Childbirth is often compared to running a marathon and for good reason. The physical and emotional demands are not dissimilar. A recent study showed that childbirth put an equivalent level of stress and trauma on the body as running a marathon.

So I thought I’d take this comparison a step further and explore the kind of messages that women are frequently subjected to when pregnant and see how those same messages might look if she was putting herself forward for a marathon instead.

This is to highlight the ridiculousness of what pregnant women have to put up with and to show how our culture encourages fear among women when it comes to birth.

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What is it with people? The minute you’re pregnant, they appear out of nowhere telling you how this runaway train you’re on is heading for certain disaster.

If we were preparing for a marathon this is how it would sound…

Last week a friend of mine had a heart attack… it’s really common apparently

When I ran a marathon it was a nightmare…. my legs felt like they’d been shredded by T-rex! It was THE most painful thing I’d ever experienced. I will NEVER be doing that again.

Running a marathon? Isn’t that meant to be REALLY painful? Yeah… Good luck with that!

Hey did you hear about that marathon runner who died at the finish line? So tragic.

But how many of us hear these kind of comments. No-one! That’s who. In contrast to being pregnant, when you’re training for a marathon…

You’re encouraged and told “YOU CAN DO IT!”  …… Not reminded how painful it is and how unlikely it is that you’ll actually make it to the finish line.

People spend money and sponsor you publicly because they BELIEVE you can do it………  not tell you you’re insane because you fancy running wearing a Mickey Mouse outfit / run barefoot (or whatever else might be outside of the norm)

You might get offers of running or training partners .….. not people constantly telling you how fatal running can be.

If you happen to tell your doctor, they’ll smile and wish you well …. not encourage you to pack some steroids just in case you can’t do it on your own.

Having the support of friends during our pregnancy and into motherhood is invaluable and essential. It’s often the lack of support and friendship that can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness in pregnancy, which in turn can lead lead to post-natal depression.

But, you have to question those friends and family who can’t help but share birthing horror stories and nightmares to a pregnant woman. What is with with pregnancy that means that people think it’s OK to say these things? I can’t imagine that these same people, if they were sitting on a plane next to someone who’s panicked about flying would tell them how likely it is that the plane will crash or how easy it is these days for terrorists to sabotage a flight… or would they?

They often rationalise with things like….

I’m just warning you how things can be

I don’t want you to get hurt or disappointed

You’ve got to be realistic

I don’t want you to be unprepared

But it’s wrong.

Why is it that pregnant women are spoken to and treated like this? Marathon runners wouldn’t put up with it – they’d run a mile (or 10!)

THIS is what you need when you’re pregnant:

  • Supportive words and actions of encouragement so that you can FEEL and BELIEVE you can do it
  • Sources of reliable, unbiased information so that you can make a decision that’s right for you and your family
  • Emotional support if you need it
  • Lots of positive birth stories, to inspire and show how birth CAN Be
  • Helpful advice on how to prepare physically, mentally and emotionally for birth and motherhood
  • Things to look out for and be prepared for…. in case things go off plan

And finally, to be spoken to, just like before! The pregnancy doesn’t have to be the focal point of EVERY conversation. There is still a real person in there yearning to do all the things she used to do before she was pregnant.

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What kind of things have you heard during your pregnancy? Things that you would have rather not. Tell me in the comments…

Alexia Leachman
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