To not not use tam­pons, pads or mens­trual cups any­more! Are you ready to vol­un­ta­rily give up all these pro­ducts during your next mens­trua­tion? Pro­bably not! Most people can’t ima­gine how free blee­ding should work. Only a few mens­trua­ting people know this alter­na­tive way and prac­tice it. Basi­cally, howe­ver, this natu­ral method is as old as human­kind itself.

Free bleeding, what is that exactly? And how is it supposed to work?

When prac­ti­cing free blee­ding, period pro­ducts such as tam­pons, mens­trual cups or spon­ges are vol­un­ta­rily not used during mens­trua­tion. The blood is the­re­fore not collec­ted by a for­eign item inside or out­side the body. The blood is rather given ‘free flow’. Howe­ver, this does not end in bloody trou­sers or smea­red bed linen. Because there is good news here: the basic assump­tion that mens­trual blood is liter­ally unstopp­a­ble is not quite cor­rect!
The mens­trual discharge (blood plus lining of the ute­rus) is first collec­ted at the cer­vix and then expell­led in pha­ses. Through a con­scious per­cep­tion of one’s own body, it is pos­si­ble to feel when the blood is flowing. Through mus­cle strength the blood can also be inten­tio­nally held back to a cer­tain point. There is a slight pres­sure in the abdo­men, which feels a bit like a full blad­der. During free blee­ding, the mens­trual blood is finally dischar­ged directly on the toi­let by rela­xing the pel­vic floor. The con­scious ‘release’ of the mens­trual blood, just like any other body flu­ids, can the­re­fore be con­trol­led. Does this sound too good to be true and yet somehow uni­ma­gin­able for you? In the calm (and prac­tice!) lies the strength for free bleeding. 

You are still thinking free bleeding doesn’t work? Here is my best advice for you:

To be able to learn how to free bleed, you need a good awa­reness of your body and pro­bably several cycles to prac­tice. And espe­cially at the begin­ning many quiet moments to deve­lop a good (self-)awareness for your own body and to reco­gnize chan­ges. The best thing to do on your ligh­ter days is to prac­tice at home, so that you don’t have to worry about where to find the next toi­let. If you still feel inse­cure at the begin­ning, you can, for example, wear a (was­ha­ble) panty liner as a backup or sim­ply go to the toi­let every hour and see what hap­pens. You will be sur­pri­sed by what your body can do!
And at night? Thanks to gra­vity, the blood flow is much lower when you lie down than during the day. If you are lucky, you can sim­ply sleep through the night on ligh­ter days. But to be sure, go to the toi­let just before going to bed and right after waking up. On hea­vier days, your body wakes you up – just like when you usually have to go use the toi­let at night.

But why should I voluntarily give up menstrual products?

Fair enough. That’s a pretty good ques­tion! There are quite dif­fe­rent approa­ches to why people choose to free bleed. The rea­sons are often very per­so­nal and range from dis­com­fort of tra­di­tio­nal mens­trual pro­ducts to mind­ful­ness to poli­ti­cal or femi­nist views. Over time, free blee­ding also has a posi­tive effect on the period its­elf. By mens­trua­ting without the use of strange prod­cuts inside the body, mens­trua­tion is given back its natu­ral­ness. Less mens­trual pain and a shor­tened mens­trual period, for example, are health bene­fits of free blee­ding. Still not quite con­vin­ced yet?
Free blee­ding is also by far the most envi­ron­ment­ally friendly and natu­ral way to make your period more sus­tainable. Because by doing without con­ven­tio­nal dis­po­sable pro­ducts, enor­mous moun­tains of waste can be avoided and our envi­ron­ment pro­tec­ted. Free blee­ding for the sake of the envi­ron­ment is a good rea­son! Not using dis­po­sable pro­ducts during mens­trua­tion does also mean that you do not have to buy new mens­trual prod­cuts every month, which is bet­ter for your wal­let. It’s a win all around!

My expe­ri­ence with free bleeding

Free Bleeding and I: Love at first sight (or rather blood flow?)

When I tried free blee­ding for the first time, I was totally exci­ted that it really worked. And I want to tell the whole world about my expe­ri­en­ces with free mens­trua­tion (that’s why I wrote this text!) because I’m a bit proud, too. It’s like a little suc­cess stroy every time and I’m fasci­na­ted by what my body is capa­ble of doing. I have the fee­ling that by free blee­ding I pay much more atten­tion to my mens­trua­tion. It beco­mes a con­scious part of my ever­y­day life and is no lon­ger some­thing I want to hide or goes unnoticed.

It is a privilege to be able to choose between different menstrual products

The para­dox of free blee­ding, howe­ver, is that on the one hand mens­trua­ting people con­sciously forgo what others invol­un­ta­rily have to do without. Lack of money and insuf­fi­ci­ent sup­ply as well as spi­ri­tual acti­vism and femi­nist approa­ches actually lead to the same result: mens­trua­tion without period pro­ducts. Being able to make this decision con­sciously and vol­un­ta­rily is an abso­lute luxury. To choose free blee­ding admist the variety of mens­trual pro­ducts in Ger­many is a ‘trend’ based on pri­vi­le­ges. As a result, the free blee­ding move­ment is some­ti­mes cri­ti­ci­zed. Howe­ver, if we are aware of this pri­vi­lege, we can use it, just like Madame Gan­dhi at the Lon­don Mara­thon 2015, as a sign of pro­test and resistance:

‘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. The mara­thon was radi­cal and absurd and bloody in ways I couldn’t have ima­gi­ned until the day of the race.’

Free Blee­ding as a poli­ti­cal and above all femi­nist state­ment! Madame Gandhi’s aim at the mara­thon was to attract atten­tion through ‘shock’ (aka blood) and to start a dia­lo­gue about mens­trua­tion. Because only through con­ver­sa­ti­ons can the silence and taboo about mens­trua­tion be bro­ken. The free blee­ding move­ment the­re­fore encou­ra­ges a more open approach to mens­trua­tion and can con­tri­bute to more edu­ca­tio­nal infor­ma­tion in society.

Photo Cour­tesy by Madame Gan­dhi

 

Now what ?

My mes­sage is not that from now on ever­yone should only bleed freely (alt­hough the envi­ron­ment would thank us very much!). Rather, I wish that every mens­trua­ting per­son feels safe and empowe­red enough to choose the best method or product(s) for them­sel­ves during mens­trua­tion. Free blee­ding will pro­bably not be the right choice for many people and that’s okay! But who knows, maybe you’ve become a little curious now and just let the mens­trual blood run free during your next cycle? Free blee­ding is defi­ni­tely worth an expe­ri­ence! Optio­nal: If you have any per­so­nal ques­ti­ons, please feel free to mes­sage me at any time. With this in mind:

Let it flow & happy free bleeding!

Britta Wiebe, period education, Vulvani
Britta 
Co-Foun­der Vulvani | britta@vulvani.com | Web­site | + posts

Britta Wiebe is the co-foun­der of Vul­vani. She loves rese­ar­ching, wri­ting and designing new arti­cles or inno­va­tive edu­ca­tio­nal con­cepts about mens­trua­tion all day long. When she is not tra­vel­ling the world, she enjoys spen­ding time with her loved ones in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg in Germany.