The meaning of free bleeding is simple: you have your period without using any menstrual products. This includes pads, tampons and menstrual cups.
For some people, it’s a choice. Others are forced to free bleed due to financial hardship. Opening up the conversation around menstruation is important, so that’s what we’re doing today.
What counts as free bleeding?
It only counts as free bleeding if the person menstruating does not block or stop the flow of their period. The only exception to this rule is period underwear.
This is because period underwear is designed to look and feel like regular underwear. Thanks to the cost, reusability and ease of access, period underwear provides freedom to people who menstruate.
Why do people free bleed?
It’s done for lots of different reasons.
Some people do it because it feels natural and liberating. Others are allergic to the chemicals used in some menstrual products. Some choose to do it in protest of the tampon tax, to look after the environment and to normalise menstruation.
One of the biggest reasons that people choose to do it, however, is to raise awareness of period poverty.
Period poverty is when people that get periods can’t afford products, painkillers, or even access education about the menstrual cycle and sexual health.
Another reason it’s important to raise this issue is because some people don’t have a choice but to free bleed.
Those that don’t have access to period products due to a variety of reasons (including, but not limited to: financial, cultural, religious or situational) are forced to free bleed. They are also taught that their period is something to be embarrassed about, something that they need to hide.
So not only are these people forced to do it, but it’s something that makes them feel uncomfortable and ashamed.
Why is free bleeding controversial?
The controversy around free bleeding stems from the stigmatisation of periods. Many cultures around the world shun people during their periods and tell them that it’s ‘unclean’.
In other countries, like some parts of the U.S., people who menstruate are subject to the tampon tax, and if they can’t afford it, they are shamed for being ‘dirty’. Periods aren’t talked about much either. It’s seen as a ‘women’s issue’ and therefore something that is of lesser importance to a male-dominated society.
People who do it in public (out of choice or force) are often treated poorly because of their bodily functions thanks to the stigma surrounding menstruation.
What are the risks?
One of the first things people talk about when free bleeding comes up is how blood is a biohazard. It’s seen as ‘unsanitary’.
While bloodborne viruses such as Hepatitis C and B can be transmitted this way, the risk is low unless exposure happens through a cut or wound.
In saying this, most people that choose to free bleed usually carry a towel or blanket with them to use if they are using public spaces during their period. This further decreases the risk of contamination.
How to do it:
There are lots of different ways to do it! Here are some different ways that people choose to manage their period while free bleeding:
- Wear period underwear
- Only free bleed on light days or the last few days of your period
- Use towels or blankets while sitting or laying on furniture
- Pack extra undies and clothes
Some people choose to stay home for the duration of their period if they are free bleeding. Others feel comfortable going out. Remember that it’s all about personal preference and there’s no ‘right’ way to do it.
There are also heaps of helpful resources online about how to free bleed! Here’s a great article about it.
How to wash blood out of fabric:
Now for the important part. If you free bleed, it’s pretty likely that you’ll make a bloody mess sometimes. So here’s our guide to getting blood out of your clothes. You’re welcome.
Free bleeding products:
Finally, what kind of monsters would we be if we didn’t give you a list of our favourite products to use?
- Sex blankets are perfect for sleeping on when you’re free bleeding at night.
- Tried and true period undies.
- And some good old ibuprofen.
Free bleeding may seem daunting at first, but remember that it’s up to you how, when and why you do it. And if it isn’t something that sounds right for you, that’s okay too. Even just talking about it and raising awareness of the issues around menstruation is an important job that we all need to play a part in.
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