HOW YOUR BODY PREPARES FOR BIRTH
By Andrea Eastman, MA, CCE, IBCLC
I bet you had no idea that your body was already working and preparing for your birth! While you are busy eating nutritious meals filled with a wide variety of high-quality proteins, and doing a combination and of your regular physical exercise and your special pregnancy exercises - your body is getting ready as well.
Starting at about the fourth or fifth month, you may recall feeling your uterus get hard every now and then. Sometimes the top half would get hard, sometimes the bottom half would get hard. And sometimes it would be your whole uterus. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions. Normally they are not painful at all. Many women notice that these contractions increase in frequency towards the end of the pregnancy, and may start to become painful. However, they still feel different than normal labor contractions. I prefer to call these practice contractions, rather than to call them false labor. Your body is still working and preparing for labor. If you have not felt these contractions, do not be alarmed. Not every woman feels them.
In your last trimester of your pregnancy, your body starts producing a hormone called relaxin. This hormone causes the cartilage, which is the connective tissue between your bones, to soften. This is designed to allow your pelvic bones to expand and allow more room for your baby to pass through. You may experience this sensation as creaky or wobbly hips.
Some time in the last month of your pregnancy, your baby drops into your pelvis, with its head engaged. This feels like a tremendous pressure on your bladder, and you may need to use the bathroom more frequently. As the baby moves around, you feel twinges in your cervix. When your body and your baby are ready, this gentle pressure from the baby's head begins to dilate your cervix. This dilation can start to happen weeks before you go into labor. Some women start labor already at 3 centimeters dilation, while others start labor at zero.
Your breasts are also preparing to nourish your baby. The hormones of pregnancy grow the ducts and the alveoli (milk-producing sacs) in your breasts. You may start secreting a clear fluid, called pre-colostrum, from your nipples as early as five months into your pregnancy.
Your pregnant body is an amazing and beautiful. Believe in yourself, and trust your body's ability to give birth to your baby!
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