Free instinctive flow: living your period without sanitary protection

Le FIL : le Flux Instinctif Libre

Organic disposable protections , washable napkins and tampons , cups , period panties . The menstrual hygiene market has continued to reinvent itself for several years. Offering ever more innovative products and devices. Seeking to satisfy all the requirements of today's consumers: safety, efficiency, comfort, budget, aesthetics, ecology. But what if ultimately the solution was to no longer wear anything ? Live to the rhythm of your menstrual flow to no longer wear sanitary protection . This practice , adopted by few women (compared to those who use traditional protection to manage their periods ), still exists and has a name: free instinctive flow . At Perdième, we defend female well-being and free choice. Therefore, how can we not tell you about this other option ? Even if we have never personally tested the free flow instinct – we must admit that our menstrual panties satisfy us completely – we think it is important and useful to address this subject linked to the management of menstruation . What is FIL ? How to practice it ? Are there any risks and contraindications ? Is it really effective? Light on this natural method which is the subject of debate.

Free instinctive flow: a natural way to manage your periods, without periodic protection

What is free instinctive flow?

Free instinctive flow, or “FIL” for short, is a way of managing the flow and collection of period-related blood loss for menstruating people. It involves retaining menstrual blood inside the vagina before releasing it directly into the toilet at the appropriate time. This way of experiencing your periods comes to us from the United States, known there as free flow instinct .

With FIL, period blood is collected in the toilet bowl. Therefore, there is no – or no longer – need to wear sanitary protection. Free instinctive flow is therefore a practice described as “natural”.

The free instinctive flow: not wearing a sanitary napkin Practice free instinctive flow: no longer wear hygienic protection

The name, in English as in French, is confusing. We can indeed think that it is recommended here to let nature take its course, freely, without intervening in any way. Well no ! This is free bleeding , another approach which also avoids the use of periodic protection.

Do not confuse free flow instinct and free bleeding

Free bleeding is a feminist movement that appeared across the Atlantic in the 1970s , born from protest against taxes imposed on American feminine hygiene products. He advocates the lifting of taboos surrounding the subject of periods and female empowerment .

Its followers, the free bleeders , choose to use nothing, neither protection nor technique, to collect the blood from their periods. They simply let it flow and soak into their clothes, both in the private sphere and in the public space.

Conversely, those who practice free instinctive flow seek to identify the best time to evacuate their menstrual discharge in the toilet, in order not to stain their underwear or their clothes. It is a conscious and voluntary exercise, based on perception and listening to bodily sensations.

free instinctive flow: throwing menstrual blood into the toilet Release your menstrual flow in the toilet

Free instinctive flow, how does it work?

Practicing free instinctive flow does not mean controlling your menstrual flow in the sense of “I can stop or unblock everything at any moment” (oh no, no superpower here!). It is more a question of feeling the internal flow of menstrual fluid, or of capturing its physical manifestations. This is to assess the time you have before going to the toilet to eliminate it and to organize yourself accordingly. When access to toilets is not immediate, it is a matter of being able to hold the blood in oneself for a while. All this is based on physiological phenomena and specific anatomical elements of the female body.

Uterine contractions, menstrual volume and discontinuity of blood flow

The blood that flows during menstruation comes from the uterus, more precisely from its internal lining, called the endometrium. During a menstrual cycle, this tissue thickens and becomes vascularized under the influence of sexual hormones, in the event of welcoming an embryo. At the end of a cycle, in the absence of fertilization, the superficial layer of the endometrium is resorbed and evacuated through the vagina in the form of more or less abundant bleeding. It is the uterus which naturally contracts to allow the expulsion of fluid towards the vagina.

The amount of blood lost during a cycle is on average around 50 ml. As explained in our article 10 unusual facts about periods , this represents two to three tablespoons. The elimination of this blood volume does not occur continuously but intermittently, according to the rhythm of the contractions of the uterus.

The goal for people who practice free instinctive flow is to recognize the symptoms that accompany these uterine contractions – spasm, pain in the lower abdomen or back, pressure on the bladder, etc. Thus, they are able to detect the flow of blood from the uterus towards the vulva and can prepare for its evacuation. If it is necessary to hold this flow for a few minutes, or even a few hours for the most experienced, it is the muscles of the perineum that will help them do so.

The perineum, the muscle to contract to retain the menstrual flow

free instinctive flow: diagram showing the pelvic floor

Also called the pelvic floor, the female perineum is a diamond-shaped set of muscles located in the lower abdomen, a sort of “hammock” stretched between the pubis and the coccyx. Its role is to support the organs of the small pelvis – the bladder, the uterus and the rectum –, to ensure the tightness of the sphincters for good continence and to increase sensations during sexual intercourse.

It is this muscle group that it is advisable to voluntarily contract to retain menstrual blood in the vagina. Not constantly, we reassure you. But at each phase of flow felt, to delay the progression of losses.

Vaginal fornixes, small cavities to store menstrual blood

The vagina is made in such a way that its upper end forms a hollow on either side of the cervix. The cavities thus created, called vaginal fornixes or vaginal cul-de-sacs, capable of accommodating a few milliliters of liquid, would allow menstrual blood to temporarily lodge there when the perineum is contracted.

Once in the toilet, you have to completely relax the pelvic floor muscles to let the blood flow into the bowl. Usually this is done at the same time as urinating.

The free instinctive flow would become automatic over time: 4 to 5 cycles on average would be necessary to start feeling comfortable.

The advantages of free instinctive flow: why adopt it?

Skeptical? U.S. too. Like apparently all initiates, before having tried. Even if we do not know the number of women practicing free instinctive flow, we find many testimonies of converts on the Web, in different forms: blog articles , YouTube videos , podcasts . These feedbacks, although unique and personal, very often evoke the same underlying motivations and the same benefits obtained from this practice.

  • free instinctive flow: not wearing a sanitary tampon

    Preserve your health: FIL allows you to do without any type of hygienic protection, which avoids putting your genitals in contact with irritating and/or potentially harmful substances for the body, or exposing yourself to Shock Syndrome Toxic (SCT) menstrual .

  • Save money: FIL is a free method; there is no need to spend money on periodic protection (or very little at first).

  • Protect the planet: FIL is ecological since it is a natural practice that does not generate waste.

  • Being able to choose your contraception: FIL is compatible with all types of contraception.

  • Reconnect with your body: FIL requires you to pay attention to bodily manifestations and sensations; it can therefore help you to know yourself better, to listen to yourself more and to feel better physically and psychologically.

  • Feeling freer: FIL contributes to a desire to free oneself from the constraints and inconveniences traditionally associated with periods (purchase of protection, bad odors, maintenance, mental load linked to menstrual logistics, etc.).

From theory to practice: not so easy to follow the FIL!

So far, free instinctive flow seems the ideal solution. On paper, the concept seems simple and the promise is enticing: live your period naturally and freely. That's the theory. But in practice, what is it?

Is free instinctive flow really possible?

Today, little scientific data is available on free instinctive flow. The main sources of information on this subject are the testimonies and interviews of those who have adopted this method and who generally praise its merits. But the FIL is not always unanimous, particularly among health professionals. What are their reservations?

The risk of bacterial contamination

Opinions are divided on the question of the danger that the practice of free instinctive flow could represent for health. Some doctors believe that keeping blood inside the vagina for a long time could encourage bacterial contamination. However, most consider that FIL does not present any medical risk: the retained blood would not be abundant enough and would not stagnate long enough to constitute a real threat.

The comparison with urinary continence: true or false?

The expression that is debated is “menstrual continence”. The name comes from the analogy that some draw between holding back urination and holding back your period.

For specialists, the comparison is not valid. The anatomy and functioning of the urinary sphincter have nothing to do with those of the uterus and perineum. This is what gynecologist Delphine Hudry explains for Rue89 : “It shows a lack of anatomical knowledge. Educating the vagina to allow more flexibility is possible. Managing uterine continence is impossible. »

Behind this notion of incontinence, it is also the risk of infantilization of women which poses a problem : “Women, these big children who make no effort to be clean. [...] Should women who are unable to control their menstrual flow be accused of lacking willpower? These lazy women who would rather wear diapers than be free women! ".

Is the free instinctive flow method accessible to everyone?

What also arouses controversy is the discourse which presents free instinctive flow as the single solution: the one that would suit everyone, in all circumstances.

Several situations can constitute an obstacle or a contraindication to the practice of FIL:

  • A very heavy menstrual flow: for those who have very heavy or even hemorrhagic periods , the method seems more than restrictive to put in place – constant attention paid to their periods and incessant trips to the toilet ;
  • The unpredictability of the menstrual cycle: menstruation being more or less predictable, particularly depending on the type of contraception used, it can be difficult to organize yourself to practice FIL;
  • Low tone of the perineum: women have a more or less toned pelvic floor, by nature or following specific events such as childbirth; even if strengthening exercises can be carried out to strengthen it, this does not facilitate the adoption of the FIL;
  • Limited access to toilets: practicing free instinctive flow requires being able to go to the toilets easily and frequently; all those who have a professional activity that does not guarantee them this prerequisite find themselves unable to adopt this technique.

A new injunction made to women?

The tone used to talk about the instinctive flow can sometimes seem guilt-inducing: a little good will, and that's it! This is what some people criticize the FIL: becoming an additional injunction for women, who should be more competent every day in all spheres of their lives. For example, we can read in the Rue89 article : “With the “free flow instinct”, we are once again asking a lot of women. They are asked to be absolute masters of something natural and flowing and which requires [...] to be contained in any way you wish. [...] There is a time when we will have to stop asking women to manage everything: work, family, motherhood, home and menstrual flow! »

Despite these divisive considerations, one maxim brings everyone in agreement: experience is king. Below is a non-exhaustive list of tips that seem interesting to us for experiencing free instinctive flow with complete peace of mind.

Tips and tricks for practicing free instinctive flow

1. Want it

If trying a new technique to manage your period appeals to you, go for it; if not, move on without guilt.

2. Test, without preconceptions

If you're already starting with the idea that it won't work, it seems unlikely that the experiment will go well and that the trial will be successful. Unrealistic, absurd, occult, the practice of free instinctive flow can leave you perplexed. But if you came to want to experience it, it is because something pleased you or challenged you. So, put aside any prejudice, and rely solely on your personal feelings.

3. Take it little by little and don’t put pressure on yourself

All the fans say it: free instinctive flow requires progressive learning. Don't set unattainable goals. Mastering this technique takes time. This involves practicing for several cycles. You can start by testing FIL only at home, near a bathroom, only one or two days during your cycle, or with underwear that is not afraid of stains. If everything goes well in these first steps, you will be able to take it to the next level: practicing FIL outdoors, at night, every day of your period, without worrying about the lingerie you wear.

4. Drink water, often

The more water you drink, the more likely you are to go to the bathroom, which will help you flush out period blood regularly and ingrain this behavior into your routine.

5. Use period panties

At the beginning, it may be interesting to continue using periodic protection, to manage possible leaks and small misses. Tampons and cups should obviously be excluded since they do not allow the menstrual flow to flow to the vulva. Wearing period panties is a good compromise when starting out: providing discreet but effective protection which reassures but does not hinder the mechanics of free instinctive flow. A good opportunity to test Perdième menstrual panties !

The Perdième menstrual panties with the Nairobi pattern Nairobi menstrual panties from Perdième

Written by cd