Thursday, 13 November 2014

Childbirth Unmasked 6

Chapter 4 The Womb

The womb, otherwise known as the uterus. A truly wonderful organ as it grows from the size of a pear to the size of a large melon in just 9 months. In this chapter Margaret Jowitt explores the form and function of the uterus as well as how it responds to stress hormones.
"...to provide a safe environment for a growing fetus for nine months and to expel its contents at the end of that time safely and efficiently."

The uterus is mainly a bag of smooth muscle. This type of muscle is not under our direct control and is also found in the stomach, urinary bladder and surrounding most blood vessels. It was never designed by nature to cause pain when it is contracting normally. So why does it? Margaret quite rightly points her finger at  stress hormones as the main culprits.
"Since we cannot make smooth muscle work by an act of will, the only way of influencing it is to use indirect, psychological means - changing our state of mind and thus altering the secretion of stress hormones."
Thank you Margaret, I have been teaching pregnant women in this blog how to use relaxation techniques in pregnancy and labour in order to reduce stress hormones so that women's bodies can labour without hindrance. It is thought that many women go into spontaneous labour at night when they are asleep as there are no stress hormones around at that time.


" ...uterine sympathetic nerves become more sensitive in pregnancy... This implies an important physiological role for nervous input during labour. One biological role of pain is to promote instinctive pain-avoidance behaviour."
Remember the saber toothed tiger in my post Why Labour Hurts 3? It appears at the cave door of our lovely cave woman who is in labour. OMG. The first thing she would do is to release adrenalin into her system so that she would have extra energy to run away or stay and fight. But 'Oh No' her cervix is nearly fully dilated, if her baby is born now then the tiger will think its her birthday and celebrate with a very fresh human, covered in a tasty liquor dressing accompanied by a side order of bloody placenta. Yum.Well, Margaret's uterine sympathetic nerves are at work here by reacting to our cave woman's fear by secreting stress hormones that allow mum to escape while preventing her cervix from fully opening, allowing adrenalin to attach itself to receptor sites on the human cervix making it rigid, harder to open.

In my post Why Labour Hurts 4, I try to impart to women the importance of not lying down in labour.
"During the first stage of labour the fetus and the uterus dance an intricate pas de deux which directs the fetus towards the cervix... the mother should be allowed freedom of movement in order to give full rein to these directed contractions. I suggest that painful contractions occur when the uterus is prevented from working as it should... Freedom of movement is a cornerstone of instinctive childbirth. Immobility is a recipe for obstetric disaster..."

Thank you Margaret for explaining in far more detail than I could ever manage about why I was able to have my two pain free labours. My third labour was spoiled by being forced to lie down on a hospital bed for the duration, and I was in agony. I just wish that your book had been around for me to read at the time. I look forward to reading chapter 5.

Pain Free Labour books are available from Amazon to download or in paper form. xx
Ever wondered why animals seem to have labour contractions that cause them no pain?

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