What is Free Bleeding? What You Should Know
20 June 2023
Free bleeding is a positive movement, but it can be confusing and mean different things to different people. For some people, it's choosing not to use internal protection to soak up their monthly cycle through choice or financial hardship. It can also be a way of normalising our bodies functions.
For others it can mean sitting outside parliament in light coloured trousers to show their menstrual flow in solidarity with those suffering period poverty and gender inequality around the world.
We have grown up in a society that feels shame around periods - I regularly speak to mums who have teenager daughters. They live in fear of leaking at school or have had embarrassing situations where they have bled visibly in public.
It takes a very brave person to not want to hide if they have blood leaking through the crotch of their clothes.
I leaked last night in pilates and swiftly exited the room sideways halfway through the class! WHY had I left my period pants at home!!
What Is Free Bleeding?
Free bleeding is when you menstruate without blocking or collecting blood with period products. Essentially free bleeding allows your menstrual blood to flow freely from your vagina with no barriers to stop or control it.
Some women quantify free bleeding as anything that avoids internal protection and others feel you are only free bleeding if you are allowing blood to flow into your normal underwear and clothes.
They will take a black or red towel around with them to sit on to avoid staining furniture during their menstrual cycle.
Benefits of Free Bleeding
The benefits of free bleeding include:
- Lowers the chance of toxic shock syndrome
- Anecdotal evidence of reduced period cramps
- Anecdotal evidence of lighter flow
- Reduces environmental waste
- Keeps you in tune with your body
- Reduces monthly cost for single use products
- Normalising periods and bleeding
- Confronting societal norms
Is Free Bleeding Safe?
Free bleeding is considered safe, though you should practice good hygiene.
There is nothing more eye watering than removing a tampon that isn't fully saturated from a dry vagina. Tampons absorb everything - period blood, along with vaginal and cervical fluid.
Before the invention of the modern tampon in 1931 people had little choice if they wanted internal absorption. Tampons could be made using rags or sponges.
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare infection which can be caused by bacterial changes in the vagina if the wrong absorbency tampon is used or if it is left in for too long.
Free bleeding, either into your clothes, a pad or into period pants removes the risk of toxic shock. People who stop using tampons report less period pain too, though this is not scientifically proven.
Free bleeding with no protection can cause blood to leak onto communal surfaces and furniture if you are outside of your home. Menstrual blood is a bodily fluid and can carry infectious diseases, so though the risk is low it is important to clean up if needed to protect others.
It is easy to avoid blood stains, stick to cold temperatures as heat will cause the proteins in the blood to set as a stain. You can soak in a container with water and use salt, normal detergent, or stain removal soap to remove blood from clothing - these will work to scrub furniture too.
Then wash on a normal cycle with other clothes but stick to 30 degrees. If washing absorbent period pants make sure you avoid fabric softener and tumble drying as these can damage them.
Can You Free Bleed in Period Underwear?
Yes, you can free bleed in period underwear. This is better for the environment and less restrictive than traditional period products. It provides a “less mess” option for those who want to free bleed instead of using towels and blankets. Plus, period pants are designed to feel natural.
It can make it easier to carry on with your life while you are bleeding. The freedom that menstrual pants allow mean they are included in the free bleeding category.
Customers report getting relief in reusable period protection after suffering with chafing, irritation and sensitive skin for years when wearing disposable pads.
Period pants keep you feeling fresh and comfortable. Period panties will stop odours building up and cut down on washing as you won't seep onto your clothes, bedding or soft furniture.
Washable period undies fall into the category of menstrual protection so could be considered not free bleeding friendly, however they are not an addition rather they feel just like normal underwear so are accepted.
With a moisture wicking top layer, then absorbent layers followed by a waterproof barrier they allow you to flow freely without making a mess.
You could wear period pants on your heavier days and free bleed in normal underwear when you know the risk of leaking is less as your flow will be lighter.
"Making your period comfier, even though you’re bleeding! Very quick to get back to you as well as extremely friendly and willing to help. Very welcoming ladies who just want to make the world a little bit comfier while we bleed." Jasmin, Trustpilot '20
Free bleeding activism
Privilege v's poverty
Free bleeding popularity has increased with the birth of the internet and social media. Some cultures still believe that periods are dirty and women are shunned during their monthly flow.
Although England has joined other countries in removing the Tampon tax (VAT on female sanitary products labelling a basic necessity as a luxury item) retailers did not pass this saving on to the consumer by reducing the prices of single use sanitary products.
Period poverty affects millions of young girls and women in the UK and developing world. Pads are expensive and hard to get hold of in rural communities as are safe, hygienic places to change them.
Tampons are not an option in societies that are fiercely protective of girls virginity. Add in lack of education and taboo, and girls are left unable to hide their period, losing confidence in their bodies and feeling shame so stay home each month.
Missing school leads to educational and economical disadvantages - making it so hard to lift yourself out of poverty.
Kiran Ghandi free bled during her London marathon in 2015 for 'sisters who don't have tampons... I ran to say it does exist and we overcome it everyday'. Her flow arrived the night before and she knew running using a tampon would be really uncomfortable so she went with the flow!
Speaking about the viral reaction to her photos and their removal from social media Kiran writes "that period stigma runs deep and that we have a lot of work to do as a society to build together a world that is more loving and inclusive of women’s bodies."
Women in sports face difficulties during their periods. Some sports governing bodies insist on short, tight, impractical uniforms - from Wimbledons 'whites' to volleyballs bikinis. This puts women who are menstruating at a disadvantage.
When the Norwegian team were FINED for wearing non regulation shorts instead of the skimpy bikinis the outcry caused the rules to change in favour of more inclusive uniforms. The tide seems to be turning and more practical outfits are now more available in high level sports.
The general public are slower to accept that women bleed and sometimes its visible. Emma Pallant-Browne was shamed online when she freebled during her triathlon.
Emma overheats during races, especially when menstruating and finds dousing with water on the way usually prevents any blood showing. Her swimming costume had shifted due to her cycling position exposing her flow.
She writes on her instagram account that 'this is true female sport and the more barriers we can break through the better'.
If you found this blog useful you may like our blogs on -
Hygiene on your period : Your questions answered
Reusable period products and toxic shock syndrome
Are period pants hygienic
You can browse all our blogs here. If you want to know more about making the switch to reusable pee and period pants/pads, please contact the team. You can drop them a line or use the online chat. The team all use the products themselves and nothing is too much information. We all love to overshare based on our own experiences.
About the Author: Kirstin loves living by the sea with her three children. As part of Cheeky Wipes customer service team she spends most days talking about periods, poo, and pee. In 2021 Cheeky wipes was honoured with a Queens Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development celebrating their hard work over the last 13 years.