Mystified by the process behind giving birth? Liz Chalmers, owner of the Puget Sound Birth Center in the Seattle area, has used just a balloon and a ping pong ball to demonstrate the process of cervical dilation—and her video has gone viral, with over 24,000 shares so far on Facebook.
In the video, the ping pong ball represents a baby, the balloon acts as a uterus and the neck of the balloon acts as the cervix, the portion of the uterus that opens to allow the baby to pass through the vagina. During labor, a cervix must open to 10 cm (full dilation) before birth can occur.
Chalmers made this video for her niece, who is becoming a childbirth educator in New Zealand. She says she learned the idea from a course called “Stomp Out Boring Childbirth Classes.” Watch her ingeniousness below:
First, Chalmers demonstrates Braxton Hicks contractions, commonly referred to as practice contractions or false labor. This type of contraction is common throughout pregnancy, starting in about the second trimester. While noticeable to the pregnant person, these contractions don’t actually dilate the cervix, as you can see from the lack of action in the balloon’s neck.
Next, she shows how contractions that happen at the top of the uterus help thin the cervix, or “efface” it. As the video goes on, you can see that as the balloon gets thinner, it opens more easily—just like the cervix! Before long, the ping pong ball pops out and the “baby” is born. Of course, the ping pong ball comes out of the balloon with considerably less effort than that used to push a human child out of a human body, so don’t be fooled.
Still, the video does a great job at explaining what’s actually happening in the body during labor. I am a doula (a trained, non-medical childbirth support person), so I’m a big fan of anything that demystifies the often-overwhelming process of giving birth and helps expecting parents get solid information they can use for their own experiences. It’s exciting that so many people have watched this video on Facebook and YouTube—I’m hopeful that seeing it will make the process of dilation a little less intimidating.
Of course, a quick internet video is no match for an actual, in-person childbirth class—if you’re pregnant, check out the offerings at hospitals, birth centers and other venues in your area. If you do want to learn more about birth online, Evidence Based Birth is a terrific resource for all types of topics related to pregnancy, labor and your newborn.