Many woman in labor naturally move in the circular motion of belly dance. It's a natural way to get your baby in the best position for birth. It can even encourage labor to start!
Ancient forms of this dance have been practiced for hundreds of years right across the Globe. Women from Egypt, Morocco, Hawaii, New Zealand, India and many other countries have been doing circle-dances or belly dancing for pregnancy involving figure-of-eight movements since time began. All these forms of dance, which use circular hip movements, help with childbirth.
Childbirth professionals encourage the practice of belly dance for pregnancy. And I recommend it for labor too! The music is hypnotic and can take you to an altogether different place, so you can be taken away from the anxious state-of-mind that you may find yourself in.
These are some of the benefits:
• Strengthening pelvic and deep abdominal muscles and all those muscles specifically used for giving birth, thus facilitating the process of birth and of recovery.
• Can move a posterior baby off your back.
• Improve self-confidence and positive body-image.
• Aid and encourage good posture.
• Help maintain general fitness.
• Promote good balance and co-ordination.
• Relieves pregnancy back pain. • Improves abdominal control and awareness.
• Helps maintain pelvic floor tone and therefore reduces chances ofuterine prolapse. in later life.
• Help you meet other expectant Moms if you attend a class.
Belly dancing is designed perfectly to help women’s bodies be in balance. When done during pregnancy or labor it helps the baby move into a good position ready for birth. The muscles of the uterus (womb) move the baby in a clock-wise corkscrew fashion. Belly dance moves enhance this natural action. A mom recently told me she used Belly Dance to induce her son's labor!
The leg movements are quite hard work but will strengthen your legs for labor – while dancing you need to keep your knees ‘soft’ not locked. Good exercise for the gluts, thighs and calve muscles
• Please note that shimmies can stimulate your baby, so it's best to avoid them until you're near your due date. Belly dancing for pregnancy isn't recommended if you have pregnancy complications such as Gestational Diabetes, Pre-eclampsia, Placenta Previa or a history of premature labor.
• Always avoid the very sharp sudden movements, keep with the slow ones. Choose the music carefully as there are both fast and slow rhythms for belly dance.
• Avoid back bends, sharp hip twists, jumps and soften your hip drops, hip lifts & flicks during belly dancing for pregnancy.
• Keep well hydrated, drink plenty of water…it’s vigorous exercise.
• Have a small healthy snack an hour or two before dancing.
• If you feel dizzy or faint stop and sit down.
If you want to practice at home here is a great DVD and a book written by Lebanese Mom and founder of 'Belly Dance for Birth' Maha Al Musa. Maha has had a wonderful Waterbirth at home in Byron Bay, where she lives in Australia.
What You Need For Belly Dancing For Pregnancy
1. Skirt: a full swirling skirt is best, length anything from knee to ankle. In late pregnancy you’ll need to wear it on your hips, below your belly. This is more traditional anyway.
2. Jersey leggings or exercise clothing which is cool and stretchy. Natural fabrics are more breathable.
3. Top: whatever is comfortable, any length sleeves. You don’t need to have a bare belly unless you want to.
4. Long scarf or shawl to wear around hips or use for veil dancing. This is an important item, if you can, try to get a traditional belly dance one with coins that make a lovely jingly noise as you move.
5. Footwear: bare feet is best so that you can really connect with the Earth and feel grounded.
6. Belly dance CD or other form of music if you’re practicing at home.
See if you can find a class near you. Get your pregnant and non-pregnant friends to join you. Invite your Mom, sister, cousins too. Belly dancing for pregnancy is a great time for female bonding and an excuse to share home-cooked food afterwards.
Another great dance to find a class for is Bollywood or Indian Dance.These are becoming more and more popular and the music and movements are gorgeous. Your baby will love you for dancing in pregnancy!
About 6 weeks after your baby has arrived, you can recommence belly dancing to get your figure back. It’s a great hip and waist-trimmer.
I have used the movements of Belly Dance with several Moms in mid-to-late first stage of labor. Their babies were lying back-to-back (posterior baby) and to encourage their babies to move into an anterior position, the Moms would kneel or stand and rotate their hips in a clockwise directions. The babies moved and were born swiftly afterwards. Unfortunately we had to manage without Belly Dance music! A CD would be a good addition to any midwife's bag of Home Birth Equipment!
A few years ago I organized a one day Belly Dance Workshop to raise funds for charity. I found a wonderful teacher to instruct us. We had women and girls from age 6 months to 80 years of age. A bunch of expectant Moms came too along with midwives, student midwives, doulas and childbirth educators. The babies lay on blankets and rugs on the floor and enjoyed the mesmerizing rhythms of Middle Eastern music. We had some Moroccan women drummers too.
The little girls of less than 10 years old knew instinctively what to do, they twirled and swirled in figure-of-eight’s and just followed the music.