Free Bleeding – my experience and why the term might be misleading
Recently in women’s magazines a new topic has come up: “free flow” or “free bleeding”. No, do not fear, this does not mean just letting the blood run down your legs to fight the taboo around menstrual blood!
What is “free bleeding”?
The idea behind free bleeding is quite simple. The blood is naturally released in little waves rather than a constant flow. Plus, with a bit of training and awareness in your womb space, you might notice when it is time to go to the toilet to release the next “wave” of blood that has collected in the uterus. Like you learn to control your bladder, it seems possible to control your bleeding, too. That way you do not need tampons or sanitary napkins, just regular visits to the toilet (and maybe menstrual underwear for safety).
My early experiences
A couple of years ago, when I stopped using tampons I noticed just that: the blood flow was different to a constant leaking that I had previously imagined. At that time, I did not have a name for it and it was something of a cautious but surprising observation that my blood was not flowing constantly, but rather in waves whenever I went to the toilet. And the rest of the time the blood mainly stayed inside of me until the next visit to the toilet. Like bladder control there seemed to be some kind of mechanism that was keeping the blood inside my body; where exactly, I was not sure, whether it was inside the womb held back by the cervix or in the vaginal canal.
I talked to some friends about it, but they only gave me a very surprised look, saying they had never noticed anything like that – mainly I guess, because they constantly used tampons.
When I recently came across an article about free bleeding in Missy Magazine (a German magazine for pop, politics, and feminism: https://missy-magazine.de/), this was not only a welcome confirmation of my experience but motivation to develop further control. So there is such a thing, I am not alone! Why didn’t anyone tell me before?!
What does science say?
Now I am wondering, is free flow just another aspect of ancient feminine wisdom that has been lost over the centuries of patriarchal dominance? Was there a time where menstrual blood flow control was just as natural as bladder control?
I was searching for scientific descriptions of the phenomenon asking my gynaecologists and scientific databases, and guess how many sources I found. Not a single one! Zero hits! I couldn’t find a single mention of it in medical scientific journals! And even in the immensely informative book “The wonder down there” by two young Norwegian medical doctors, Nina Brochmann und Ellen Støkken Dahl, it was not mentioned.
So, please, spread the information! Women should know their options when it comes to menstruation. If gynaecologists cannot educate about it we have to do it ourselves!
However, in my view the term “free bleeding” is not best suited to describe what is going on. Why? I would prefer to call it “controlled flow” or “natural flow” or something along these lines to convey the sense of my body telling me when it is time to release, but at the same time to describe my own ability to tell my body when to release the blood that has collected.
Usually, during my bleeding time I feel fine about going to the toilet about every hour during the daytime and a couple of times during the night to release the menstrual blood. It does not work 100%. Sometimes I forget and when I then make a sudden movement, making me contract my core muscles sharply, I am immediately reminded that I am in my period and have to rush to the toilet. Oops. Clearly, this is not optimal if there is no toilet around or if you are not wearing any panty liner or sanitary napkin at all. Or if you are carrying out physical labour.
Another interesting observation that was also shared by the Missy Magazine author is, that at times I have the sudden feeling that blood is already running out of my vulva. If I then go to the toilet immediately, I notice that, in fact, so far nothing has happened, but this is like an internal warning sign that it is now time to release the blood that had collected. I am not quite sure yet where in my body this sensation is created. If there are other women out there who have had similar experiences or even explanations to offer, I would love to hear about it!
You might say that “free bleeding” does not sound like a particularly convenient way to experience your bleeding time. That may be a valid point, and for some who have to use their core muscles a lot, I cannot say whether it is feasible or not. But for me, working at a desk, it seems manageable most of the time. And I like to be in touch with my body and the blood flow. So whenever I can, I am training my flow control.
Another benefit that was also described in the article in Missy Magazine: free bleeding may reduce menstrual cramps! A lot of woman experience menstrual cramps and
these cramps might be associated with a disturbed natural blood flow. The uterus might be preparing for waves to flush out a gush of blood but for some reason (tampon?) is hindered – thus leading to cramps. In this case it may be beneficial to try and get in touch with your natural menstrual flow to potentially reduce the cramps.
If you have had particular experiences with your free flow it would be interesting if you could share them with us so that we can build a base of common knowledge around this neglected phenomenon!
For German readers there is more information here: https://www.maedchen.de/life/freie-menstruation