6 Things To Know Before You Try Free Bleeding

by Yvette Manes

At some point in your daily social media scrollings, you may have come across the practice known as free bleeding. If you're anything like me, the first question you probably asked when you heard the term is, "Whaaa?" It took some research and a whole lot of open mindedness, but I learned a little about the concept, including some things to know before you try free bleeding.

Putting it simply, free bleeding is not using any sanitary products while on your period. No pads, no tampons, no menstrual cups, nada. You basically bleed into your clothing.

This is not necessarily a new concept. Underprivileged women all over the world who don't have access to sanitary products have no choice but to free bleed. NPR published a piece in 2015 explaining that in parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, there are girls who often skip school for a week each month due to lack of sanitary products and indoor plumbing in their schools. So, why would women who do have access to sanitary products choose to go without? The answer may surprise you.

Here is some information about free bleeding to help you decide if you want to partake in this practice.


Do You Want To Make A Statement?

In 2014, users of the website 4chan, started an anti-feminist hoax they dubbed "Operation Free Bleeding." According to the website Know Your Meme, a thread was created on the 4chan image board "/b/" asking users to promote the idea of free bleeding through fake Twitter feeds. These feeds discouraged the use of sanitary products under the pretense of promoting feminism and self-empowerment, with the true intention being to provoke the ridicule of feminists and female activists.

It took just one day for the Daily Dot to trace the origin of the trend back to 4chan and denounce it as a hoax. Since then, true female activists have decided to flip the script and have started using free bleeding as a political and feminist statement.

Kiran Gandhi, a Los Angeles-based musician and feminist activist with an MBA from Harvard, gained fame by running the 2015 London Marathon while "bleeding-freely to combat period stigma around the world, sparking a global viral conversation about how we treat menstruation in various cultures," according to her website.

According to People, two women free bled in front of the Houses of Parliament in London to oppose the five percent tax on sanitary products. Charlie Edge and Ruth Howarth from Berkshire, England sat for three hours free bleeding and sharing their experience online. Edge wrote in a Facebook post, "taxes are necessary, I get it. So are tampons/pads."


Do You Want Make A Positive Impact On The Environment?

It's no secret that disposable sanitary products create a lot of waste. There is the box, the applicators, the giant instruction manual, the wrapper, not to mention the tampon/pad itself. According to Slate, the average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of feminine products in her lifetime. Free bleeding can help lessen your burden on the environment.


How's Your Flow?

Some women with a very light flow regularly free bleed overnight or when they hang out at home. But, if you have a heavier period or want to try free bleeding when you are out and about, you can invest in period panties. No, not the stash of stained granny pants you reserve for heavy flow days, but an underwear designed to absorb two tampons' worth of period blood like the ones tested out by Bustle. A good pair of leak-proof period panties costs around $30, but many women who have tried them swear by them.


Do You Have Time For The Extra Laundry?

One of the downsides of free bleeding, even if it's just around the house, is the amount of additional laundry it will create. Even if you don't mind stained underwear, you probably won't want to wear period-stained pants around town. Anyone who's had an overflow incident knows the amount of pre-treating, soaking, scrubbing and elbow-grease that's needed to get blood stains off of your clothing. Do you have the extra time and energy to add more laundry into your life?


Do You Mind Stained Sheets?

Free bleeding overnight when you have a heavy flow will almost certainly guarantee waking up to blood-stained sheets, and maybe even permanently staining your mattress. Do you really want to change your sheets every day or stain your expensive memory foam mattress? This is definitely something to consider.


Are You Bothered By The 'Damp Feeling'?

One of the selling points of tampons and menstrual cups is that you can avoid the feeling of wetness you get when wearing a pad. Because more than blood comes out, one complaint about free bleeding, even while wearing period panties, is the uncomfortable feeling of dampness, especially when clots or other uterine tissue is released.