When you facilitate childbirth classes, there is a lot of information that is shared over the course of the class time together. Families are excited to learn all they can about the process and for many this is the first peek into this subject matter. They are amazed and excited at how the body works and curious about how things will unfold.
There are some fantastic facts about pregnancy, childbirth and their new baby, that when shared, always gets a lot of "oohs" and "ahs" from everyone. Here are my top ten amazing facts about the childbearing year.
1. The placenta is the body's only disposable organ
The placenta is made from the same cells that make the baby - sperm and egg. Some cells differentiate into the baby and others go on to form the placenta. The placenta does its job supporting and nourishing the baby and when it is no longer needed, it is expelled, making it the body's only disposable organ.
2. The Montgomery glands in the areola produce a lubricant that smells like amniotic fluid
Those tiny bumps that people see on their areolas are called Montgomery glands and their purpose is to produce a natural lubricant that protects the nipple and areola. That specialized lubricant smells just like amniotic fluid, which is what the baby has been smelling/tasting for the entire pregnancy. The baby is attracted to the smell of "home" and this helps the baby to navigate to the breast for nourishment after birth.
3. The baby recognizes voices while in utero
The baby becomes acquainted with the voice of the pregnant parent as well as other voices that it is frequently exposed to. If the partner sings to the baby on a regular basis, the baby will soon recognize that distinct voice and song. After birth, the partner can repeat the song they have been singing to the baby in utero and this familiar refrain will be recognized by the baby and help calm and soothe the baby, as well as lower the baby's stress levels.
4. The baby starts labor
Even today, it is still not known exactly how a pregnant person's body starts labor or when it will happen, but recent research has revealed that there are two proteins in the fetus' lungs that are produced when the lungs are mature. These proteins seem to produce an inflammatory response in the uterus that begins the labor process.
5. The full term pregnant uterus is the strongest muscle in the human body
A non-pregnant uterus is the size and shape of a pear. But at full term, that uterus has grown to the size and shape of a watermelon in order to accommodate the mature fetus. At this point, it is the strongest muscle in the human body. It takes a lot of work to dilate the cervix and get that baby out through the pelvis. During the pushing stage of labor, the uterus does about 80% of the work, with the laboring person adding that extra "umph." If a person was unconcious, and in labor, their uterus would still be able to push that baby out without any additional pushing effort from the pregnant person.
6. Amniotic fluid and breastmilk change in taste based on what the pregnant person is eating.
The baby is tasting and swallowing amniotic fluid in utero, and of course drinking breastmilk for nourishment after they are born. The parent's diet influences the "flavor" and taste of both of these liquids. A varied and interesting diet during pregnancy means the amniotic fluid has a variety of different tastes, and the same goes for breastmilk after birth. Eat "around the world" using a variety of foods and seasonings and your baby enjoys the results too.
7. A parent's chest can heat up or cool down depending on the needs of the baby
After birth, when the newborn is placed on the parent's chest skin to skin, the parent's chest area has the ability to flush and heat up or even cool down based on feedback from the newborn's skin and body temperature. This allows the newborn to adapt to maintaining their body temperature with extra help from the parent at the start. Another great reason to have that uninterrupted skin to skin immediately after birth.
8. A 35 week baby’s brain weighs just two-thirds of what it does at 39 weeks
The last weeks of pregnancy put the finishing touches on the baby and let it enter the world ready for life on the outside. There is an amazing amount of brain growth that occurs in the last few weeks. The maturing fetus adds another one-third of it's brain weight in those last few weeks, which is why is one of many reasons why it is so important to prevent preterm birth.
9. Squatting opens the pregnant person's pelvic outlet 28%
Changing positions during labor angnd pushing is very important. Doing so allows the baby to move down through the pelvis. When a laboring person squats, they are able to increase the diameter of their pelvic outlet by 28%, which is approximately one to two centimeters.
10. The capacity of a newborn's belly is the size of marble
When babies are born they are usually ready to eat within a very short while. Colostrum, baby's first food, is at the ready and provides everything that the baby needs for nourishment and hydration. Newborns need to eat frequently because their bellies are very tiny. A just born baby's stomach capacity is about five ml, (one teaspoon) which is approximately the size of a marble.
These amazing facts help families to have newfound respect for the magical process of pregnancy, birth and their newborn. Are there amazing facts that you like to share with your classes that I have not included here? Let us know in the comments section below.