Free bleeding is becoming less of a stigma as online conversations increase. As the name suggests, free bleeding is giving those who menstruate the chance to rethink how bound they are to menstrual products like tampons, sanitary pads, cups and more. Some refer to it as a menstrual activist movement. Others refer to it as a way to honor their bodies and menstrual cycles. With several individuals taking to social media to share their stories on free bleeding, popularity and curiosity has significantly risen.

What Is Free Bleeding?

Free bleeding is choosing to menstruate without the use of menstrual products. This free flow of menstrual blood means purposefully not ‘collecting’ the blood. Bleeding without covering it brings visibility to menstruation which is, by some societal standards, treated as a taboo subject. As far as activism goes, it is a way to bring awareness to the realities of menstruating such as period tax and high prices of period products.

Why Do Some People Choose To Free Bleed?

Choosing to free bleed is a decision that many make at different stages of life. In her personal essay, Olivia Dreizen Howell explains that the transition was a natural instinct after giving birth. It served as a way to eradicate unnatural period products. The choice to free bleed could be motivated by activism, wanting to avoid toxic period products, health, or improved connection with the menstrual cycle and body. 

Benefits include having a deeper connection to your body in the menstruation phase and less dependency on external products. Others mention a shift in heavy bleeds becoming lighter. Regardless, several comment about the potentially unhygienic nature of it.

“Free bleeding is sanitary as long as you change your undergarments or pants (whatever is catching the blood) frequently,” Dr. Cynthia Wesley, a board-certified OB-GYN said.

Some people comment that they change their towel, clothing, or wash cloth as often as feels necessary.

“The same hygiene principles as with using pads should apply,” added Dr. Wesley.

It’s also important to note that there is a level of privilege with who is able to practice free bleeding. For instance, it is much easier to practice this form of free flow while working from home as opposed to having to be on-site.

While some within the free bleed community debate whether period panties should be included in the definition, many still choose to go this route.

“There are panties made for free bleeding which will decrease your chances of soiling clothes or furniture. The most popular are Thinx or Knix,” Dr. Wesley noted.

What To Expect

This approach to bleeding can be daunting if you don’t know where to start. The experiences of others shared on social media are a great way to gauge an idea. 

One TikToker mentions that the experience was noticeable between free bleeding in the house and wearing tampons. Brittany shares that avoiding the ‘gush’ was a main incentive for choosing tampons in the past but has since noticed that tampons caused her to cramp and free bleeding alleviates them.

SheWhoRoams explains using a black towel has been a go-to approach while bleeding. The TikToker also notes that wearing black clothing helps while out and about on short trips while free bleeding.

Tips If It’s Your First Time

Taking the first steps may require some planning and awareness. A key thing to remember is that your choice as to how you menstruate is yours alone. Disempowering others’ opinions will allow you to approach free bleeding with less shame, guilt, and anxiety. 

It is important to assess your environment and lifestyle to understand how to incorporate it into your life.

“If this is your first time, plan to stay at home the first day. Make sure to protect your furniture from any leakage,” Dr. Wesley said. “Depending on the heaviness of your flow, plan to change your undergarments every few hours. Women with light periods can change out less frequently.”

Dr Wesley doesn’t recommend free bleeding for those who experience heavy cycles which are defined as soaking a pad every 2 hours. Instead, she recommends reaching out to your healthcare provider.