What is a contraction?
Understanding contractions is an important first step in hypnobirthing, so you can work with your body... Knowing exactly what the sensations are doing helps to de-mystify them. Every single sensation moves you closer...
Contractions are the rhythmic tightening then relaxation of the womb muscle fibres. Our wombs prepare for birth throughout pregnancy with Braxton Hicks practice contractions (whether we notice them or not).
The middle layer of your womb is pure muscle, and if all is well, it's strong enough to birth your baby all by itself, even in a coma. A contraction is just a muscular movement lasting about 45 - 90 seconds, triggered by pulses of oxytocin.
Oxytocin is released deep in the mid-brain when you feel safe, secure, warm and loved - these conditions are required for birth to begin and progress effectively.
Oxytocin also 1) increases prostaglandin hormone production: to soften, thin and release the circular muscles of the lower uterine segment, including your cervix - the neck of the womb (aka 'effacement'):
2) Over the course of the birth journey, oxytotocin gradually causes your body to flood with beta-endorphins: to increase comfort and help you 'zone out'.
When your baby is ready, you'll notice perhaps irregular, becoming more regular 'lifting up' contractions, where the muscle fibres pull upwards and gather the top of the womb: this can be described as 'tightenings', 'rushes', 'waves' and 'surges' that come every few minutes, with complete relaxation of the muscle fibres inbetween.
Contractions are most effective with deep breathing and physical release... This ensures optimum blood flow to the muscles, enabling them to work efficiently:
Each subsequent 'lifting up' contraction causes more muscle fibre to be retained / built up at the top of the womb (the fundus). The reduction in volume inches your baby down and rotates them through your pelvis into a good position for birth, whilst pressing against your softening, thinning, progressively opening cervix...
When the fundus is nice and thick, and your baby has decended deep within your pelvis, adrenaline is suddenly released (aka 'transition') read my transition article, including experiences from hypnobirthers.
Transition shifts things up a gear, and instead of 'lifting up', the muscle fibres are now increasingly and automatically pushing down instead. Your fundus acts as a piston, with powerful expulsive surges sliding your baby down through your stretchy, widening vagina and vulva: