. Amy holds a Master’s Degree in Women’s Health as well as a Graduate Certificate in Holistic Health Studies. Read her full bio here.