Vulvas are highly permeable. Unfortunately, intimate care items have limited regulation in the U.S.; as a result, many of the products people use during menstruation carry vulvar allergens and carcinogens. These ingredients can irritate the vagina, wipe out healthy bacteria and throw off your pH balance, increasing the likelihood of discomfort and infection. Free bleeding, a growing movement where people ditch tampons, pads and other menstrual products, is one way menstruators are pushing back on toxic (and expensive!) period items.
What is free bleeding?
In short, free bleeding is when you intentionally menstruate without blocking or collecting the period flow. This means that you don’t absorb or collect period blood with a tampon, pad, cup or other menstrual product.
Why is there a free bleeding movement?
In some ancient communities, menstrual blood was considered “magical,” and free bleeding was the norm. This started to change in the late 19th century, when talk about the cleanliness of periods started to spread, sanitary belts and tampons were invented, and people began feeling shame around period stains. Following in the footsteps of menstrual activists of the 1970s, the current free bleeding movement pushes back against the taboos around menstruation. But it’s also about more than myth-busting and destigmatization. The free bleeding movement is a way for menstruators to save money on disposable intimate care products, which often carry a luxury tax; safeguard their bodies against allergens found in these products; and draw attention to environmental issues relating to disposable menstrual products.
What are the health benefits of free bleeding?
Free bleeding does not put you at risk of any health conditions. Conversely, while there haven’t been any proven health benefits to free bleeding, it does minimize your risk of developing toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a life-threatening complication you can get when you leave a tampon in for too long. Even more, there have been several anecdotal benefits, like reduced menstrual cramping and a sense of freedom.
How can you start free bleeding?
If you’re interested in free bleeding, welcome aboard. It’s a growing movement enjoyed by people of various genders, racial and ethnic identities, ages and socioeconomic statuses (drummer Kiran Gandhi famously ran the London Marathon in 2015 while free bleeding).
Before starting, it’s important to know a few things. First, you’ll have to decide what you will bleed on. Some people prefer bleeding through underwear and clothes, while others favor using period panties and other blood-collecting clothes. The Bloomi marketplace carries multiple options for period undies. We love Heralogie’s Cloud ($24.99), an organic mid-rise bikini style that is breathable, leak-proof and vulva skin-friendly, and Revol’s Charlie ($50), a full-coverage boxer brief designed with trans and non-binary menstruators in mind.
Next, you’ll want to test out free bleeding in a place that feels comfortable to you. Many people start in their homes. Doing so allows you to get familiar with your period flow and know what to expect throughout menstruation. This will help you feel comfortable if or when you want to venture outdoors. If you leave your house while free bleeding, keep a few extra pairs of underwear or clothes with you in case you are out longer than expected. However, if you are using period-proof undergarments, you should be fine even if you’re out all day.