Time to brag about the uterus!
“There is no other organ quite like the uterus. If men had such an organ they would brag about it. So should we”. Ina May Gaskin (US midwife and author)
The uterus is a muscle and, generally, we do not think about it very much. However, it is the place where your baby is conceived, grows and develops and it provides a home for this unique human that you have created. It houses your baby for around nine months, protecting it and providing it with everything that it needs to grow, develop and, eventually, be born.
By weight, it is the strongest muscle in your body. The uterus is made up of longitudinal and horizontal fibres that intertwine to create a powerful muscle that can exert a strong force to birth your baby.
Each layer of uterine muscles has a very different job. During pregnancy, the inner horizontal layer of muscles holds the cervix closed, keeping your baby safe inside. Under the right conditions, during labour this inner layer relaxes while the outer longitudinal muscles begin to contract, pulling the cervix open.
During pregnancy, the outer layer of muscles practice for the real thing - from about the seventh week of pregnancy, your uterus will contract and relax every day and you won’t usually feel these practice contractions until later in pregnancy. These are called Braxton Hicks contractions (named after the male obstetrician who first described these contractions in the late 1800s).
Pre-pregnancy, this pear-shaped organ measures around 7-8 cm and sits snugly under your pubic bone, structurally supporting your lower organs and triggering menstruation each month. In pregnancy, as your baby grows, your uterus changes shape and size to ensure your baby is comfortable and safe. Like a balloon, it gradually inflates up to your rib cage, increasing to more than five times its pre-pregnancy size, with a capacity of up to 500 times more than before. After birth, it returns to its original size and shape - to be forgotten about, once again.
During pregnancy, the uterus grows another organ - the placenta, which has a really important job of nourishing and feeding your baby. Once your baby has been delivered, the placenta is released - its work is done.
Around 1 in 2000 women have two uteruses - it’s a condition known as uterus didephys, where the two tubes that usually connect to create one organ develop into two separate organs. At the other extreme, 1 in 4,500 woman may be born without a uterus at all!
It’s an amazing muscle so, if you’ve got a uterus, then as Ina May Gaskin suggested, let’s brag about it! After all, none of us would be here without it!!