Monday 11 July 2011

What does Running and Giving Birth have in common?

The body is born for it.

Over a dinner one night, my hubby got very excited sharing a book he has just read. Entitled “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, it is a New York Times Bestseller that took the running world by storm.  As a marathon enthusiast himself, he recounted how the book defies popular beliefs and inspires him to go out and run more.

The author, who had trouble running due to chronic knee problems, was wary of the futile and fleeting solutions recommended by physiologists and chiropractors alike.  Not even the most expensive running shoes in the world could help.   Determined to look for answers, he turned to great runners and running experts around the world.

The fascinating discovery?  “Human beings are designed to run without shoes”. It goes back as far as Leonardo Da Vinci who “considered the human foot, with its fantastic weight-suspension system comprising one quarter of all the bones in the human body “a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.”

Dr Hartmann, Ph.D., Irish physical therapist who serves world’s finest distance runners stated:  “Your foot’s centerpiece is the arch, the greatest weight-bearing design ever created.  The beauty of any arch is the way it gets stronger under stress; the harder you push down, the tighter its parts mesh.  No stonemason worth his trowel would ever stick a support under an arch; push up from underneath, and you weaken the whole structure.  Buttressing the foot’s arch from all sides is a high-tensile web of twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints, twelve rubbery tendons, and eighteen muscles, all stretching and flexing like an earthquake-resistant suspension bridge.”

In fact, “running shoes may be the most destructive force ever to hit the human foot.” It even goes further to purport that most of the foot and knee injuries that presently beset us are caused by people running with shoes that actually makes the feet weak. Prior to 1972, people run on thin-soled shoes, had strong feet and less knee problems.

The new Nike Free
What is even more spellbinding is that Nike knew this.  A company that spends billions on Research and Development, they also arrived at this puzzling conclusion: “the more cushioned the shoe, the less protection it provides”.   Not to be behind, they introduced the new Nike Free, a pair of shoes closest to wearing nothing with a new slogan – “Run Barefoot”.  It is rather ironic for a company who invented the modern athletic shoes.

Vibram's version of "barefoot" running
As fascinating as it sounds, I was not totally surprised.  A firm believer of natural birth, it anchors on the same ground that the body was designed to do the job it was intended for.  The woman reproductive system is designed to give birth – no interventions required.   Indeed, a labor is a “dance of hormones” between the mother and the baby.  A collaboration of three main hormones – oxytocin, endorphin and adrenaline, that naturally helps women to cope with giving birth.

The increase of oxytocin in pregnancy stimulates powerful contractions that help to thin and dilate (open) the cervix.  As the baby moves down and puts pressure on the cervix and against the tissues of pelvic floor, it sends back signal to release more oxytocin and stimulates contractions again till the baby comes out of the birth canal.  It then helps to expel placenta and limits bleeding, triggers release of milk and motherly feelings.

Working hand in hand with oxytocin is endorphin – a hormone that functions as a pain-relief.  The level of endorphins increases at the peak of labor to help cope with the rising pain.  It gives a heightened sense of awareness despite a long and challenging labor that continues even after birth.  Unfortunately, the use of epidural as a pain relief causes endorphin levels to drop and contributes to the “feeling of sadness” that mothers experience after birth and may also affect the initial mother-infant relationship.

The last but not the least – the hormone adrenaline that we know too well when we feel “pumped up” and give us that extra boost of energy.  It is the “fight or flight” hormone that humans produce to help ensure survival. 

From conception to labor, it is a complex and intricate network of signals that, just as the book “Born to Run” declares on human foot - “once you block a natural movement, you adversely affect the other.”  Nothing could be more true when it comes to giving birth. 

Mommy and Ava just after Natural Birth and supporting Daddy's Marathon


  1. great blog! Hurray to you and your family ^^
    At first I was scared with the title but I enjoyed reading it 'til the end. hehehe ^^

  2. Thanks Tep! Haha! Thought it would make a more interesting title!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...