Understanding Your Body
Be Empowered Birth Series
As we’ve discussed stages of labor and various aspects of becoming better informed so you can make the best laboring decisions for yourself and your baby through our Be Empowered Birth Blog Series. Today I’d like to touch on some of the things you can expect from your laboring body and some interesting “neat-to-know" facts about your body. For example, did you know that the uterus has the ability to grow from the size of an orange to a watermelon? (And aaaaalllllll the Mamas due who are reading this right now are nodding their heads in collective agreement!)
Sometimes at the end of pregnancy it feels more like you’re housing a prize-winning pumpkin, am I right?! All of this to say, your body is amazing and capable of such growth!
Your body is specially designed for labor, and a birth doula can help you “tune in” to your body and connect you to what is going on while you’re doing the hard work of laboring your baby out.
One of the first signs of labor may be the loss of your mucus plug. This small amount of pinkish mucus is teeming with healthy, bacteria fighting enzymes to help keep you and your baby healthy and safe while your cervix thins out (effacement) and opens up (dilation). The loss of this “plug” means your body is telling you things are warming up and getting ready to kick into gear!
Your cervix is an amazing part of the reproductive system. This narrow passage forming the lower end of the uterus reacts to hormonal changes, triggering it to thin out (effacement) and open (dilation). Don’t feel too hung up on the numbers if your care provider checks you near the end of pregnancy...you may feel discouraged if your provider tells you you’re only a small percentage effaced and only 0 or 1 cm dilated. Keep your spirits up, a woman’s laboring body can change rapidly depending on a variety of other factors. If you feel “stuck” at the end of pregnancy and you’re 40+ weeks gestation, this can be a great time to have a chiropractor do a labor adjustment for you to help encourage your baby to lower and engage your cervix.
Let’s talk placenta. This amazing organ is grown during pregnancy to sustain the pregnancy, then expelled during the 3rd stage of labor. The placenta provides oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby and removes waste products from your baby's blood. This organ (placeta is Latin for “flat cake”) is formed by cells that originate from the fetus...thanks baby! The placenta produces a variety of hormones your body needs to help sustain a pregnancy, such as two steroid hormones – oestrogen and progesterone. The placenta also releases several protein hormones, which include human chorionic gonadotrophin (Hcg), human placental lactogen, placental growth hormone, relaxin, and kisspeptin. Each of these hormones work in tandem with each other to sustain the health of the uterine wall, allow healthy implantation, help baby grow, prepare your body to produce milk, and even support your immune system during pregnancy!
So, there you go, another super-power to add to your list of what you and your body can do...grow an organ teeming with healthy hormones! All of this also means that you can expect to feel a change after stage 3 of labor when your body expels this hormone producing organ...this is normal, and placenta encapsulation can help ease your body into the next natural stage (the fourth trimester) as these hormone levels de-escalate.
These are a few things you can expect as you look toward labor and some interesting facts to help you understand just how amazing the human body is and what your body is capable of doing. If you have any more questions about this information, always feel free to reach out to us at Little Lilacs Birth Services!