A childbirth educator and self-proclaimed “wannabe midwife” recently posted a short YouTube video that helps explain labor contractions better than many health classes are able to do. In the video, Liz Chalmers uses a ping pong ball and balloon to show the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and labor contractions, and what actually happens at the “big moment” when the baby finally enters the world.
Chalmers originally created the video for her niece who is studying to be a birthing instructor in New Zealand, but after sharing on Facebook last week, the video unexpectedly went viral, The Independent reported. In the short video, Chalmers inserts a ping pong ball into a lightly inflated balloon, with the ball representing the baby and the balloon representing the womb, and the balloon’s opening representing the cervix.
Chalmers then squeezes the sides of the balloon to show Braxton Hicks contractions. These contractions do not represent actual labor and have no effect on cervix dilation, unlike actual labor contractions, although they may play a role in softening the cervix. According to the American Pregnancy Association, Braxton Hicks contractions are more common in the third trimester but can be experienced as early as the second trimester. The true purpose is not entirely clear, but most doctors believe that they play a part in preparing the body for actual labor by toning the uterine muscles and promoting blood flow to the placenta.
Chalmers then goes on to show actual labor contractions by squeezing the balloon closer to the top. This causes the ping pong ball to slowly move towards the balloon opening, similar to a child squeezing through the cervix during childbirth.
“A lot of people get kind of nervous at this point where they don’t want to push so we have a little joke that it’s just like actual labor,” said Chalmers in her video. “Just give it one more push and the baby will be here.”
Eventually the ball gets to the very cusp of the balloon and with one more gentle squeeze Chalmers pops the ball out, completing the birthing act.
In real life, the entire process moves far more slowly than Chalmers's 3-minute, 26-second video, with active labor lasting anywhere from three to five hours, although some women can be in labor for a much longer or shorter period of time.
The video is truly educational, not just for trainee midwives, but for pretty much anyone who wants to better understand the birthing process and what's happening inside during labor.