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The Surprising Similarities of Running a Marathon and Birthing a Baby: The Importance of Preparation

Updated: May 20

Running shoes

I had a dream the other night that I was at the start line for the London Marathon and I was horrified! I'd done zero training or preparation, but there I was at the start line with everyone else! I have no plans to run a marathon, the farthest I've ever ran is 10K (over a decade ago) and I trained for that.

During Hypnobirthing courses I use a lot of sporting analogies including "The Aggregation of Marginal Gains" (making small changes to lots of things to achieve an overall better result) because there are many similarities when doing anything sporting or challenging like running a marathon and birthing a baby. Here's a run down of just five and some valuable tips for preparing for birth (or running a marathon):

Find out more about how a Positve Birth Leeds Hypnobirthing Course can help you feel confident and empowered for your baby's birth!

Physical birth preparation:

You and your baby work together during labour and there are many simple things you can do in pregnancy to help during labour and birth.

Staying active during your pregnancy through swimming, walking, yoga or pilates and sitting on a birth ball as much as possible, instead of reclining on a sofa, all help to optimise your pelvic capacity and aid your baby moving through your pelvis during labour.

If you have a history of injury think about booking in with a women's physiotherapist or osteopath who can check your pelvic alignment and help with exercises to aid pelvic balance. is a great source of information and exercises you can do to help optimise your pelvic capacity and alignment for birth.

Mental preparation:

Positive Birth Leeds Hypnobirthing tools in front of a crotchet pink uterus
Hypnobirthing mindset tools

The mind has immense power and strength which is why Sports Psychology is such a respected profession. Hypnobirthing is essentially Birth Psychology. Understanding the power of the mind and the ways you can prepare it to support you during pregnancy and birth can be a game changer. Relaxation improves physical performance and recovery. Utilising visualisations, affirmations, breathing techniques and positive anchors are just a few ways you can calm and optimise both yours and your birth partners mindset and therefore relax and optimise your physical body response and functioning. FYI, your birth partners mindset is just as important as the person birthing.

Drinking and eating:

You've probably heard of carb loading before running a big race, birth is no different, your uterus (womb) muscles need fuel to function during labour and that means hydration and food.

HYDRATION: Staying regularly hydrated and drinking liquids like water or isotonic drinks (e.g. coconut water or sports drinks like Lucozade) during labour is super important. Drinking through a bottle with a straw is handy for this, it uses less muscles and brain power.

IMPORTANT TIP: Regularly go to the toilet, you might not recognise the sensation of needing to wee and a full bladder can block baby moving through the pelvis to be born.

FOOD: In early labour you could have a carby meal (I ate a big old bowl of pasta when my labour started). As labour progresses you might find your appetite decreases, so snacking on foods that release energy slowly like nuts, seeds, dried fruits, oats etc might be more palatable. Towards the ends of labour eating sweets or having a teaspoon of honey can help give you a boost of energy.

The importance of great support:

Crowds cheering on the runners in a race play a massive role to boosting the runners performance and supporting them getting to the end. I have also heard people talk about the boost they get from seeing loved ones along the route. Birth is similar, a 2016 study published in the respected Cochrane Library shows having good support and continuity of carer (e.g. a known or the same midwife) during labour can help you feel safe and therefore boosts the much needed birth hormone Oxytocin, the love hormone (I've written a whole blog about this birth super-hormone). Birth partners play a vital role in helping you to feel calm, fully supported and safe, which is why it's important they have the tools to help them feel calm, confident and empowered also.

Finishing high:

Many runners talk about the high they get after finishing the race! You did it! Huge congrats! Well, you guessed it, birth is similar, after baby is born there is a huge surge of the hormone oxytocin, yep that one again. Oxytocin helps with birthing the placenta, postnatal bonding and recovery as well as establishing breastfeeding. Maximising skin-to-skin contact is the best way to boost your oxytocin for both parents.

Want to create a practical toolkit to help you feel calm, confident and empowered during the Positive Birth Leeds Hypnobirthing courses - find out more on the website!

Charlotte, from Positive Birth Leeds, a white woman in a white t-shirt, is sitting and smiling at the camera

I can help you get informed and feel confident, relaxed and empowered for your baby's birth.

I offer Full, Essential and Refresher Hypnobirthing courses as well as Hypnobirthing for a Planned Caesarean Section and Birth Prep Power Hour sessions.

Or get in touch to ask about private one-to-one course availability.

Charlotte x

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