After belly dancing through two pregnancy’s i can honestly say that Belly dance is ‘medicine’ for the pregnant mumma! It has had such a profound impact on my experiences that it has become a passion to share the benefits!
Belly dance originated in the Middle East and has a detailed and long history dating back to thousands of years. While the history have been largely undocumented, there is evidence that belly dance was a pregnancy and birth dance that honours women for their life bearing gifts. In certain parts of the world there are birth dances that still continue to this day. The slow circular movements of belly dancing is not so uncommon! If you have checked out some natural birthing books they often show similar exercises which have been used for hundreds of years by Arab women, Tahitians and Maoris.
During labour it is quite natural to want to move around and adjust your body movements to accommodate the changing position of the baby as it travels down the birth canal. I remember during my second labour, i instinctively did large slow hip circles and could literally feel my baby slowly and gently ‘corkscrewing’ his head into position!
“Research has shown that if a woman is mobile during labour, her contractions can be twice as effective and labour a great deal shorter.”
Below you will find some of the ‘physical benefits’ and more ‘general benefits’ for pregnancy, labour and birth
The various muscles women use for delivery (pushing your baby out) are also used in various belly dance movements. Here are just some of the common belly dance movements and key muscle groups.
Rib cage slide: The obliques
This movement concentrates on the upper torso and is especially useful during the early stages of pregnancy. As the baby’s head grows, it starts to rest beneath the breasts. By sliding the rib cage from side to side you can release the pressure created by your growing baby.
Belly roll or undulation: Rectus abdominus, obliques
This movement is helpful in early pregnancy and keeps abdominal muscles supple and toned. It encourages you to bring awareness to the major muscles involved in labour. During labour the abdominal muscles contract and exert pressure on the uterus so that it opens and allows your baby to be born.
Pelvic lock and interior hip circle: Lower abdominals, obliques, glutes
Abdominal muscles together with those of the buttocks and thighs are very important in childbirth and are controlled by the pelvis. By strengthening the pelvis with the pelvic lock and internal hip circle, we can better support and strengthen our ability to be active during labour and therefore enhance your chances for an easier birth. The internal hip circle movement is similar to a basic hula movement where the woman tilts the pelvis in turn forwards, to one side, backwards and to the other side.
General Benefits of Belly dance and pregnancy:
Movements promote optimal position of the baby in the uterus/pelvis during pregnancy
Learn to recognize tense muscles so you are able to consciously relax them and conserve energy during labour
Increases breathing capacity, rib cage mobility, and space for stomach to function optimally (prevents gas & constipation)
Reduces symptoms of fatigue
Conditions the mind to focus on moment to moment awareness, which is a great tool for labour
Belly dance movements are nurturing for the baby
Babies at 20 weeks and beyond can enjoy music played (which has been found to calm and relax newborns when hearing the same song from when in utero)
By toning your muscles your body will recover and regain condition a lot quicker after birth
Improves body image and self esteem
Improves posture and core stability
Emotional balance is a really important factor to a healthy and happy pregnancy. Belly dancing throughout your pregnancy is a natural and soothing way to connect with your baby and yourself. It is nurturing and joyful. Even if you’re not a “seasoned dancer,” once the movements become familiar, the endorphins will start flowing!