In an article about the first time Nigerian women used tampons, one of the subjects, Voke said that she free bleeds when she’s alone and out of tampons. A lot of people in our WhatsApp groups and on Twitter were confused about what free bleeding means. Free bleeding is simply the act of letting your blood flow without any period products like pads, tampons or cups. People free bleed as a form of protest to pink tax or because there is no alternative available to them. We spoke to eight Nigerian women about why they choose to free bleed and here’s what they had to say:
I started free bleeding in March 2021 because I ran out of tampons and pads. It was late, and honestly, I was too tired to make the trip to the store. Also, it was my third day. I wore a panty liner and went to bed.
I usually wake up in the middle of the night to take 400mg of Ibuprofen because of period cramps, but that night I didn’t need to. I felt at ease, which was so unusual.
The next month, I decided to try free bleeding again. I bought period pants on Amazon. The first two days of my period are heavy, so it ended up messy — I stained myself a lot but I noticed my cramps reduced. My cramps went from a level 8 to a level 3.
Instead of taking drugs, I used hot water bottles on my tummy and my back to reduce the cramps. In May, I did the same thing and it was smoother this time because I knew what to expect. I’ve been free bleeding since then. I use pads when I’m not at home but never tampons.
I started free bleeding in 2020. I do it because pads usually give me rashes and tampons are uncomfortable for me. I don’t free bleed all the time, but I feel a lot better on the days I can.
I have terrible cramps. In August 2021, I searched for sustainable remedies for my cramps and found an article on free bleeding. After reading it, I decided to give it a shot. I haven’t looked back since then.
I free bleed in my room. My period lasts for five days, and I rarely leave my room so the chances of traumatising anyone is low. Since I started, my cramps have been significantly lighter.
I just do it because I can. Some people wear period panties while they free bleed but I don’t — I lay naked and tuck some old t-shirts or towels around me. If it’s an especially heavy day, I rinse off a lot in the shower.
In 2020, my period reduced from seven days of heavy flow to four days. It made choosing free bleeding easier.
The first day of my flow is usually light and my period sometimes catches me unaware. So most times, I end up free bleeding on the first day. I also free bleed during the last days because, at this point, there’s little to no blood. Pads and tampons are generally uncomfortable, so whenever I can, I just let the blood flow.
I had my first period when I was 12. I was able to take care of myself, but I had a problem — pads caused a rash on my vulva. I could bear period cramps but the burn from the rash was insane.
One Saturday afternoon when I was 16, I decided not to wear pads after changing for the third time that day. I wore my briefs and spread a folded blanket on my bed. When I woke up, I noticed I only spotted a little and didn’t have cramps. I disinfected the blanket and steamed it in the dryer before trying it again. I noticed the burning stopped and my cramps were minimal. Since then, I have been free bleeding on and off during my periods. My mum got me a macintosh bed sheet so I don’t soil my bed. I make sure to disinfect my sheets and my room whenever I free bleed.
I really can’t be wearing uncomfortable stuff in my bum all day. I don’t get my period all the time because of PCOS. When the period comes, it’s light so I free bleed, especially on the last days.
I’ve never been a fan of sanitary pads. Most of them make me itch, and I have to keep readjusting so they won’t fall off. I’ve tried almost every brand of sanitary pads available in Nigeria, and everyone feels the same, so I just free bleed. I love it because my vagina is able to breathe. I really can’t imagine myself wearing a pad for six to seven days, especially at night when NEPA decides to fuck up. I use clothes and try to monitor the stains. It’s also the cheapest option if you ask me.
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