Simply put, free bleeding is viewed as one of a few things. From training your cervix to hold in your menstrual blood, much like your bladder, until you can go and empty it (Is this really possible!?) Others believe it means just not using anything to absorb/collect your menstrual flow. And some think it simply means not using a tampon, cup, sponge or anything else inserted into your vagina to collect your flow, but that using period underwear or cloth pads still falls within the realm of "free bleeding".
I hadn’t really thought much about the term, nor heard much until I began looking into it myself.
Not using any sort of menstrual product has been around longer than you or me has existed, and long before any sanitary products hit the shelves. And there are millions of women “free bleeding” today. Why?
Let’s think about it for a second. Something that some clown somewhere passed off as some hyper-feminist disgusting bullshit is something that millions of women deal with every single month because they don’t have access to feminine hygiene products. Girls stop going to school for that week every month because they don’t have anything to “manage” their periods and being that managing is a “must” in so many cultures they are left to fall behind in school and in life, one period at a time.
Other women, with access to products, do it because it’s more comfortable for them.
I like looking at “free-bleeding” as a mindset. You can use whatever products feel most comfortable for you, but do it in a way where you’re allowing your body to bleed. You don’t feel guilty or ashamed. If you leak it’s no big deal. Take blogger, Kelly Jo’s word on it:
"More of a mindset than it is an action, the idea is...letting ourselves bleed. No judgement, no worries about messiness or cleanliness. Just letting it happen...This might look different for different menstruators. We are always, technically, “letting” ourselves bleed...But how often do we take a second, or a few, or a whole menstrual cycle, to mentally let our body do it’s thing. And appreciate it for what it does"
By discovering period underwear I was able to free-bleed in a sense on my lighter days, and not worrying about having to go and empty my cup was a freeing thing.
"The fact that I happened to be bleeding didn’t interfere with anything that I did; if anything, it felt great not having a foreign object inside my body to staunch the bleeding, plus my cramps were significantly lighter."
— Kayla Goggin, blogger, XOJane article
There is quite an adjustment to sensation when using only reusable pads or period underwear, or nothing at all. So many of us have grown so accustomed to no sensation at all, other than that telling you it was time to change, before you leaked everywhere.
It didn’t take me long after getting my period for the first time to muster up the courage to learn how to use a tampon because I just really disliked disposable pads. They were bulky, uncomfortable and felt entirely untrustable. So, a few months into my menstrual journey I learned how to put in a tampon, and I continued to do that from the age of 15 to the age of 24. Then I discovered menstrual cups, which were a game changer, and my preferred method of product still to this day. But not too long into my cup journey I also discovered period underwear. I had tried reusable pads but they didn’t feel secure enough, but these underwear felt like they had my back.
But then something awesome happened. I stopped using my cups as often. Don’t get me wrong, I love them oh so much more than tampons. But I discovered that I could just get by with the period underwear for my light days, and even my medium light days. There is really only a day or two that I need my cup.
"But gushing blood into my underwear felt like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute.” — Lane Moore, Cosmopolitan article
That quote puts it perfectly. What an odd, terrifying, “oh crap, oh crap, oh crap” moment it is when you feel a sizable amount release into whatever barrier lay in your underwear.
I had to learn to trust my period underwear, and to relearn the sensation of when they were full rather than clenching anytime I felt blood flow out of me.
I guess I had never really heard about women free bleeding before looking into it myself. Beyond women not having access to products of course. But the more I looked into it the more I discovered people’s outrage and disgust with it. Which I find bit funny, obviously. Every story I read about a personal account of free bleeding seemed to be contained to their own home, or where they would just use dark underwear on their light days. Or women using cloth pads and period underwear. And I can’t help but thinking, what’s the problem with that?
“No Uterus, No Opinion”