Viral "Dilation Pumpkins" Instagram Pic Proves How Extraordinary Birthing People Really Are

Whether you think the photo is horrifying or hilarious, there's no denying the superhuman toughness it takes to give birth.

Halloween has a spooky side. Besides the adorable and creative costumes and sweet treats, the holiday also gives rise to haunted houses and scary movies.

But this year, one photo made its way to social media that elicited gasps, screams, and possibly laughs (and proved how extraordinary and tough birthing individuals are).

An image of pumpkins repeated on a green background.
Getty Images.

It's a photo of 10 pumpkins representing the 10 centimeters a birthing person's cervix dilates labor for a vaginal birth. Each pumpkin's mouth is one centimeter wider. Just look at the last one—10 centimeters dilated. Is it just us, or does the pumpkin look a bit petrified? People who give birth are the real MVPs (and though it shouldn't need to be said, if your cervix doesn't dilate this far and you had a c-section, you're also a warrior).

The photo has been making its rounds on various social media platforms every fall for a couple of years now. It gained popularity in 2019 when midwives from England's Royal Oldham Hospital—Birth Centre set up the display.

The Instagram account @alienwithnojob was one of the accounts that posted the photo this year with a simple two-word caption, "Oh, wow."

The post it's racked up more than 16K likes and nearly 500 comments from people amazed enough to stop their Halloweekend celebrations.

"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the gourds," quipped one commenter.

"Truly horrifying," said another.

"Either the person who birthed you did this, or their entire abdominal wall was cut thru to get you out. No small thing. Hot tip, thank that person some time for it," wrote someone else.

Please say it louder for the people in the back.

Though Halloween is now in our rearview mirror, don't worry—there are more seasonal representations of birth to look forward to. A UK-based yoga company Kalma Baby used chocolate Easter eggs to highlight cervical dilation a few years ago.

Though the posts may seem scary, remember that birth—however it happens—doesn't have to be a frightening experience. If you're afraid to give birth, experts recommend:

  • Finding support. Though birth is often billed as this natural thing people have been doing for years, the notion often dismisses very real feelings of fear associated with labor itself. It's OK to be afraid. Find support, such as through a doula, support group, or therapist, to work through your feelings.
  • Take a class. Birthing classes can help you feel more aware of what's going on with your body and how to advocate for yourself.
  • Don't tolerate negative talk. Just because the person in the elevator had a certain experience or knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who had a traumatic birth doesn't mean you will. If someone says something that scares you, you have every right to tell them to stop.
  • Develop a birth plan. No, you can't plan every aspect of L&D. But creating a list of preferences can help you feel more in control. For example, perhaps you don't want the doctor to offer an epidural unless you ask for it, or you may want immediate skin-to-skin even in the event of a c-section (as long as everyone is safe and healthy). Discuss your preferences in advance with your provider to ensure they are possible.
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