The Science Behind Labor

It’s amazing how pregnancy works and changes your body and mind in a way so perfect and in sync with your unborn baby. During labor, a mother’s contractions get stronger as labor progress while she becomes weak due to lack of oxygen, blood loss. Scientists are yet to understand how one part of the body becomes stronger while the rest of the body is in pain, lacking oxygen and going through profuse blood loss.

But, a new research at the University of Liverpool in the UK is based on explaining how a woman’s body can do this. The phenomenon is called as hypoxia-induced force increase (HIFI), which occurs due to a lack of blood supply and oxygen. During this phenomenon, the body has less energy and thus gets into a high gear mode. During this time, the body has a protective effect on the labor and allows the woman to progress with labor despite the lack of oxygen and blood supply.

The study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says the woman goes into a Wonder Woman mode at

the time of labor. The same happens when the heart experiences hypoxic preconditioning so as to prevent too much of oxygen loss. A woman can undergo labor for several hours and it’s a miracle with all the blood loss and hypoxia condition. Also, some women turn insensitive to oxytocin, the hormone which helps induce contractions in labor.

“During labors, the womb contracts and relaxes intermittently and vigorously until the baby passes through the birth canal safely. However, with each womb contraction, the oxygen supplying it would decrease briefly and increase again during the womb being relaxed. This process of contraction/relaxation and the intermittent decrease in oxygen would initiate a mechanism inside the womb itself to protect its power from weak contractions that are not enough to push the baby out,” said study author Mohammed Alotaibi, Ph.D.

Reduce In Time Of Labor

The aim of the study is to reduce prolonged labors in women by finding a uterine trigger that can help with labor and reduce the number of emergency c-sections.

“These findings can help shorten the long birth process by promoting the strong contractions

that are required to deliver the baby,” Alotaibi said.

If a woman undergoes HIFI naturally during her labor, then the delivery is normal and on time as expected. But when a woman goes through prolonged labor, a few mechanisms can induce HIFI. This leads to an entryway on the womb cell membrane known as ATP (adenosine), increases prostaglandin, and activates the protein phospholipase C. These changes have to be administered during the proper or natural stage of labor according to Alotaibi.

“It is also important to be very careful when using the oxytocin hormone if labor is to be induced to avoid early HIFI activation while the labor is in its very early stages—i.e. when the cervix still not effaced and dilated—as this may result in a fetus being distressed and the need for emergency C-section,” Alotaibi added.

It is best to have a natural labor and delivery but sometimes, we have no choice but to listen to the doctor. Talk your doctor about how to induce or encourage vaginal delivery and maybe you can consider hiring a doula to avoid unplanned c-sections. If

you’ve already had a c-section before, ask your doctor if a VBAC is possible. Try and be aware of the common interventions during labor and delivery so you know what may come.

If nothing works, trust your body and doctor and let them bring the magic out in you.