Facts About Free Bleeding – HealthyWomen

Whoever said you can’t wear white after Labor Day didn’t have periods. For some of us, you can’t wear white — ever. At least not comfortably without feeling like Carrie at the prom.

That time of the month usually calls for a look only Morticia Addams could love: solid black pants to disguise any leaks and long, over-the-butt dark shirts for added protection. And don’t forget the trusted sweater to cinch around your waist if things get too heavy when you’re out just trying to live your life.

We’ve all had clothing maimed in the name of menstruation. But, for some people, flowing through clothes is intentional. It’s called free bleeding — and it’s been around forever. In ancient times, period blood was deemed powerful and magical. (And really, depending on your definition of magic, who’s to say it’s not?)

More recently, the “free bleed” trend has made the rounds on social media and ramped up interest in the pros of going with the flow (sorry, we couldn’t resist!).

If you’re curious, here’s more about the basics behind free bleeding.

What is free bleeding?

Free bleeding is just like it sounds. It’s when you have your period, but you don’t use period products like tampons, menstrual cups or pads to collect, block or absorb the blood. You just let the blood go wherever it goes.

Some people wear regular underwear and clothing during this time. Other people wear period underwear or period-proof clothing. While these products are technically period products, you’re not going out of your way to stop the bleeding, so you’re still considered to be free bleeding by the free bleeding community.

Read: 5 Women’s Health and Beauty Products Made by Women >>

Unrelated, free bleeding isn’t always a choice. Sometimes, it can be the result of period poverty, or the lack of access to period products because of financial burden. Free bleeding when you can’t afford period products isn’t the same as intentional free bleeding for personal reasons. It’s a serious societal problem that has been linked to mental health conditions including depression and anxiety, and it affects the health and well-being of people across the world — especially people of color.

Read: The Complex Crisis of Period Poverty >>

Why are people free bleeding?

There are a few reasons why people voluntarily ditch their period products.

To be natural. Periods are a normal bodily function, and some people feel that using period products disrupts the natural flow of things.

To normalize menstruation. For some people, period products send a message that menstrual cycles are shameful or should be hidden. No products, less shame.

To protest against the “tampon tax.” In some states, menstrual products are priced as luxury goods, which means there’s an added tax for anyone who wants to buy them. Although some states have stopped the tax in recent years, as of today, 20 states still have the “tampon tax.”

To raise awareness for period poverty. Too many people don’t have access to period products and ditching them can be an effort to draw attention to the issue and support people who don’t have access and can’t afford them.

Read: My Struggle with Period Poverty Motivated Me to Help Other Women >>

To help the planet. More than eight million metric tons of plastic waste go into the ocean each year. Most disposable period products are made with plastic (pads are typically 90% plastic and most tampon applicators are made from non-recyclable plastic) and add to environmental waste.

Is free bleeding healthy?

Free bleeding is generally safe. There’s no scientific evidence of health benefits to free bleeding, but it can be beneficial to some people. For example, if you’re not buying period products, you’re going to save some cash (although period-proof clothing also costs money, too). If you’re giving up tampons, you’re also reducing the risk of getting toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare but potentially deadly infection from bacteria that can come from leaving tampons in for too long.

Is free bleeding sanitary?

As you might imagine, free bleeding can be messy. And if you’re out in the world free flowing, period blood can leak onto surfaces. And period blood, like all other blood, has the ability to carry blood-borne viruses. These can include:

Read: What You Need to Know About Viral Hepatitis A, B and C >>

Blood-borne viruses are transmitted when the blood or fluids enter the body of another person. So, while it may not be technically impossible, it is extremely rare for someone to get infected via period blood on a chair.

But if you’re free bleeding, it’s worth thinking about the people who may come in contact with your blood.

Which leads us to free bleeding in the real world. It’s your choice to go where you want, when you want, but it may be a good idea to pack extra clothes or period underwear to minimize the chances of leaving blood behind.

Free bleeding may not be for everyone, but we can all respect doing what each of us feels is right for our own bodies.

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