Childbirth, how do contractions work? A study explains it


Doctors from the University of Liverpool in Great Britain have made strides on how labor and delivery work, with a discovery of how the female body can manage contractions.

How is it possible that the contractions become stronger and stronger as labor progresses, while the rest of the body is weaker and weaker from lack of oxygen, blood and fatigue?

University of Liverpool scholars have discovered how a woman's body can do such an amazing thing: thanks to a process they called "hypoxia-induced force increase (HIFI)", an induced hypoxia (i.e. a lack of oxygen). .

This hypoxia occurs in the muscles of the uterus to protect themselves from the lack of blood and oxygen. In practice it means that the body gives its best when resources are scarce. This situation allows the woman to go on with the contractions, which are not affected by the lack of blood and oxygen. This is why labor can go on for so many hours.


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The hope is that this new research may be useful for intervening in prolonged labor, reducing cases of caesarean section.


"This discovery may help decrease the timing of labor by inducing stronger contractions that are helpful in getting the baby out of the birth canal," explains Mohammed Alotaibi, one of the authors of the research, at


According to Alotaibi, if HIFI, that is, this induced hypoxia, occurs naturally during labor, then it can be expected that the woman will have a normal delivery.


For labor that is slow or that at some point stops, in the future it will probably be possible to induce hypoxia and therefore the contractions useful to speed up the time of delivery, for example with the increase of prostaglandins or other mechanisms.


Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and University of Liverpool


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Dennis and Valerio tried it: the two husbands, during the Dutch television program 'Guinea Pig', experienced on their skin (and belly ...) what it feels like to have contractions.

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