By Published On: May 4th, 2023Last Updated: September 18th, 2023
The image shows a hand with two fingers covered in menstrual blood

A few years ago, I spent three days camping with friends. Everything was great until I got my period on the last morning and realized I had left my menstrual cup at home. We were in the middle of the forest and still had a five-hour drive back.

My two options were improvising something with toilet paper (who hasn’t done that, right?) or using a menstrual pad that a friend kindly offered me. The thing is, I hadn’t used disposable pads for four years (I never liked tampons), so I decided this would be a good chance to give free bleeding a try.

What is Free Bleeding?

Free bleeding is the practice of intentionally bleeding without using any menstrual care products to absorb or collect menstrual flow.

Some people choose to intentionally bleed in public as a form of activism. Have you heard the story of Kiran Gandhi, who ran an entire marathon during her period without any product? It’s so inspiring!

But today, I’m actually referring to something different. Let me explain.

How Does Free Bleeding Work?

The first thing to know is that menstrual blood doesn’t flow continuously; instead, it accumulates in the uterus, which is closed, and only opens occasionally to evacuate it.

Your body gives you a warning, a physical sign, to let you know when to release your menstrual flow, just as when urinating or defecating. It’s a signal that tells your brain that you need to release your period, and it’s also noticeable in the lower abdomen with sensations of swelling, weight, tension, and the need to empty the uterus.

Unfortunately, we grow up ignoring that this is possible, but with awareness and practice, we can learn it! It’s a sustainable period care strategy that helps you connect with your body and cycle.

How to Start Practicing Free Bleeding

Anna Salvia, a Spanish psychologist specialized in education and sexual health, from whom I have learned the most about free bleeding, recommends 3 steps:

1. Get to Know Your Period

The image is a photo taken from above of a person sitting on the toilet. Her naked feet are shown and between them, a stain of menstrual blood.

Before practicing free bleeding, paying attention to your menstrual flow is good.

  • How many days do you usually bleed?
  • How heavy or light is your period?
  • How often do you need to change your period care products?

These are helpful questions to give you an idea of how to handle free bleeding.

Learn to measure your period objectively in my article
Your Menstrual Blood Says a Lot About Your Health.

2. Pay Attention to Your Body

The image shows a person placing both hands on her lower belly

Next, pay attention to what happens in your body when you bleed. To do this, you can either choose period underwear, pads, or simply nothing. A menstrual cup or a tampon won’t help you with this experiment.

  • The first thing you’ll probably notice is that blood doesn’t shed continuously but from time to time. 
  • Pay attention to the sensations associated with the release of the blood. How do your belly, uterus, vagina, and vulva feel? If you cannot feel anything at this point, know you’re not alone. We don’t have a good connection with these organs because we grow up with the idea that we shouldn’t listen to the information that comes from this area. So you need to be patient and consistent. Little by little, you’ll start to notice more and more details. 
  • Pay attention also to the situations where you evacuate more frequently; everyone is different! What happens when you shower, pee, sneeze, or laugh? And when you sleep?

It’s a good idea to keep a journal of what you experience to facilitate your learning process.

3. Time to try free bleeding!

Once you’ve gotten a better feeling for your period and your body, you’re ready to try free bleeding. It’s important to do it in a safe environment, so try it when you’re relaxed, at home, and on a lighter day of your period.

Release the blood in the toilet regularly (e.g., every hour) and see what happens and how it feels. The main thing here is to be curious, open to learning, and patient with yourself.

Soon enough, you’ll learn to identify the signs that your body gives you!

The learning curve

During your learning process, it’s totally normal to have leaks. If this happens, be gentle with yourself and try to understand why. Perhaps you waited too long since you got the warning (you need to go quickly to evacuate, you can’t hold on as long as with urine). Perhaps you sneezed, or maybe you got distracted.

Keep listening to your body and be patient with yourself.

Free bleeding is simpler than you think! If you put time into it, you can learn to use it in a few cycles. And remember, it’s okay to combine free bleeding with other period care products, such as period underwear or pads, as a backup while you get more familiar with your menstrual flow.

How it’s been for me

So that day, I tried it, and it was easier than I imagined. We had two toilet breaks on our way back, which helped a lot. I admit I was a little nervous, but in the end, everything went well.

Since the pandemic, I’ve been exploring free bleeding more and more, and this is what I can share so far:

  • It’s getting easier every time! I’ve had a few leaks now and then, but I feel I can better identify the warning to evacuate my period. And I’m learning to be okay with accidental red spots on my clothes. 
  • Being aware of my menstrual flow makes me feel more connected to my womb and the energies of my menstrual phase. 
  • Except for what I can collect on the toilet paper, I can’t really study my blood, so when I free bleed, I miss out on essential information about my overall health. This, to me, is a huge con.

I’m still learning and have a thousand questions, but it’s been a good exercise of awareness, and I’m very curious to continue exploring.

Have you tried free bleeding? Would you like to? Let me know in the comments.

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