Recently I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a pretty alarming post.
The non-profit organization Period.org had posted about free bleeding — the idea of menstruating without the use of a tampon, pad, or other period product. This allows your blood to “flow freely” (hence the name).
The trend of free bleeding has become increasingly popular in the western world over the last few years as a means of combating the stigma around menstruation. A London marathoner even free-bled as she ran in 2015!
If the post had ended there, it would have been totally fine. Unfortunately, the now-revised IG post went on to claim that people who free-bleed had the ability to “feel the flow coming and consciously control the muscles in the pelvic area to prevent it from leaking out.”
The post added,
“The menstrual blood can be held in the vagina with certain muscle contractions and discharged by relaxing the pelvic floor.”
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Not only is this absolutely ridiculous, but it’s also incredibly harmful. Misinformation like this is one of the many reasons why misogynists believe menstruators don’t need access to affordable period products.
On top of this, even attempting to “hold in” your period blood can be extremely harmful to your body. Trying to hold in your flow would require you to contract your pelvic floor muscles throughout the day, which could do end up doing a lot of damage down there.
Luckily, we were able to speak with a pelvic floor expert to dispel the myths and get the facts straight.
Why It’s Impossible to Hold in Your Period
Bethany Blake is a pelvic floor physical therapist and co-founder of Arkansas Pelvic Health. She’s also a certified pelvic rehabilitation practitioner. In other words, she seriously knows what she’s talking about.
So, first things first: Is it actually possible to control your period flow? In short, no.
Bethany told us,
“There’s no such thing as ‘holding in’ your period. It’s not a voluntary function. Yes, period blood does exit the vaginal canal, and there are some muscles that can be voluntarily contracted in the area, but they are not able to contract to hold in liquids (just like you aren’t able to ‘hold in’ vaginal discharge).”
So, why can you hold in your urine but not your period? Bethany explained,
“This is a different orifice with different muscles. There are internal sphincters, external urethral sphincters, and other muscles, including sphincter urethrovaginalis and compressor urethrae assisting in holding in urine. I’m sure you don’t have the desire to learn the entire Bradley’s loop reflexes that aid in this as well, but it’s much more than just muscles.”
Why Attempting to Hold In Your Flow Is Potentially Dangerous
Not only is period blood impossible to hold in, but trying to do so can be detrimental to the health of your pelvic floor.
According to Bethany, trying to do hundreds of kegels all day long could lead to pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, urinary retention, urinary urgency, and even urinary leakage.
“The pelvic floor should be contracting just like your eyes blink. Automatically. Sometimes you can and should make your eyes blink or your pelvic floor contract purposefully, but in general, just let them do their thing.”
And last but not least, if you ever have any questions about your period or pelvic floor, always reach out to your doctor or to an expert to make sure you’re getting accurate information.
So, the moral of the story? Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. But you already knew that, right?
To learn more about how to keep your pelvic floor healthy, follow Bethany and Arkansas Pelvic Health on TikTok and Instagram @thekegalchronicles.