Free instinctive flow: how to practice it? Methods and tips

The practice of instinctive flow, which originated in the United States, consists of retaining menstrual blood in the vagina without the use of sanitary towels or tampons, in order to evacuate it voluntarily, in the toilet for example.

What is free instinctive flow (FIL)?

Free instinctive flow, also abbreviated to FIL, is a solution for retaining menstrual blood by contracting the muscles of the perineum until it's time toevacuate it. It's an ecological and economical method that doesn't require the use of sanitary protection and allows you to rediscover the sensations of your body and listen to your menstrual signals.

Free flow instinct: a method democratized in the USA

Initiated across the Atlantic, free flow during menstruation saw the light of day in 2015, popularized on the Internet and social networks, thanks to bloggers and youtubers who promoted this ecological and natural method. Skepticism about the effectiveness of the method also helped to increase its success, with many women questioning whether the method was truly reliable! In fact, the method is much more widely used by American women than European ones, but its democratization is tending to narrow the gap.

How to practice free instinctive flow?

You're probably wondering how to get started with free instinctive flow! To practice FIL, you first need to understand your flow, listen to your body and practice: it's not a method you can learn in 5 minutes! It's more like working on your body awareness over several cycles to tame menstrual continence.

Step 1: Observe and understand your menstrual flow

First and foremost, you need to observe your menstrual flow by wearing external protection, i.e. protection that allows menstrual flow. Next, it's crucial to identify the following key points:
  • The arrival of your period: being able to predict with certainty when your period will arrive in the next few days, and knowing your premenstrual symptoms and cycle.
  • Key times: identify the times of day when blood generally flows, and when, conversely, it flows little or not at all.
  • Quantity: on which day of the cycle and at what time of day is the greatest volume of blood lost?
  • Sensations: being able to feel the sensation of blood flowing into the vagina from the cervix to the labia minora, uterine contractions, bladder pressure, the need to urinate, heaviness in the lower abdomen, etc.
  • Your daily activities: what activities do or don't encourage discharge (sports, bathing, sleeping, carrying heavy loads, sneezing, etc.)?

This exercise will enable you to reconnect with your bodily sensations and establish the first reference points for setting up free instinctive flow. Your cycle may not be like clockwork, and menstrual blood doesn't flow continuously: you need to rely on a range of factors and signals to decipher in order to practice FIL effectively.

Step 2: Experience instinctive flow at home

When you first start using free instinctive flow, you'll probably need to make regular trips to the toilet to evacuate blood. We therefore recommend that you carry out your first trials in the comfort of your own home! Accidents can happen at first, so it's important to feel comfortable, calm and able to concentrate on your bodily sensations. If this isn't possible, you can always double up at work with an external sanitary protection such as menstrual panties to avoid leaks and experiment without stress!

At Elia, we also offer an ecru-colored shorty for practicing FIL and quickly checking whether any drops have been unintentionally evacuated. As you go along, you'll develop a habit!

Step 3: Listen to your body and analyze blood flow

In concrete terms, as soon as you feel a liquid draining from your cervix, you'll be able to contract your perineum muscles, allowing the vagina to tighten up: blood loss won't be able to flow to the bottom of your panties! The perineum is made up of a set of muscles that line the bottom of the pelvis, from the pubis to the coccyx, and play a role in continence. Although few women realize it before pregnancy, the perineum can contract and relax voluntarily on command! So it's important to keep it toned!

After holding back your bleeding, you can go to the toilet, or shower, to evacuate it! The aim is to gradually increase the amount of time you are able to hold back, so that you can evacuate it only when you go to the toilet to pee: from about fifteen minutes, you can quickly increase this to several hours, by making your urge to urinate coincide with your relaxation of the perineum muscles !

In fact, it's easy to train yourself to make the stream flow to the toilet, as we're generally conditioned to relax the pelvic floor once we're sitting on the toilet, or even to push! The urine stream usually flows much faster and first: don't be fooled, the blood is more viscous and takes a little longer to flow down the vaginal wall. It's also a good idea to observe the flow visually, to appreciate the quantity. Don't hesitate to stay a little longer on the throne to wait for the last drops to come down.

As you go along, you'll be able to fine-tune your sensations so that you can be more and more efficient in your daytime FIL practice. Once the reflexes have been acquired, it's now possible to train them to last through the night- because that's not so easy! Muscles tend to relax naturally, making menstrual continence more complicated.

Why opt for free instinctive flow?

There are many advantages to opting for FIL:
  • It's economical: you won't have to spend on menstrual protection every month, because free instinctive flow is free!
  • It's good for the planet: with no waste or production, free instinctive flow involves no one but you, and leaves no impact on the environment.
  • It puts you back in the driver's seat: you're now fully aware of and in control of your bodily sensations, and you can free your sex life from the inconvenience of sanitary protection.
  • It's good for your body: with no endocrine disruptors, this method of menstrual continence also allows you to strengthen and maintain your perineum, which supports your entire pelvic floor: goodbye to organ descent!
  • There'sno odour: secretions don't have time to stagnate in your sanitary protection, and bacteria don't have time to develop there. They're evacuated after a few hours throughout the day.

Is it dangerous to practice free instinctive flow?

There is no known danger in practicing free instinctive flow. There is no risk of toxic shock syndrome, despite the presence of blood stagnating in the vagina, because the frequency of evacuation is less than 4 hours: after all, we urinate an average of 6 times a day!

Disadvantages of free instinctive flow

On the other hand, there may be a few difficulties or drawbacks to practicing FIL:
  • After childbirth or a difficult pregnancy: the perineum is less toned and its contraction over a long period is compromised. It is therefore necessary to undergo perineal re-education first.
  • Long-term sports: while an hour or two of exercise is perfectly feasible, longer periods without access to a toilet, or sports that are particularly hard on the body, increase the risk of overflow.
  • During bleeding periods or with a copper coil: this means going to the toilet several times an hour, which can be complicated if you're not at home.
  • At night: when you're particularly prone to heavy sleep and muscle relaxation, you generally operate on autopilot, and blood may stagnate in the vagina for several hours, depending on your flow.
  • Without access to a toilet: if you're on the move or without access to a toilet throughout the day, you won't be able to evacuate!
  • If you're very tired and/or ill: fatigue causes you to lose concentration and perineal muscle contraction is reduced, as is sneezing or coughing repeatedly, which can lead to involuntary leakage!

In such cases, we recommend doubling up with menstrual panties!

Is it possible to practice instinctive flow with heavy periods?

It's not impossible, but with heavy menstrual bleeding, menstrual blood loss is much greater, so you need to go to the bathroom much more regularly. It all depends on your ability to go several times an hour and the impact on your day. The risk of involuntary bleeding is therefore much greater.

Free instinctive flow FAQ

How do I practice free instinctive flow?

To practice free instinctive flow, you first need to listen to your body and its signals, which tell you that blood is flowing from the cervix down the vaginal wall. As soon as this happens, you need to contract your perineum and only release it when it's time to go to the toilet!

Is it possible to hold back my period?

It's perfectly possible to voluntarily hold back the flow of blood during your period, and only release it when you decide to do so! This is called free instinctive flow or the free flow instinct method.

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